International Women's Day 2019

History of International Women's Day

International Women's Day is celebrated all over the world on March 8. Here's a little history lesson on how it has developed over the years.

  • 1909   The first National Woman's Day was observed in the United States on 28 February. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers' strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions.

  • 1910   The Socialist International, meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women's Day, international in character, to honour the movement for women's rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish Parliament. No fixed date was selected for the observance.

  • 1911   As a result of the Copenhagen initiative, International Women's Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women's rights to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.

  • 1913-1914   International Women's Day also became a mechanism for protesting World War I. As part of the peace movement, Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around 8 March of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists.

  • 1917   Against the backdrop of the war, women in Russia again chose to protest and strike for "Bread and Peace" on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar). Four days later, the Czar abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote.

  • 1975 During International Women's Year, the United Nations began celebrating International Women's Day on 8 March.

  • 1995 The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a historic roadmap signed by 189 governments, focused on 12 critical areas of concern, and envisioned a world where each woman and girl can exercise her choices, such as participating in politics, getting an education, having an income, and living in societies free from violence and discrimination.

  • 2014 The 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) – the annual gathering of States to address critical issues related to gender equality and women’s rights — focused on “Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls”. UN entities and accredited NGOs from around the world took stock of progress and remaining challenges towards meeting the eight Millennium Development Goals.


In Australia, International Women’s Day has been informally celebrated since the early 1920s. The first Australian IWD rally, organised by the Militant Women’s Movement of the Communist Party of Australia, took place on March 25 1928 in the Sydney Domain. IWD marches in Sydney and Melbourne occurred in 1931.

IWD gained momentum in Australia around the time of the Second World War. Activists such as Jessie Street campaigned for women’s rights as workers, as women at the time were often paid only 54 per cent of men’s wages.

During International Women's Year in1975, large marches marked International Women’s Day. The Whitlam government supported a series of events throughout the year including the Women and Politics Conference in September which examined how women were represented in Australian politics.


International Women's Day commemorates the people of the past who worked tirelessly for equality for women; and to reflect on how far we have come. We still have a long way to go to achieve true equality, and this is reflected in the global theme.

UN Women

UN Women is the United Nations agency for women’s empowerment and gender equality, delivering programs and transforming policy to create a brighter future for women and girls in 96 countries worldwide.

UN Women's global theme for International Women's Day 2019 is ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’.

Why? Because the pace of progress is still too slow:

  • More than half a billion women in the world today live in unacceptable conditions of poverty

  • 1 in 3 women across the globe experience violence

  • The number of child brides is now estimated at 650 million

  • Women still earn less than men for the same work even when they have the same abilities and experience

  • Women make up just 23.8% of parliaments across the world.

These statistics are unacceptable.

Achieving gender equality benefits us all because it reduces social stigma and gender stereotypes that limit the potential of all individuals. Gendered jobs stifle career opportunities, gendered parenting roles can prevent fathers from taking an active role as a caregiver, and gendered emotions can limit the spectrum of feelings we should all be free to express.

UN Women plan to:

  • Develop women as leaders

  • Eliminate violence against women and girls and support survivors

  • End poverty through women’s economic empowerment

  • Ensure women’s full participation in the peace and security agenda

  • Make gender equality priorities central to budgeting

  • Ensure women are central to disaster planning and response

UN Women National Committee Australia

UN Women National Committee Australia exists to raise funds for and awareness of UN Women’s platform to end violence against women, promote economic empowerment, advance women in leadership, ensure women’s participation in peace processes and to accelerate gender equality worldwide.

In Australia, for IWD 2019, the national theme is ‘More Powerful Together’.

It recognises the important role we all play – as women, men, non-binary and gender diverse people. It takes all of us, working in collaboration and across that which sometimes divides us, breaking down stereotypes and gendered roles to create a world where women and girls everywhere have equal rights and opportunities.

More Powerful Together is a clarion call to stand in unison for gender equality.

When you empower a woman, you empower a nation .


Philosophy Australia supports equality and is proud to support such organisations as Dress for Success.

Happy International Women's Day!


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