International Women's Day 2017
International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8. Wikimedia Commons/Desiakoraput

Did you know that the earliest recorded Women’s Day was observed on Feb. 28, 1909, in New York? It was called Working Women’s Day during that time. The depravity and hardships faced by women at that time made them break the ice and demand for equal rights, defining the modern women's rights of today.

International Women’s Day is held to commemorate over a century of struggles for women’s rights. It is said that the 1908 strike of the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union in the US gave rise to what later went to be known as International Women’s Day (IWD). Observed every year on March 8, this globally recognised day celebrates achievements of women in every sphere of life -- be it social, economic, cultural or political. Moreover, the day calls for a surge in gender parity.

Feminist, journalist and activist Gloria Steinem said, "The story of women's struggle for equality pertains to no single feminist nor to any one organisation. It is but the collective efforts of all who care about human rights." The idea of an international day for women has come a long way in terms of women empowerment. What initially started as a citywide protest gradually went on to become a global theme, proffering women with their due rights, a societal position at par with their male counterparts and of course, an identity. These were things they have been denied for ages.

One of the primary achievements of IWD and feminism combined is that the world is now taking the concept of gender discrimination seriously. American women’s rights activist Alice Paul in 1923 wrote “The Equal Rights Amendment," which essentially reads: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." The proposal eventually went on to be a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the American women with rights under the US Constitution.

Another remarkable achievement of IWD is changing the perception of rape culture. Thanks to feminists and women's rights activists from around the world, there is lesser stigma, although not completely eradicated. According to, one in every six women experience an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. The problem assumed the shape of an epidemic before the feminist movement helped eradicate some terrible social slurs surrounding sexual assault. An increasing number of women's rights activists are now taking active roles in fighting against sexual violence against women.

Furthermore, women have finally been able to gather up courage to voice out their woes in the workplace and beyond. Equality in wages, securing administrative positions, slamming gender disparity in terms of dress codes and decision-making are some of the many other wins that the women's movement has brought about for modern women. There is still a long way to go, women's fight for equality is still not over, but there is still progress since the fight started over a century ago.

On this International Women’s Day, let’s have a look at the timeline of IWD’s journey throughout the century.

1908: State of great unrest and critical debate among women due to oppression and inequality. Around 15,000 women took to the streets in New York City demanding shorter working hours, pay rise and right to vote.

1909: The erstwhile Socialist Party of America organised the first National Women’s Day on Feb. 28.

1910: A second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. The idea of an International Women’s Day was pitched during the conference. A universal day for celebrating Women’s Day was proposed, which received unanimous approval, giving birth to International Women’s Day.

1911: On March 19, over a million people from Austria, Denmark, German and Switzerland attended IWD rallies, campaigning for women’s rights including female employment, right to vote and their struggle against gender parity.

1913-1914: IWD got a revised date in 1913. It was transferred from March 19 to March 8. In 1914, women across Europe organised rallies to campaign against the World War.

1917: A strike for “bread and peace” was observed by Russian women on the last Sunday of February (according to Julian calendar) over the deaths of over two million Russian soldiers. The strike continued for four days until they were granted the right to vote.

1975: The United Nations (UN) celebrated International Women’s Day for the first time. Two years hence a United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace was announced.

1996: The UN announced an annual theme for the year: "Celebrating the past, Planning for the Future." Subsequent themes followed such as "Women at the Peace table" in 1997, "Women and Human Rights" in 1998, "World Free of Violence Against Women" in 1999 and so on.

2011: The year marks the completion of 100 years of International Women’s Day. Ex-US President Barrack Obama labelled March 2011 as the "Women’s History Month." He appealed to American citizens to celebrate IWD by reflecting on "the extraordinary accomplishments of women" in shaping the country's history. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meanwhile launched the "100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls through International Exchanges."

Here are some videos and tweets to commemorate 2017 International Women’s Day.