As people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day — an annual March 8 observance — countries from Kyrgyzstan lớn Cambodia will officially honor women’s rights and achievements across the political, economic, social and cultural spheres. The day has been designated as an official United Nations observance since 1975, which was International Women’s Year, and is a national holiday in many parts of the world.

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But the day’s origins go much further back than 1975 — and are more radical than what we might expect from a day so widely celebrated.

Centering around the socialist movements of the early 20th century, here’s more on the history of how International Women’s Day (IWD) came lớn be:

How did International Women’s Day start?

The impetus for establishing an International Women’s Day can be traced back to new york City in February 1908, when thousands of women who were garment workers went on strike & marched through the thành phố to protest against their working conditions. “Like today, these women were in less organized workplaces , were in the lower echelons of the garment industry, và were working at low wages và experiencing sexual harassment,” says Eileen Boris, Professor of Feminist Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara.

In honor of the anniversary of those strikes, which were ongoing for more than a year, a National Women’s Day was celebrated for the first elafilador.net in the U.S. On Feb. 28, 1909, spearheaded by the Socialist tiệc ngọt of America.

Led by German campaigner & socialist Clara Zetkin, the idea khổng lồ turn the day into an international movement advocating universal suffrage was established at the International Conference of Working Women in 1910. Zetkin was renowned as a passionate orator và advocate for working women’s rights, và her efforts were crucial khổng lồ the day’s recognition throughout much of Europe in the early 1910s.

The most consequential International Women’s Day protest

Although International Women’s Day had started with action from the women’s labor movement in the U.S., it took on a truly revolutionary size in Russia in 1917.

Just as Zetkin’s idea was spreading through Europe, Russia (where International Women’s Day was established in 1913) was facing unrest for other reasons too. It was against the backdrop of a country exhausted by war, widespread food shortages and escalating popular protest that the nation’s 1917 International Women’s Day demonstration was held on Feb. 23 of that year — the equivalent of March 8 in the Russian calendar, indicating the significance of the date of the commemorations today.

Though it wasn’t Russia’s first International Women’s Day, historian và activist Rochelle Ruthchild of Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies points lớn the differences between earlier protests and this demonstration, which took place in the then-capital Petrograd và involved thousands. “Women were mostly the ones on the breadline, and were the chip core protesters,” she says. “In fact, male revolutionaries lượt thích Trotsky were upset at them, as these disobedient & misbehaving women were going out on this International Women’s Day, when they were meant khổng lồ wait until May,” referring to lớn the annual worker’s protests on May 1.

Despite the initial directives from revolutionary leaders, the protests that began on March 8 grew to lớn daily mass strikes of workers from all sectors demanding bread, better rights & the end to autocracy. A week later, the Tsar abdicated, signaling the downfall of the Russian Empire & paving the way for socialism và the formation of the Soviet Union in 1922.

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“You could argue that these demonstrations sparked the abdication of Tsar Nicholas và the kết thúc of the Romanov dynasty,” Ruthchild says. “This was probably the most consequential of any International Women’s Day demonstrations of any elafilador.net.”


Suffrage và International Women’s Day

Russian women demanded — & gained — the right to lớn vote in 1917 as a direct consequence of the March protests và after more than 40,000 women & men again took to the streets demanding universal suffrage. This made Russia the first major power khổng lồ enact suffrage legislation for women, a year earlier than Britain & three years earlier than the United States. In fact, suffragettes in the U.K. Và their counterparts in the U.S. Both looked to Russia as an example, & held what they saw as the country’s progress & liberation of women up as a mirror lớn their own governments, warning that they were lagging behind.

“Women’s movements, be it suffrage or labor rights, have always had an international connection,” says Boris. British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst visiting Russia in June 1917 và the creation of the Women’s International League for Peace và Freedom during World War I are examples of these early 20th century global links.


However, the celebration of International Women’s Day itself did not hold as much weight in the U.S. Through the 20th century as it did in other countries, largely due lớn its political associations with the Soviet Union và socialism amid increasing Cold War tensions. The fact that an official U.N. Day observance was only established in 1975 underlines this point, và may go some way to explaining why the day still isn’t as widely recognized in the U.S. Today as it is elsewhere, though it is no coincidence that March is the nation’s Women’s History Month.

‘Many more steps khổng lồ take’

In the century since it was first established, International Women’s Day has come to be marked just as frequently with celebration as it is with protest, but the day’s legacy remains steeped in the struggle for women’s rights — an element that has gained renewed relevance in recent months, particularly as the #MeToo movement has taken on global dimensions.

Looking lớn the history of International Women’s Day today in Russia, Ruthchild points out the “irony” of recent developments in laws affecting Russian women; for example, last year Vladimir Putin signed a controversial amendment lớn a law that decriminalized some forms of domestic violence. “How did a society which touted women’s liberation turn so quickly into a society that has reacted so strongly against notions of women’s equality & women’s rights?” she says.

And Russia is by no means the only country where women continue lớn face challenges lớn their rights. “Certainly, there are people and leaders in the U.S. Who would lượt thích to turn back the clock too,” says Ruthchild. In the elafilador.net since President Trump’s election in năm 2016 and the Women’s March in early 2017, American women have been mobilized to kích hoạt by conversations surrounding sexual harassment, equal pay, threats to reproductive healthcare & more.

International Women’s Day doesn’t seem likely to thua thảm its radical flavor any elafilador.net soon.

“Days like IWD are a elafilador.net lớn celebrate the gains that have been made & to measure how far we have come,” Boris says, “but also khổng lồ see that there are many more steps to take and to rededicate to lớn the struggle ahead.”