It began when a German socialist called Clara Zetkin thought that women should have a special day every year to fight for women’s rights.
The first International Women’s Day was in 1911. Over a million people attended demonstrations in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland to highlight sexual discrimination. They were campaigning for the right to vote and the right to work in good conditions with equal pay.
Russian women took part in the international celebration for the first time in 1913. This was as part of the Russian peace movement just before the First World War. The Russians continued to celebrate IWD and in 1917 the IWD demonstrations kick-started the Russian Revolution and ensured that IWD would continue to be observed in all socialist countries throughout the 20th Century.
1960s & 1970s
However it wasn’t until the rise of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s that IWD started to be celebrated once more outside socialist countries, in places like Europe, the USA, and Australia. The United Nations designated 1975 international woman’s year and officially sanctioned IWD.
Today International Women’s Day is still an occasion to highlight women’s inequality in society – in pay, jobs, education, opportunities and health. For example, charities such as Oxfam and Amnesty International have marked the day by calling for increased action to reduce the number of deaths of pregnant women in developing countries.
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