International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

As with many observances around the world, International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8th is celebrated in a variety of ways.  From gift giving to rallies to public holiday observation IWD is recognized in over 40 countries. 

The tradition first began in February 1909 in the United States by the Socialist Party of America as a strategy to promote equal rights, including suffrage, for women and soon spread to Germany, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland, Russia, and China by 1949.  Historically, the date of observance floated into and out of February and March varying by year and location.

By 1977 the United Nations General Assembly urged member states to declare March 8th as the day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.  Present day IWD has moved away from its socialist connotation; the UN now adopts a theme each year to focus on an international topic involving women’s rights and social issues.  Recent causes include recognition of refugee women displaced by armed conflict and prevention of sexual violence towards women in conflict zones. 

To commemorate the 2011 centennial of IWD in the U.S. (which officially began in 1911) President Obama proclaimed the entire month of March as Women’s History Month.  The 2012 UN theme for IWD is “Empower Women – End Hunger and Poverty” organized in affiliation with Oxfam

To locate articles and primary sources on the origins, events, and practices of International Women’s Day consult the Library’s Databases By Subject list or the following database links:


American Memory


Modern World History Online


Women & Social Movements in the United States


Oral History Online


American Women’s History Online

Humanities International Index



News & Newspapers (Proquest)


Times (London) Digital Archive

Gender Watch


Then check out The Power to Learn to quiz yourself on Women’s History Month facts and Oxfam America to send an International Women’s Day e-card!

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