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The Origin of International Women’s Day

As we celebrated International Women’s Day with our female role models and loved ones, let’s take a look back at how this holiday came to be.

The international holiday emerged on Feb. 28, 1909 when across the United States after the 1908 garment workers’ strike, women from needle and textile industries demanded better pay, shorter hours and voting rights.

The holiday was designated by the Socialist International after a Copenhagen meeting in 1910, in which over 100 women from 17 countries greeted the proposal with unanimous approval.   

Although the holiday emerged from the US women’s strikes, Russian women picked it up changed this movement forever. On March 8 on the Russian calendar (equivalent to Feb. 23 for us), women went out to protest for “Bread and Peace” to demand voting rights, call out on widespread food shortages and put an end to war. Four days later, the Russian government granted women the right to vote.

The protests on March 8 turned into daily mass strikes of men and women workers from different sectors demanding food, better worker rights, and an end to autocracy. What is assumed to be the result of these strikes, the Tsar abdicated thus signaling the end of the Russian Empire and the formation of a new Soviet Union in 1922. 

In 1975, the United Nations made the official date for International Women’s Day on March 8.

Today, we see a much better future for women around the world and in some ways, we are living it now. We are seeing women getting paid equally as men in work spaces in Iceland and in Saudi Arabia women are allowed to drive. We are seeing brave women speak about their personal sexual harassment encounters in the #MeToo movement. It will take us one slow step at a time but we know we’ll get there one day. 

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