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International Women’s Day: A Brief History

March 8th marks the international observance and celebration of International Women’s Day. This day serves as a moment in time to recognize the achievements of women from across the globe, and remember the oppression and inequalities faced by women throughout history. Below, you can read some of the highlights of the history behind International Women’s Day.


During the early 20th century, women began to criticize and oppose the constant inequality and oppression they faced on a daily basis. In 1908, a total of about 15,000 women gathered in New York City with the goal of marching for better working hours, better pay, and voting rights. What these women did not realize is that their bravery would become one of many international demonstrations which would lead to incredible changes for women across the globe.

1909 and 1910

In 1909, the United States established a National Women’s Day, which was celebrated annually on the last Sunday of February.

The International Conference of Working Women, held in Copenhagen, Germany, became the birthplace of the proposition for International Women’s Day. Clara Zetkin proposed this day would be an annual marker for women to recognize their achievements and most importantly, continue to press for lasting change regarding the struggles faced by women at an international level. The proposal passed by a unanimous vote placed by 100 different women from a wide variety of backgrounds.


March 19th, 1911 marked the very first international celebration of IWD, including countries such as Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, and Germany. It is estimated over one million women and men attended these events where they also advocated for a woman’s right to be trained and hold public office.


Up until 1913, International Women’s Day had yet to have a picked a day to be honored at an international level, but after several rounds of discussion, March 8th was established as the official day instead of the last Sunday of February or the 19th of March.


Nearly 6 decades later, the United Nations (UN), recognized and commemorated the international holiday.

International Women’s Day in 2022

Over 100 years later, even after the tremendous improvements women have experienced within their societies, this celebration continues to fight for women’s equality. Every year, International Women’s Day has a specific theme in mind, to help narrow the efforts of the celebration.

For 2022, the theme is Gender Equality for a Sustainable Future, which encourages everyone to strive for a world free of gender bias in the face of climate change and a sustainable future. Visit the International Women’s Day website at International Women’s Day | United Nations to learn more.

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