By Clementine Hall
For more than 100 years, the 8th March has marked what has come to be known as International Women’s Day in countries around the world. This global holiday celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women worldwide.
Ahead of this year’s celebration, here are 5 five facts you might not know about the day and its origins and traditions…
1. It began in 1911
The first International Women’s Day was held in 1911, celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19th by over one million people. Events championed women’s rights to vote, work and hold public office, whilst denouncing discrimination.
In 1913 the date for International Women’s Day was moved to March 8th, a day on which it has been celebrated globally ever since.
2. Purple is the day’s signature colour
A combination of purple, green and white historically represents the push for women’s equality, dating back to the Women’s Social and Political union in the UK in about 1908. Purple signifies justice and dignity, green signifies the virtue of hope whilst white signified purity. Today, white is no longer used as the notion of ‘purity’ is controversial.
3. The celebration got women the vote in Russia
In 1917, women in Russia honoured the day by holding a strike for ‘bread and peace’ as a way to protest World War I. Czar Nicholas II, the country’s leader at the time, was not impressed and instructed General Khabalov of the Petrograd Military District to put an end to the protests and to shoot any woman who refused to stand down. But the women continued their protests, which led the Czar to abdicate just days later. The provisional government then granted women in Russia the right to vote.
4. The United Nations officially adopted International Women’s Day in 1975
In 1975, the United Nations, which had dubbed the year International Women’s Year, celebrated International Women’s Day on the 8th March for the first time that year. Since then the United Nations has become the primary sponsor of the annual event and has encouraged even more countries around the world to embrace the holiday and its goal of celebrating “acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.”
5. Each year’s International Women’s Day festivities have an official theme
In 1996 the United Nations created a theme for that year’s International Women’s Day which was “Celebrating the past, planning for the future.” In 1997, it was “Women at the Peace Table,” then “Women and Human Rights” in 1998. They’ve continued this tradition in the years since, 2020’s theme was “Let’s all be each for equal”. And this year’s theme is “Let’s all choose to challenge”.