The Story of Women's Day
In the years surrounding the turn of the 20th century, women were entering the workplace in larger numbers than ever before, thanks largely to the expansion of nineteenth century industrialism. The jobs they filled were segregated by gender and were mainly in the areas of manufacturing, textiles and in domestic services where working conditions were dismal, and wages even worse. The political climate was one of turmoil and change - Socialism and Trade Unionism were coming into being as working people the world over sought to improve their status and working conditions. Additionally, Women's Suffrage, the right to vote, was a still un-realized goal.
The first Women's Day was held on the last Sunday in February 1908, initiated by groups of American socialist women for the purpose of demanding the Vote and to call attention to the political and economic status of women. It continued to be held on the final Sunday in February through 1913, when celebrations of the day began to shift to the first Sunday in March. When the Russian Czar abdicated in 1917, the provisional Government granted women the right to vote - this took place on February 23, according to the Julian calendar then used in Russia, but on March 8 according to the Gregorian calendar used by most of the rest of the world.
In the ninety-plus years since its inception, International Women's Day has formed a rallying point for coordinated efforts by the growing international women's movement to call for women's rights and increased participation in the political and economic process. It is also a time to reflect on progress made, and to commemorate the lives of women who have played courageous roles in the history of women's rights.