The concept of International Women’s Day began in the early 1900’s as women began to fight to assert their positions in society. Women were becoming more vocal and developing campaigns for change; for better working conditions, better pay and the right to vote alongside their male counterparts. In 1909 the first National Women’s Day (NWD) was observed across the United States on 28th February. It became the beginning of the worldwide movement that became Women’s Day.
European women during this time were also in the fight for equality and so the first International Women’s Day (IWD) was honoured on 19th March 1911 in Denmark, Switzerland Austria and Germany. It saw more than one million women and men attending IWD campaigns for women’s rights to work, gain access to training, vote, and hold public office. Their efforts were heightened through the unfortunate incident of the 25th March 1911 when the tragic ‘Triangle Fire’ in NYC took the lives of more than 140 working women, highlighting the concerns of women across the world. This started a practice of using each year as a focus for issues affecting women and society across the world.
As International Women’s Day took its official date of 8th March in 1913. In 1914 women across Europe held rallies to campaign against the First World War and to show their solidarity and sisterhood.
Over the following hundred year’s international women’s day grew, and in early 2000 became an official holiday in a number of countries. It became a time for men to honour the women in their lives; their mothers, wives, girlfriends etc. In some countries IWD is held to the same status as Mother’s Day.
Across the years, it’s fair to say that many battles have been won. There are now more women in the boardroom, legislation in place to protect equality and it can be argued that women are much closer to having true equality now than has ever been the case in history. However there are still many battles to be won, with women still being paid less than their male counterparts and not representative of society in terms of our numbers in business or politics.
So it is unsurprising, that with the themes for IWD ranging from campaigning for Peace and Human Rights in the late 1990’s, to Protecting Women and Girls
Against Violence in the late 2000’s, that this year’s theme is #MakeItHappen, and it’s aim is to encourage action for Advancing and Recognising Women.
For me this year’s theme is very apt, as I see women making it happen every day, and we’re only getting better! So for all of my sisters near and far, past and present, in business and/or life, I salute your beauty, strength, dexterity, force and unencumbered love, I wish you all the best for 2015 and beyond.
May you all feel is wonderful as you are! The proof is in the pudding, and we are indeed blessed that the women of yesteryear did indeed #MakeItHappen for us!