Minding the gap: International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day was observed on March 8th to celebrate and promote the economic, cultural and political achievement of women.1 The day also calls for action for women’s parity on the international level.2
The Socialist Party of America celebrated the first “Women’s Day” observance in 1909 in New York.3 The day was apparently chosen to remember a strike that occurred in 1908 for International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.4 1910 marked the year that an International Women’s Conference was held in Demark. The establishment of International Women’s Day resulted from the 1910 International Women’s Conference.5 When the day was established, the strategy was to gain recognition and promote equal rights for women, which included the right to vote.
March 19, 1911, marked the first International Women’s Day celebration in several countries in Europe. Over a million people demonstrated, went on strike, marched, paraded and demanded that women be given the right to vote and hold public office.6
It was not until 1914 when March 8th became the chosen day to celebrate International Women’s Day, and each year thereafter provided women in different countries a forum to raise awareness to the particular inequality that they were facing.7 This forum is noted in 1917 when the International Women’s Day in Russia sparked the February Revolution where Russian women went on strike for “peace and bread” referring to ending World War I, food shortages and Czarism.8
In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8th as the United Nations Day for women’s rights and world peace.9 The United Nations thereafter utilized different themes each year not only to bring attention to particular challenges faced by women but also to celebrate women overcoming obstacles in achieving greatness. As an example, 1999’s theme was “World Free of Violence Against Women” and 2006’s theme was “Women in Decision-making.”10
What makes International Women’s Day so interesting is the countries that actually recognize the day as an official holiday, including but not limited to, Cambodia, Uganda, China and Afghanistan. The countries that recognize the day as an official holiday are countries in which progress towards women’s parity remains slow.
Regardless if it is a national holiday, women in countries across the world recognize International Women’s Day differently since the day has different meanings to each individual. For some individuals it is a celebration; for others it is a call to action to accelerate gender parity; and for many it is an opportunity to align and promote relevant activity.11 Events are often hosted by women’s groups and provide a wide array of options. In Chicago alone for 2016 International Women’s Day, one could choose to celebrate by attending “International Women’s Day Dance” “International Women’s Day Networking Event” and even our Committee’s “Celebrating the Power of Laughter in the Law Luncheon.”
With the role of social media and technology, the message and goal behind International Women’s Day is shared and spread by individuals pleading for parity. This pledge is made by CEOs to stay-at-home mothers who are all taking a stance to obtain the common goal: equal rights for women.
We should, as a Committee and as a Bar Association, make the pledge for parity together notwithstanding International Women’s Day. Each day we should strive to close the gap between the genders and to finally achieve the mission started in 1909: celebrate and promote the economic, cultural and political achievement of women.