Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
International Women's Day
International Women's Day, or International Woman's Day (IWD), is marked on 8 March every year. It is a major day of global celebration for the economic, political and social achievements of women. Among other relevant historic events, it commemorates the Triangle Factory Fire (New York, 1911), where over 140 women lost their lives.
The idea of having an international women's day was first put forward at the turn of the 20th century amid rapid world industrialization and economic expansion that led to protests over working conditions. Women from clothing and textile factories staged one such protest on March 8, 1857 in New York City. The garment workers were protesting what they saw as very poor working conditions and low wages. The protesters were attacked and dispersed by police. These women established their first labor union in the same month two years later.
More protests followed on March 8 in subsequent years, most notably in 1908 when 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights. Even so, the first IWD was observed on 28 February 1909 in the United States following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. In 1910 the first international women's conference was held in Copenhagen by the Socialist International and an 'International Women's Day' was established. The following year, IWD was marked by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. However, soon thereafter, the Triangle Factory Fire in New York City killed over 140 garment workers. A lack of safety measures was blamed for the high death toll. Furthermore, on the eve of World War I, women across Europe held peace rallies on March 8, 1913.
Demonstrations marking International Women's Day in Russia proved to be the first stage of the Russian Revolution. Following the October Revolution, the Bolshevik feminist Alexandra Kollontai persuaded Lenin to make it an official holiday , and during the Soviet period it continued to celebrate "the heroic woman worker". However, the holiday quickly lost its political flavour and became an occasion for men to express their sympathy to the women around them - somewhat similar to Western Mother's Day and St. Valentine's Day mixed together. The day remains an official holiday in Russia, and is observed by men congratulating women (any woman) and giving them flowers and gifts.
In the West, International Women's Day was commemorated during the 1910s and 1920s, but dwindled. It was revived by the rise of feminism in the 1960s. In 1975, the United Nations began sponsoring International Women's Day.
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