International Women's Day: What's it all about?

Today is the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. In 1911 – the year the holiday was first celebrated internationally – women could not yet vote in most countries. Now, a number of women serve as presidents and in other positions of power. But there’s still more to do if women are to enjoy the same access and rights as men, say International Women’s Day organizers and the UN. This year’s focus? "Equal access to education, training, and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.”

Read on to find out more about International Women’s Day.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
First Lady Michelle Obama (l.) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton host the International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony at the State Department in Washington on March 8. Tuesday marks the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day.

What are its origins?

International Women’s Day began as National Women’s Day in the US in 1909 and has its roots in the now defunct Socialist Party of America. The following year, a German woman named Clara Zetkin proposed the first International Women’s Day while at the second International Conference of Working Women, held in Copenhagen. The day was first celebrated internationally in 1911 and has been observed in many countries every year since then. It was moved from its original date in late February to its current date, March 8, in 1913.

The United Nations began honoring International Women's Day in 1975, the UN-proclaimed International Women's Year. In 1977, it went a step further, adopting a resolution recognizing International Women’s Day. Since its first celebration, the UN has hosted four international women's conferences and in 2010, it created the UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women – also known as UN Women.

1 of 5
of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of 5 free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.