What Is International Women’s Day?

International Women's Day celebrates the achievements of women worldwide. Discover its history, its importance, and ways to celebrate.

portrait of Vanesha McGee, M.Ed.
by Vanesha McGee, M.Ed.

Updated February 28, 2022

Edited by Giselle M. Cancio
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What Is International Women’s Day?

International Women's Day is an important global event that honors and celebrates women's history. Since the early 1900s, people from around the globe have come together in support of women's rights and to celebrate the worldwide achievements of women.

International Women's Day takes place on March 8 every year. Celebrated during Women's History Month in the U.S., this global recognition allows us to collectively discover, uplift, and praise women for their contributions.

The Origins of International Women's Day

National declarations for women's rights in 1800s America built the foundation for an international movement. In 1909, an official day of recognition for women's rights took place in the United States and soon expanded to other countries. International Women's Day was recognized for the first time on March 19, 1911.

One million people attended rallies in support of women's rights — to vote, hold public office, get vocational training, and fight discrimination.

International Women's Day has since grown worldwide to include millions of participants. In the early 2000s, online campaigns and organizational platforms gave International Women's Day a resurgence in popularity.

In 2011, on its 100-year anniversary, March was proclaimed Women's History Month in the United States — further expanding the celebration of women's accomplishments.

International Women's Day is now celebrated in over 100 countries, using themes and colors to symbolize important values. Purple represents justice and dignity. White symbolizes purity. Green stands for hope.

Why Is International Women's Day in March?

In the early 1900s, women sought equal rights on a national scale. Gathering for meetings, rallies, and marches was an important part of the movement. Sundays became the day of choice since it limited interference with work and household duties. So this made it easier for women to join rallies, meetings, and marches.

The first widespread meeting for women's rights in the United States took place on the last Sunday in February. Around the globe, women began to use the same day to campaign for equality in their countries. As International Women's Day expanded, a universal date became necessary.

Since any given Sunday equated to a different date on each of the two calendars used in the 1900s — Julian and Gregorian — selecting a fixed date was left to movement leaders. Established leaders converted Feb. 23, the last Sunday on a Julian calendar year, to the Gregorian calendar — establishing March 8 as International Women's Day around the globe.

Why Is International Women's Day Important?

Resources for Celebrating International Women's Day

Frequently Asked Questions About International Women's Day

Why do we need an International Women's Day?

International Women's Day provides a global platform for celebrating women's achievements, raising awareness about gender inequities, and increasing support for women worldwide. The day is an important recognition of women's social, cultural, economic, and political contributions.

Gender inequalities like discrimination and pay gaps still exist. International Women's Day increases awareness of these issues and provides a platform for people to get involved with creating change.

What is the theme for International Women's Day 2022?

The theme for International Women's Day 2022 is #BreakTheBias. This theme focuses on creating a gender-equal world that is free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. It asks that people worldwide join together to build more equitable communities.

The 2022 theme embraces the idea that the world can celebrate its diverse and valuable women through inclusive and unbiased actions.

Who created International Women's Day?

International Women's Day was created in the early 1900s. It stemmed from the fights for equal rights by women in the United States and grew to become a global movement. The first official International Women's Day occurred in 1911 with over 1 million people attending rallies around the world.

International Women's Day belongs to all groups worldwide and is not the sole responsibility of any single organization, country, or network.