A flyer prepared for the Nellie Langford Rowell Library.

Nellie Langford Rowell Women's Studies Library


International Women's Day


In 1908, socialist women in the United States convinced their party to designate the last Sunday in February as a day for demonstrations in support of "woman suffrage" - votes for women. Two years later, at the Second Conference of Socialist Women (in Copenhagen), the holiday was adapted, at the suggestion of German politician Clara Zetkin (1857-1933), to become an international socialist day of demands for universal suffrage. Under socialist sponsorship, from 1911 to 1915 International Women's Day was celebrated on March 8 with women's parades and demonstrations in many European cities; it was a counterpart of the workers' celebration on May 1. By a coincidence, in 1914 the Russian Revolution began on March 8 with bread riots led by women. After the revolution, the USSR made IWD an official holiday, as did China.

International Women's Day was celebrated occasionally by socialist women in parts of the United States from 1916 to the end of the 1930s. It was not marked in the US after the war, although in Europe it continued to be observed from time to time. Then, in the late 1960s, feminists in the second wave of the women's movement revived International Women's Day worldwide for celebrations and public demonstrations.

At its revival, International Women's Day became associated with various aspects of the history of working-class women. Louise Michel, the French anarchist (1830-1905), has been used as a symbol of the celebration. So have women's strikes in the 19th and early 20th century, particularly those in the textile industry in the United States. Accordingly, IWD marchers have often adopted the strikers' anthem "Bread and Roses."


In recent years, issues of women's political influence (first symbolized by the vote) and economic equality have been joined by struggles against racism, imperialism, heterosexism, and other forms of oppression. IWD is now often extended to form a full International Women's Week.

International Women's Day is a day for international solidarity among women and for global awareness. It is a day to celebrate the gains women have made and to call for the changes that are still needed.

Miss Lou (Louise Bennett) at Poetry Talk and Ting, March 14 reading for IWD 1995.

Back to the main page