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International Women’s Day – Then and Now

08 Mar 2013 12:00 PM | Deleted user

Not only is it Women’s History Month, but today marks the 2013 International Women’s Day, where we celebrate all of the women in the world, who are intelligent, courageous, and strong. Every year on March 8, women all over the world are honored and empowered to keep moving forward. Though it is a day of empowerment, International Women’s Day began as a protest.

On this day in 1857, garment workers in New York City staged a protest, demanding better working conditions and higher wages.  The people were eventually broken up by police. However, the workers never gave up. 51 years later, on March 8 1908,  15,000 women held a march in New York City, demanding voting rights, better wages, shorter work hours and suffrage ( the right to vote.) Many of the protestors were European women, who had traveled to the United States seeking better opportunities. 

In 1908 Socialist Party of America declared the last Sunday in February National Women’s day, and the first was celebrated on that day the following year in 1909. The Socialist Party ran behind the slogan “Bread and Roses,” bread symbolizing economic security and roses symbolizing better living standards. During the International Conference of Working Women in Denmark In 1910, German Socialist Clara Zetkin suggested a holiday in honor of the protesters in the United States. The proposal was approved by over 100 women from 17 different countries, however no fixed date was decided, and the holiday was celebrated on different days in March.

As World War I loomed, many European countries observed International Women’s day on or around March 8th, where women held rallies to either protest the war or to express solidarity with other women.

Though it started as a protest, International Women’s day has evolved into a celebration of the strength of women all over the world. The theme for the 2013 International Women's Day is: "The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum," which has a focus on women's rights and women's equality. There has been progress, women being able to work with decent hours, wage and safe conditions. However, it is not the same everywhere. In 2012 and now in 2013 the subject of Women’s Rights has come up many times, associated with laws on abortion, birth control and the violent acts against women that is happening in the Middle East.

International Women’s Day isn’t necessarily just about women; it is also about peace and harmony for families everywhere. According to research conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, a child’s chances of survival increase by 20% when the mother controls the household budget. Despite this, many women still have no authority over decision making.

Melinda Gates, the co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wrote the following in an article for CNN:

“The evidence shows that in the developing world, women play a different role than men and are more likely to take care of their family's health care and nutrition, things that children need to become productive adults and contribute to the economic and social development of societies.

Women are more than mothers, daughters, and sisters. They are role models, and heroes.  There are more than 1000 International Women’s day events planned in various countries. Celebrate International Women’s Day today by showing your appreciation to the women and girls in your life.


Sources and Related Articles:

“What is International Women’s Day?” From Christian Science Monitor

International Women’s Day 2013 official Website

“Why We Celebrate International Women’s Day” by Melinda Gates, CNN Special Opinion Piece

“International Women’s Day, Labor, and the Right to Strive” from Tom Watson, Forbes Contributor


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