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  • Writer's pictureMatilda Butler

What Do You Want to Know about International Women’s Day?

First, I Need to Admit that I Almost Missed International Women's Day!

It’s late in Oregon and I am just now preparing this post on RosieCentral. I've been thinking about Women's History Day since I got up this morning, but other work got in the way. And now I’m trying to squeeze this in before fixing dinner. But I really didn’t want March 8, 2024 to speed to its close before I acknowledged this important date. 


Since I’m not sure how much you know about International Women’s Day (IWD), I thought I’d tell you about 5 facts you may not be aware of -- including it's link to the American Suffrage Movement.


First, What is the Origin of IWD?


The first National Women's Day was observed in the United States on February 28, 1909. Obviously, this was before it became known as International Women’s Day. It was a day designed to honor a garment workers' strike in New York that took place in March 1908.


As you probably know, the majority of garment workers in the US were always women. There was a second major strike that began in November 1909 when more than 20,000 garment women went on strike in New York City, hoping to improve their situation and the appalling workers conditions. That second major strike lasted until February 1910. 


And while there was considerable interest around the world for an International Women’s Day, it was the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, that brought international attention to the plight of women workers. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire happened on Saturday, March 25, 1911 and was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city, and one of the deadliest in U.S. history. One hundred forty six women died and an additional 78 were injured. 


When was International Women’s Day Officially Recognized?

While International Women's Day has been celebrated in many countries for over a century, it wasn't until 1975 that it was officially recognized by the United Nations. The UN began celebrating IWD on March 8th that year — the specific date suggested by the United Nations in 1977. Since then, March 8 has become the globally recognized date for celebrating women's achievements and advocating for gender equality.


Does International Women’s Day Have Official Colors?

This may seem like an odd question, but the answer is “yes.” Purple, green, and white are often associated with International Women's Day. These colors have historical significance in the women's suffrage movement and are the colors used in the British Suffrage Movement. Purple symbolizes justice and dignity, green represents hope, and white signifies purity. 


Note: The American Suffrage Colors are purple, white, and gold. The US National Woman’s Party described the meaning of the three colors in this way: 


“Purple is the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to the cause. 

“White, the emblem of purity, symbolizes the quality of our purpose.

“And gold, the color of light and life, is as the torch that guides our purpose, pure and unswerving.”


Actually we can attribute the color gold to Susan B. Anthony. When she was in Kansas working to get the right to vote for women, she began using the sunflower, the Kansas State flower, as a symbol of their cause.


NOTE: Here's a photo of our Suffrage Sash and Suffrage Rosette (along with a link to our Amazon store). You'll see the three American colors as worn by many suffragists.




What is this Year’s Theme?

Since 1996, the International Women's Day Global Hub, which oversees the planning and coordination of IWD events worldwide, has adopted a specific theme each year. These themes range from "Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030" to "Choose to Challenge." These themes aim to focus attention on particular aspects of gender equality and women's empowerment.


In 2024, the official theme of the UN observance of the day is 'Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress'. And while a worthwhile goal and a good theme, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report of 2023 states that it will take another 131 years to reach gender parity.


Does "International" Really Mean International?

Maybe that’s a peculiar question. But in case you are interested, IWD is celebrated in many countries. If you are taking part in their year's celebration, you are joined by many women around the world. While International Women's Day is not officially recognized as a public holiday in most countries, it is a national holiday in several places, including:


  • Afghanistan,

  • Armenia,

  • Azerbaijan,

  • Belarus,

  • Burkina Faso,

  • Cambodia,

  • China (for women only),

  • Cuba,

  • Georgia,

  • Guinea-Bissau,

  • Eritrea,

  • Kazakhstan,

  • Kyrgyzstan,

  • Laos,

  • Madagascar (for women only),

  • Moldova,

  • Mongolia,

  • Montenegro,

  • Nepal (for women only),

  • Russia,

  • Tajikistan,

  • Turkmenistan,

  • Uganda,

  • Ukraine,

  • Uzbekistan,

  • Vietnam, and

  • Zambia.

In these countries, it's often a day off work for women, with celebrations and events organized by governments and various organizations.


But note all the countries where it is not an official holiday. This is almost more important than the countries where it is. Actually, re-read the list. You may not even recognize all the names.


What Can You Do to Honor International Women’s Day?

Since I’ve already acknowledged that the day is almost over, you wonder what my point might be. Well, learning about IWD is important on any day in the year. And you might begin now planning how you, and perhaps an organization you belong to, might celebrate IWD next year. Honoring women and their achievements is a worthwhile goal at in any (and every) year.  

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