Published March 1, 2024

Everything You Need To Know About International Women’s Day On March 8

International Women's Day

International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated every year on March 8. It’s a day to recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of women throughout history and across the world. It’s also a day to advocate for women's rights and gender equality.

But how exactly did IWD get started, why is it still observed and how can you celebrate it this year? 

The History of International Women’s Day 

The origins of International Women’s Day are somewhat controversial and a little hazy. Depending on your source, details will change here and there. Still all stories date back to the early 20th century when women’s rights activists across the world were campaigning for suffrage, better working conditions, and equal rights. 

The most common origin story for International Women’s Day starts with a march that took place in 1908. 15,000 women marched together through the streets of New York demanding better pay, voting rights, and shorter hours. However, research from the 1980s suggests this story was made up to separate International Women’s Day from its socialist roots.  

What’s clear is that in 1909, the Socialist Party of America declared February 28 the first National Woman’s Day in the US. It was observed on the last Sunday of February so that working women could join the march. 

On February 28, 1909, suffragists and socialists, who had previously been at odds, united. Thousands of women congregated at Murray Hill Lyceum at 34th Street and Third Avenue. Many stood to speak to the gathered crowds. This included labour organizer Leonora O’Reilly and author of The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman. 

The First International Women’s Day 

Two years later, Woman’s Day caught on in Europe when women marched on March 19, 1911. It was an international event with more than 1 million men and women rallying for women’s rights. Today, this is seen as the first International Women’s Day Event, though the holiday was not yet recognized by the UN. 

When World War I broke out in 1914, most social reforms experienced a freeze. Still, women gathered and marched on Woman’s Day.  

Why Do We Celebrate On March 8?

On February 23, 1917, thousands of Russian women took to the streets of Petrograd. They demanded bread and more rations for families of soldiers. The result of this has been tied to the abdication of Czar Nicholas II and the start of the Russian Revolution. The provisional government that formed in the wake of the abdication granted women the right to vote. It was the first government of a major power to grant these rights. 

In recognition of the events on February 23, Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Communist Party in Russia, declared the 23rd as Woman’s Day and an official Soviet Holiday. Communists in Spain and China followed suit. 

At the time of these events, Russia was using the Julian calendar, which was 13 days behind the Gregorian calendar used by western countries. In 1918, when Russia adopted the Gregorian calendar, Woman’s Day shifted to March 8. 

BONUS FACT: You may have noticed that up until this point, the holiday has been referred to as Woman’s Day. That's because it wasn’t changed to Women’s Day until sometime after 1945. 

Up until 1975, the day was mostly celebrated in socialist countries. However, in 1975, the United Nations General Assembly marked March 8 as International Women’s Day. Two years later, the Assembly allowed Member States to choose their date of observation based on their own historical and national traditions. 

Reigniting A Movement

Over the next decades, International Women’s Day began to lose traction. By 2000, most countries did very little to celebrate. But gender parity still hadn’t been achieved. 

In 2001, was launched. The website existed in a pre-social media era, so its main focus was to provide information, encourage events and celebrate women. 

Today, International Women’s Day is celebrated with workshops, luncheons, and other events, centered around an annual theme developed by the IWD website. 

The Introduction Of Themes

Themes are not a new element of IWD. In 1996, the UN announced its first theme – Celebrating The Past, Planning For The Future

Since then, every International Women’s Day has had a specific theme. This year, it is #InspireInclusion. 

About #InspireInclusion

The #InspireInclusion theme is a powerful message that focuses on creating an inclusive world where every person has a sense of belonging, relevance, and empowerment. To achieve this goal, everyone must work together to forge a more inclusive world for women. This means openly embracing their diversity of race, age, ability, faith, body image, and how they identify.

How To Work For Change 

Last year, we had a chance to sit down with Teresa MacLennan, Executive Director of Barrie Women and Children’s Shelter. She talked to us about how women can continue to work for change, especially in the workplace. 

MacLennan shared, “We encourage women to use their voice, to participate, to ask questions, and not be afraid of what the outcomes will be. If we are doing good work, if we are saying the right things, we can't lose.” 

MacLennan also shares the importance of women getting into politics as men still dominate the space. Part of that is many women are unsure about how to go about getting involved; making the decision to run. But that’s changing. MacLennan explains, “What we're seeing now is that women politicians are encouraging educating and supporting other women to consider running. That is a great first step!”

Celebrating International Women’s Day 

There’s no right or wrong way to celebrate International Women’s Day. You could watch a documentary about women’s rights or read articles about women’s achievements. You can take time to learn about the challenges that women and girls deal with in different places around the world, shop from a women-owned business or make donations. The options are truly endless. 

Women In Business Awards

The Barrie Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Awards are returning again this year. This prestigious event is dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women in Barrie who excel in leadership and entrepreneurship.

Their 2024 awards luncheon provides a valuable platform to honor women and woman-led businesses or organizations that have surpassed expectations in the past year. Open to public nominations, the awards aim to recognize and encourage those who demonstrate exceptional social responsibility, entrepreneurial spirit, risk-taking, and innovation, contributing to the vibrant fabric of our community.

Hosted by Charlie and Any Aust from Kool FM, this year's Women in Business Awards will take place on March 7 at Liberty North.

Annual International Women’s Day Empowerment Luncheon

If you’re looking for a local event to celebrate, learn, and network with other women, The Barrie Women and Children’s Shelter will be hosting their Annual International Women’s Day Empowerment Luncheon. The event takes place on March 8 from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM at the Barrie Chrysler at 395 Dunlop St W. 

Brandi Ferenc is a trailblazer in the skilled trades industry. As the owner and CEO of Fair-Trades Toolbox, Brandi has not only excelled in her field but has also dedicated herself to mentoring and instructing women aspiring to pursue careers in the skilled trades.

Her passion for empowering women in traditionally male-dominated industries has earned her recognition, including the prestigious WXN Canada’s Most Powerful Women Top 100 award in the skilled trades category for consecutive years in 2022 and 2023.

Over her impressive 20-year career, Brandi has tirelessly shared her expertise and experiences to educate, mentor, and inspire women, advocating for their inclusion and breaking down barriers in the skilled trades sector.

To buy tickets for the event, click here.

International Women’s Day Rally

Following the Luncheon, the Women and Children’s Shelter of Barrie will be hosting their International Women’s Day Rally starting at 4:30 PM.

Regardless of how you celebrate, remember that the true purpose of International Women's Day is to recognize and honour the achievements and contributions of women throughout history, and to continue advocating for gender equality, equity, and women's rights. 

By working together, we can create a more just and equitable world for all women.

RELATED: Prominent Canadian women get wrapped up by Hershey's for International Women's Day ...

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