Every year, March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day to celebrate the cultural, political, and socio-economical achievements of women. Moreover, March also marks the beginning of Women’s History Month across the globe. It starts on March 1 and ends on March 31. This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’. The goal behind Women’s Day is to spread the message of gender equality, celebrate the achievements and contributions of women in different spheres, and work towards building a society free of all gender biases, stereotypes, gender parity and discrimination. On this day, people appreciate the strong, intelligent, talented and simply extraordinary women in their lives.
On March 19, 1911, the first International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated in different parts of Europe, including Germany, Switzerland, and France. Women gathered in large numbers and conducted rallies and protests over issues like gender discrimination, domestic violence, and suffrage (right to vote) on that day. Following the Russian revolution, women gained the right to equal pay, and women were appointed to ministerial positions for the first time. In 1922, Vladimir Lenin declared March 8 as the official Women’s Day and a national holiday in the country.
After World War II, and the formation of the UN in 1945, it took the organization almost 30 years to recognize International Women’s Day, possibly because the day had become associated with communist countries. United Nations celebrated IWD for the first time in 1975, and then two years later, it declared March 8 as the official International Women’s Day. Since then, the day has served as a reminder of women’s rights all across the globe.
Here are some unforgettable facts about women’s history that would let you know how despite facing an unjust world, females never gave up and continued the fight for their rights:
- Although the 19th amendment that guaranteed American women the right to vote was passed in August 1920, many native, black, and Asian women (and men) living in different American states still couldn’t cast their vote because of laws such as poll taxes and literacy tests. Finally, in 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, these discriminatory state laws ceased to exist, and all women in the US could vote.
- Wyoming was the first state in the US to give every woman of legal age the right to exercise her voting rights, passing the first women’s suffrage law in the U. S. in 1869. The state also elected the first female US governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross in 1924 (she was also the only female governor of Wyoming and 19 states have never had a female governor). However, the first female vote in colonial America was cast in 1756, when Lydia Taft voted in local elections after she became the largest taxpayer in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, after the death of her husband, Josiah Taft. Unmarried white women who owned property could also vote in New Jersey from 1776 to 1807.
- The scientist Marie Curie, who is remembered as the first woman in history to win a Nobel prize is also the only person (both among men and women) to date who has been awarded Nobel prize in two different science categories — physics (for her work on radioactivity in 1906) and chemistry (for discovering radioactive elements polonium and radium in the year 1911). She was also the first person to receive the Nobel prize twice. Her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935 for her work in artificial radioactivity.
- The law that had enabled women to vote in Wyoming became a hurdle in the territories’ path to be recognized as a state in 1890 when Congress demanded that Wyoming repeal the 1869 law in order to join the union. The state of Wyoming gave a bold reply to Congress for making what it considered an unjust and unfair demand. In a telegram to Congress, the state leaders clearly said, “We will remain out of the Union one hundred years rather than come in without the women.” Congress gave up before the spirit of Wyoming and made the state a part of the union in 1890 along with the 1869 voting law.
- In the early 1900s, the UK government at that time was very strict on groups and people who demanded suffrage and protested for equal rights for women. Women were sent to jail when they used to participate in any such activities, and in prison, due to hunger strikes and abuse, they faced serious health risks. To overcome this issue, a British martial arts teacher, Edith Margaret Garrud, secretly started giving jiu-jitsu training to female protestors so that they could defend themselves during a police action. She formed a group called “The Bodyguard” that were experts in jiu-jitsu and armed themselves with clubs hidden in their dresses. Inspired by these events, Italian artist Tony Wolf later created a graphic novel series titled Suffrajitsu, after a term used by newspapers at the time.