Demanding better wages, working conditions and the right to vote, 15,000 women marched in New York City in 1908 as part of the women’s suffrage movement.
That march, according to the International Women’s Day website, became the spark that led to the first United States National Women’s Day one year later. The Triangle Fire in New York City that killed 140 working women, one only 14 years old, added fuel to the movement. This fire was one of the most deadly industrial fires in New York City’s history, in part because exit doors had been locked to keep employees from taking unauthorized breaks.
In 1911, a conference consisting of 100 women from 17 European countries proposed an International Women’s day to press for their demands of fair wages and the right to vote. As World War I began to brew, Russian women campaigning for peace joined in the celebration, and the official date became March 8. Dozens of countries acknowledge the day as a national holiday, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cuba, Mongolia, Russia, and Zambia. In China, Madagascar, and Nepal. It is a holiday for women only.
The United Nations recognized International Women’s Day for the first time in 1975, and since the 90s have named an annual theme. This year’s theme according to the United Nations’ website is “The Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activist Transforming Women’s Lives.”
Globally, 43 percent of rural women work in agricultural labor fields. The UN website stated, “They till the lands and plant seeds to feed nations.”
Yet, it continues, these same women often lack infrastructures such as roads or even easy access to water, and decent work and social protection. International Women’s Day 2018 is about acknowledging these women and working to make their lives better.
Learn more about the UN celebration of International Women’s Day visit www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/international-womens-day.