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International Women’s Day: Brief History & Traditions Around the World


On the March 8 each year, the world recognizes International Women’s Day to commemorate the accomplishments, struggles, and renew promises to uplift women.

Updated: 4 March 2019
On the 8th of March each year, the world recognizes and celebrates International Women’s Day.

This is a day set aside, officially observed in many countries, to commemorate the accomplishments, remember the struggles, and renew promises to uplift women everywhere.

The world has made great progress in bringing equality between the sexes. However, there remains still vast differences for women compared to men in terms of violence, working hours and conditions, wage, voting rights, and many other issues.

International Women's Day Logo

History of International Women’s Day

On March 8, 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding better work conditions, shorter hours, more pay, and voting rights. Later, in May of that year, the Socialist Party of America designated the last Sunday of February for the observance of National Women’s Day.

The women protesters in 1908 adopted the slogan “Bread and Roses,” with bread symbolizing economic security and roses a better quality of life. One woman’s sign read ”We want bread, but we want roses, too!”

On the following year, the first National Woman’s Day was celebrated in the United States, and until 1913, it continued to be celebrated on the last Sunday of February. In 1911, Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland recognized an International Women’s Day.

In 1977, the United Nations finally recognized it as a Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.

International Women’s Day, Today

Today, it is celebrated in many different ways around most of the countries of the world.

In my mother’s country, Indonesia, Stefani Gracia wrote a song titled “Lebih dari Berlian,” which means “more than a diamond.” In China, women workers are given a half-day off in many cases, and sometimes even gifts.

Romanians hold women-only dinners, while women in Russia typically celebrate the occasion at home. Women in Italy are given flowers, usually yellow in color. In India, the entire week holds events for women sponsoring empowerment.

International Women’s Day – Other Claims

There’s an unproven legend that it all started on March 8th, 1857, in New York City. Women garment workers, those who worked in the clothing and textile factories, staged a protest against inhumane work conditions and wages that were too low.

Police dispersed them, but two years later, these women formed their own labor union to fight for basic workers’ rights. However, some people believe that there isn’t enough evidence to support this event, and that this was a myth to get the women’s rights ideas to stick outside of the Soviet history and the Socialist beliefs that really started it all.

Christian Eilers
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Christian Eilers
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