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Past and Present

Past & Present: International Women's Day


March 8 is International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme is “The Time is Now.” First organized in the United States by the Socialist Party of America in 1909, International Women’s Day quickly grew into a truly international celebration of women’s activism toward equal rights and peace.

On Feb. 28, 1909, women in New York City gathered for the first National Women’s Day that commemorated women’s work and activism. Inspired by the American celebration, in 1910 a German Socialist, Luise Zietz, proposed an annual International Women’s Day. The following year, more than a million women marched through European capitals. They carried banners honoring women labor activists and demanding the right to vote, the right to hold public office, and the end of sex discrimination.

Six years later, on March 8, 1917, women throughout Russia took to the streets. In Saint Petersburg, women textile workers went on strike, protested food shortages, and demanded the end of World War I and czarist rule. The Russian political revolutionary Leon Trotsky even gave credit to the International Women’s Day activities for starting the Russian Revolution.

Throughout the 20th century, more countries officially recognized International Women’s Day. In 1975, the United Nations General Assembly invited member nations to commemorate the movements for women’s rights and women’s achievements. As the United States and countries in Western Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America officially adopted the day, women’s political, social, cultural, and economic rights remained central.

So happy International Women’s Day! After 13 months of increased women’s activism at home and abroad, the time really is now.