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International Women's Day


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• International Women's Day

March 8 is International Women's Day. Originally a day to honor women workers struggling for recognition or at least humane working conditions, this day is now a cause for celebration for women's accomplishments in a wide number of areas, all around the world.

The exact date on the calendar has moved around a bit. The first observance of its kind occurred on March 8, 1908, when 15,000 women marched through New York City to raise awareness to their pleas for better working conditions for themselves and for children. They also wanted to vote.

A year later, National Woman's Day was celebrated on February 28. For the next four years, women marked the day on the last Sunday in February.

The idea spread to other countries as well. Copenhagen had the first international women's conference, in 1910; attendees approved the idea of an international day. The main force behind this movement was Clara Zetkin (right), a German woman very active in promoting women's and workers' rights, who suggested marking the day by showing support for women workers. Zetkin reminded the attendees of the strike by U.S. garment workers in 1857. The strike was broken up by police, an action that resulted in the formation of a labor union a couple years later. The conference ended with many women determined to spread the word.

The carnage of World War I provided women an opportunity to speak out for peace, a forum that proved useful for advancing the idea of a more formalised international women's day. Many countries celebrated International Women's Day in the years that followed, and the list of countries grew year by year.

The rise of feminism in the 1960s boosted interest in the IWD and attendance at events. The United Nations called for the first international conference on women in Mexico City in 1975, resulting in that year's being named International Women's Year. Two years later, the U.N. General Assembly announced a United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace.

International Women's Day is an official holiday in more than 30 countries; people in other countries observe the day, although is it not a public holiday. Men in some countries provide the women in their lives with flowers and small gifts; in other countries, the day is treated like Mother's Day.

 
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