The History of International Women’s Day

This year, International Women’s Day (IWD) is on March 8. Though it is celebrated by all, do we truly know where it started and who its founders are?

It does not belong to one specific group or organization. It belongs to a collective group all around the globe.


This day celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of all women and calls to action the equality of gender. Like other collective groups, there are specific colours that are connected to IWD: purple, which signifies justice and dignity; green, to represent hope; and white, to symbolize purity (white is no longer used in current society due to controversial ideologies).


Now that we have a basic run-down, let’s get to the historical breakdown to truly honour the women that lead the way over a century ago.


1908: Oppression and inequality towards women became present in the changing industrial world. During this year, 15,000 women marched in New York City petitioning and demanding shorter work hours, a better pay, and the right to vote.


1909: The creation of the first National Women’s Day (NWD) was celebrated across the United States on February 28. This celebration was upheld on the last Sunday of every February until 1913.


1911: At first, IWD was celebrated overseas in the European countries of Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland on March 19, as men and women gathered together demanding women’s right to work, vote, be trained in education and jobs, and hold a position in public office. Less than a week later, on March 25, the Great ‘Triangle Fire’ struck New York City. This horrendous event drew attention to the working conditions that women (specifically immigrant women) were subjected to. This became a main focus for IWD events.


1913-1914: While the change of date from the last Sunday of February to March 8 is unclear, it was first marked in 1914 and has remained since.


1975: United Nations celebrated IWD for the first time.


2011: Marked 100 years of IWD. President Barack Obama proclaimed that the month of March was to be designed “Women’s History Month” to reflect on the great women of the past, present, and future.


2019: While women are still demanding equal pay to their counterparts, there have been great improvements from the past, including women being integrated into more job positions such as political positions, astronauts, and being given permission to earn an education.


IWD is a celebratory day full of a rich history. It has paved the path for our current society and allows others to join to make a difference.


To find out more about IWD or to learn more about the history of the holiday, make sure to check out their website!