International Women’s Day Date in the current year: March 8, 2019

International Women’s Day International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8 every year, is a public holiday in a number of countries as well as a United Nations observance. Originally created to celebrate women’s rights and suffrage, it has transformed into a commercialized celebration of womanhood and feminine beauty in some places.

The first celebration of Women’s Day dates back to 1909. On February 28, 1909, the Socialist Party of America organized the observance of National Woman’s Day in New York City. Conceived by labor activist, suffragist and educator Theresa Malkiel, it is considered the precursor to International Women’s Day.

The initiative of the American socialists inspired German socialist Luise Zietz to propose the establishment of an annual Women’s Day at the Second International Socialist Women’s Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Her proposal was seconded by Clara Zetkin and Käte Duncker, German activists and women’s rights advocates. The holiday was first celebrated on March 19, 1911 in Germany, Denmark, Austria, and Switzerland. The day was marked by women’s demonstrations for the right to vote and to hold public office as well as against employment discrimination.

In 1913, Russian women joined the celebration of International Women’s Day. The next day, the celebration was held on March 8 for the first time, possibly because it was a Sunday. Since then, International Women’s Day has always been held on March 8 in all countries where it is observed.

Following the October Revolution, International Women’s Day was made an official holiday in the Soviet Union. In 1965, it was additionally made a non-working day. Today, International Women’s Day is a public holiday primarily in the former Soviet republics and in the countries that have or used to have a socialist regime. In some countries, it is not a public holiday, but is widely observed nonetheless.

However, the holiday has changed much since it inception. In most ex-Soviet states, the celebration of women’s rights has transformed into a commercialized holiday, a kind of a cross between Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day when all women are given presents, typically by men. In fact, this new version of International Women’s Day has been met with growing criticism because it reestablishes patriarchal values that Clara Zetkin and other suffragists fought against.

The United Nations first celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 in 1975, which was declared International Women’s Year. Two years later, the UN General Assembly proclaimed March 8 as the United Nations observance for women’s rights. It is a time to reflect on the accomplishments of female rights activists as well as to remind that there is still much to be done. Some key targets that are emphasized on International Women’s Day include ending all forms of discrimination and violence against all women and girls everywhere.

On March 8, activists and organizations around the world hold International Women’s Day events to celebrate women and take action to transform women’s lives everywhere. Most of these events are tied to the current year’s International Women’s Day theme.

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