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The History Behind International Women’s Day

This past week, on March 8, was International Women’s Day. A day dedicated to honor and celebrate all achievements and advancements made by women. As a woman, myself, you knew this day was one that I had to celebrate. My mom has been one of the most influential women in my life as I grew up watching her so dedicated to her career and pursue an MBA and CPA after having two kids. However, International Women’s Day is a day that goes beyond appreciating women. It revolves around honoring their achievements and struggles faced throughout history. 

International Women’s Day began in 1908 in New York City when women marched through the streets advocating for better working conditions, such as higher pay and shorter hours. They also marched for voting rights. The following year, the Socialist Party of America declared a Women’s Day to be held on Feb. 28 in all of the United States. At an international women’s conference in Denmark, Clara Zetkin—leader of the Women’s Office at the Socialist Democratic Party in Germany— proposed that women’s day should be observed internationally on the same day. 

Zetkin’s request was approved, and International Women’s Day was celebrated, for the first time, in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and Austria in 1911 on March 19. However, this date was not accepted by other countries as of yet. On Feb. 23, 1913, the eve of World War I, Russian women were seen observing their first International Women’s Day. This caused a bit of a spur, and it was later established that International Women’s Day would be celebrated on March 8 for all countries. 

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In 1996, the United Nations announced a theme for Women’s day, “Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future." The theme changed every year after that. As the 2000s began, the idea of feminism as well as activities that promoted awareness and informed about gender equality and women’s rights were not as well-known. It was not until 2011 when former President Barack Obama named March as Women’s History Month to celebrate the accomplishments made by women throughout history. 

Throughout time, women have faced severe gender inequality such as sexual harassment, lack of education, not being allowed to choose how they dress, poor access to medical care and women's health resources and lack of political representation. Women, to this day, continue to face these challenges, whether it be at school, in the workplace or even at home.

This day reminds us to honor all of those women who continue to work hard and have made remarkable achievements. To support Women’s Day, I encourage you to shop at a women-owned business, donate to Girl Up, a campaign started by the UN Foundation to support adolescent girls, or donate hygiene products to local homeless shelters or non-profit organizations for women in need. One step at a time can make a huge difference!

Rea is a senior majoring in Biological Sciences on the Pre-Medicine track at VCU! Her favorite things include binge watching Netflix, traveling, and spending time with her friends and family! She is an advocate for women's health with hopes of becoming a physician in the future.
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