How Women’s Day Came Into Existence : Its Struggles, Controversies And Fight for Rights

By Ranjabati Ray

As Mahatma Gandhi once said “Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity…If by strength is meant moral power, and then woman is immeasurably man’s superior…If non-violence is the law of our being, the future is with women…”

International Women’s Day is celebrated all over the world on 8th March 2017, with the head start from Europe, to mark the achievements of women in all fields, be it social, economic, cultural or political.

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Isn’t it surprising that every year we celebrate this day with full enthusiasm and zeal, but do we know the history behind the celebration of this day? No one knows how this celebration started to make its place in various countries.

One single person or a group is not responsible for the booming of this day, it is the efforts of many joined hands.

The history of this day is clouded by various kinds of controversies :

1. According to a group of people, the year 1907, saw the establishment of this day, to mark the 50th anniversary of a brutally repressed protest by New York City’s female garment and textile workers.

2. Some say that the origin myth was invented in the 1950s, as part of a Cold War-era effort to separate International Women’s Day from its socialist roots.

But, when it comes to the common people or the general public, what we find is silence.

We people celebrate the day with WhatsApp messages and quotes and organize events , but we remain unknown to the origin of the day and hence forget to applaud the heroes of the past who have made it possible for us to celebrate this day.

To quote the well said words of the writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “It is true that a woman’s duty is centered in her home and motherhood [but] home should mean the whole country, and not be confined to three or four rooms or a city or a state.”

One could witness critical debates occurring among women, during the period of early 1900’s. As times changed, so did the situation because at that time, women started marching for their rights.

As a result of this, the first National Woman’s Day was celebrated across the United States on 28.02.1909. The year 1910 observed the happening of a German socialist – Luise Zeits-Copenhagen conference, where the idea of celebrating International Woman’s Day, in every country, on the same day first found its origin. 19th March, 1911 could be marked as the historic day when the same was confirmed in Copenhagen.

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This embarked the tumultuous journey of the International Woman’s Day.. During the years 1913 – 1914, the world witnessed more protests and rallies by Russian women against the war and to express women’s solidarity. On 08.03.1914, International Woman’s Day, was observed by almost all countries.

These series of events were followed by the Trafalgar square protest, February revolution, Russian revolution. Subsequent to this, women were, for the first time given voting rights.

Ultimately, the birth of the United Nations made International Women’s Day find its historic place on the world calendar on 8th March.

But, not much has changed from the past. Although the United Nations has truly embarked upon a mission of establishing Gender Equality by embracing new oaths each year aiming towards equal rights, yet, the world has not changed from within itself.

women's day 8 march

It’s high time that we, the people of the world, men and women alike join hands and learn from the heroes of history to embrace each other’s weaknesses and strengths and to give each other support and courage.

Today, there are women who don’t even know the rights and the advantages given to them, whereas, on the other hand, there are numerous cases of women who are flouting these rights unabashed.

To all these women I would like to plead that they do not let the struggles of the women of the past go to waste.

The history of achieving a simple thing as a right to vote, actually shows how indebted we are to these heroic women who had the guts and the fierceness to stand up to against the entire world.

And it’s about damn time we also look to bring about change in our society out of mere respect for them.


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