USC Annenberg School For Communication and Journalism

#BalanceforBetter – Happy International Women’s Day!

Break out your purple! Today marks International Women’s Day (IWD), a day that not only recognizes and celebrates the rich history of women but also reflects on women who have paved the way in the collective struggle for gender equality and looks towards the future with hope for furthered egalitarianism.

This year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter, a campaign focused on recognizing and creating gender-balance across all sectors and facets of life. However, while creating balance may be the focus today, reflecting on the history of IWD is important to recognize how women even got themselves on the metaphorical scale. 

This day has been celebrated for over a century, spawning from the United States’ National Women’s Day first held in February 1909 by the Socialist Party of America (SPA). SPA created the day following the 1908 a strike led by female garment workers in New York City who demanded better working conditions and pay.

In 1910, at the second annual International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Denmark, it was proposed that a day celebrating women and highlighting the strive for equality and demands for rights be recognized worldwide. Reaching an agreement, the first IWD gatherings were held March 19, 1911, in both the United States and various European countries including Austria, Denmark and Germany. Two years later, in 1913, the day was officially moved to March 8th and has remained there ever since. 

While March 8th is often referred to as a celebration, in the past it has primarily been a day marked with resilience and revolution during suffragette movements around the world. In 1914, women marched through the streets of London in solidarity to campaign against World War I. After a 1917 country-wide women’s’ strike demanding “Bread and Peace” in Soviet Russia, also spawning from WWI and often cited as part of the revolution, the holiday was officially adopted as a day of recognition and remembrance as women were granted the right to vote, furthering the adoption of the day by a variety of communist countries. 

In 1975, the UN officially adopted the day, proclaiming it “United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace”, which solidified IWD’s status as a holiday worldwide. To this day, protests, movements and political statements led by women, often for women, use March 8th as a day to make their voices heard. 

Whether it’s by a march through the streets or an Instagram post with this year’s #BalanceforBetter pose, enjoy a day celebrating and recognizing the important women in your life.