The history of International Women’s Day is an inspiring reminder of what can be achieved when people come together. The very first International Women’s Day grew out of the workers’ rights and women’s suffrage movements of the 20th century, which were closely linked.
After 15,000 working women marched through the streets of New York City in 1908 demanding shorter working hours, better pay and the right to vote, in 1910 the International Conference of Working Women proposed the idea of an annual International Women’s Day that would be used to advance the cause of economic, social, and political empowerment for women around the world.
The following year International Women’s Day was celebrated formally for the first time, with over one million women joining demonstrations in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. Things became official when in 1975 the United Nations celebrated IWD.
The first International Women’s Day theme adopted by the UN, back in 1996, was “Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future”. Fast forward to 2021 and a day that started with the struggle for political representation for working women in the Industrial Era has evolved into a global celebration where people from every country – regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, body type, or disability – join diverse IWD activities with the aim creating a more inclusive world in our time.
As a nod to the historical origins of International Women’s Day, the official IWD colors are still Purple, Green, and White. These were the colors of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), the British women’s suffrage organization founded by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903.