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.
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  • International recognition of women's rights began with movements in the United States.
  • International Women's Day is over 100 years old.
  • Awareness of women's history and gender inequalities can lead to actionable change.
  • Today's work improves the likelihood of gender equality for future generations.

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?

  • Women contribute to history, culture, and society. It continues to be important that we honor the contributions of women around the world. Intentionally setting aside one day to collectively uplift the often overlooked contributions of women ensures recognition of women's economic, political, and social accomplishments.
  • Awareness can lead to action. Increasing the visibility of women's achievements can move us closer to equality. By celebrating International Women's Day, we improve our collective awareness of women's history and increase our understanding of bias, discrimination, and inequity. This awareness pushes individuals to take actionable steps that can lead to communal change.
  • Raising funds helps women's empowerment groups flourish. International Women's Day provides a global platform for charitable donations. Organizations that support positive change for women are spotlighted. They receive the necessary monetary support to help improve conditions for women around the world.
  • Gender inequality exists worldwide. Complete gender parity is unlikely in the coming decades. However, work today improves the likelihood of gender equality for future generations. International Women's Day helps us acknowledge inequities — like the gender pay gap — and work toward a more equitable future.
Learn about the disparities women in academics face and how to honor them during Women's History Month.

Resources for Celebrating International Women's Day

  • The official website for International Women's Day includes a searchable database of worldwide events — a great start for getting involved. The site provides information on the year's theme, global issues, and articles and videos from supporters around the world.
  • The United Nations' support of International Women's Day includes an informative website with present-day statistics. It also spotlights plans for the future of women's empowerment and personal stories from women around the world. UN Women also offers videos and research to support awareness of worldwide inequities affecting women.
  • InternationalWomensDay.org provides a historical account of International Women's Day and opportunities to honor women in your community throughout the month of March.
  • Human Rights Watch is an excellent resource for learning about current issues affecting women around the world.

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 2023?

The theme for International Women's Day 2023 is #EmbraceEquity. This theme focuses on creating an equitable and inclusive world that is free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. It asks that people worldwide join together to build more equitable communities.

The 2023 theme embraces the idea that the world can celebrate its diverse and valuable women through inclusive 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.