For many of us, celebrating and empowering women is a task that we’d like to feel accomplished throughout our daily lives. Annually on March 8th, International Women’s Day is celebrated with social media posts thanking the women who’ve helped us become the way we are and articles showcasing the accomplishments of women who’ve inspired many. I’ve always found this curious, wondering if dedicating a single day was fair when we should be showing our appreciation for the women who matter to us every single day.

I decided to dedicate this Women’s History Month to learning about why International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month are important. I knew that it was about more than just social media posts or media marketing, but without being properly educated on the history and necessities of International Women’s Month I didn’t know how to truly appreciate and appropriately celebrate  Women’s History Month.

A bit of research made it clear that International Women’s Day came far before Women’s History Monthso I decided to start with finding out its origin. Origins provided this retelling of events: 

 

“The first “Woman’s Day” celebration took place in Chicago on May 3, 1908. Organized by the U.S. Socialist Party, it brought together an audience of 1,500 women who demanded economic and political equality, on a day officially dedicated to “the female workers’ causes.” The following year, women gathered in New York for a similar celebration. Inspired by these American initiatives, European socialists soon followed suit. At the International Women’s Conference, which preceded the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen in August 1910, leading German socialists Luise Zietz and Clara Zetkin proposed the establishment of an annual International Women’s Day as a strategy to promote equal rights, including suffrage, for women. More than 100 female delegates from 17 countries unanimously endorsed the proposal.”

International Women’s Day was then marked for the first time in 1911 and marches started to spread throughout Europe on March 18th over the course of the next few years. The socialists who had been participating in International Women’s Day’s first marches and meetings were divided when WWI broke out. Participation then halted during war times. But, in 1917 the Russian Revolution was started by an International Women’s Day march where working-class women called for an end to a war that was making the rising cost of living impossible for them to manage. The marches could not be stopped and eventually, Russia was forced to exit the war.

Before even beginning to research Women’s History Month, I can’t help but be impressed by the accomplishments of the dedicated Russian women whose relentlessness in their marches forced the government to leave the war, abolish its monarchy, and adopt a socialist government. 

The United Nations first celebrated International Women’s Day in 1975, declaring it as a “day to reflect on progress made and celebrate acts of courage and achievement by ordinary women,” which I suppose is fairly in line with how we participate in International Women’s Day now. 

Women’s History Month started as Women’s History Week in Santa Rosa, California in 1978. Many states adopted Women’s History Week the following year and in 1980 President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8th as International Women’s Week officially, with the following statement:

from womenshistory.org

From this, it appears that the intention of International Women’s Week was to write women into the making of America where so often they had been ignored while men were glorified for creating their nation. By 1987, Women’s History Week was extended to Women’s History Month.

While International Women’s Day is observed on March 8th, Women’s History Month is celebrated in March in the United States, The United Kingdom, and Australia. In Canada, Women’s History Month is actually celebrated in October to correspond with the celebration of Person’s Day on October 18th.   

With a bit of historical background discovered, it’s important to evaluate how we celebrate Women’s History Month (whether you choose to participate in March or October) and International Women’s Day. Here are some ways that we can best extend our appreciation to the women who deserve it and those who need it most. 

Three suggestions from National Today on how to observe Women’s History Month include: 

  1. Writing about women who inspire you. Write a letter or a journal entry explaining how a woman has impacted you and why you admire her whether it’s someone in your personal life or a public figure. 
  2. Spend one on one time with the important women in your life by having a girl’s lunch or some other activity where you can be together and appreciate each other’s company. 
  3. Visit a Women’s History museum or read a book on an influential woman from history, anything that involves learning about the history of women and their contributions to the world that we live in.

Personally, I think that we need to find a balance between cute social media posts about the women in our lives and taking our girls out for lunch during the month of March, and immersing ourselves in the historical context of women’s lives and why such a celebration as International Women’s Day was and still is important. Celebrating the women in our lives is an important part of International Women’s Day, but we often forget about the struggles of women who have come before us and all that they did to make the world a little bit easier for the women of the future. 

I also urge us to ask ourselves during Women’s History Month: what are we doing to make the world a better place for the women who will come after us?