By Courtney Suciu
On March 9, 1911, International Woman’s Day was marked for the first time with millions of people marching and protesting all over the world, unified in their demands to end sexual discrimination in workplaces and to give women the right to vote, as well as hold office.
More than a century later, the day that’s come to be known as International Women’s Day (now held annually on March 8) is being celebrated around the globe with events that promote the theme #BalanceforBetter, with this mission:
“From grassroots activism to worldwide action, we are entering an exciting period of history where the world expects balance. We notice its absence and celebrate its presence.”*
We’re celebrating by looking back at the origins of International Women’s Day and women’s suffrage with some of our favorite posts about the heroic foremothers who fought for equality, autonomy and the right to vote, and who continue to inspire the international women’s movement’s ongoing fight for a gender-balanced world.
The first National Woman’s Day, organized by the Socialist Party of America, took place February 28, 1909 in New York to commemorate protests by women workers. The following summer, an International Women’s Conference preceded a meeting of the Socialist Second International convention in Copenhagen.
Out of these meetings, Clara Zetkin, a German socialist and proponent of working women’s rights, penned a resolution in support of “equal political rights to all adults, without difference of sex,” with the assertion that such a right was “[I]n the interest of the emancipation of the workers” and plans for the first International Women’s Day were underway.
Discover how the movement gained momentum over the following decades, and how 1975 became International Women’s Year.
February 2018 marked 100 years since the right to vote was given to women in the U.K. To mark the centenary of this landmark accomplishment, the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the Suffragettes (the militant counterpart to the moderate Suffragists), spoke about how far the women’s movement has yet to go, and how #MeToo and #TimesUp have invigorated the push for equality.
Fast forward to 2018 and explore how the on-going subordination of women hinders human development around the world – and how, in response, people all over the globe take advantage of International Women’s Day to organize events around women’s rights and gender parity.
As a nurse working in the slums of New York’s East Side, Margaret Sanger grew increasingly radical as she witnessed the suffering from multiple pregnancies (and botched attempts at birth control) for poor and working-class women. She was a socialist and labor activist, as well as a burgeoning feminist, all of which prompted her to write on the issue of women’s sexual health and contraception – in defiance of the era’s Comstock laws regarding decency.
In 1914, she launched a publication called The Woman Rebel in collaboration with her anarchist associates to promote birth control as an issue of free speech and, facing arrest for violating the decency laws, she fled to England. While she was away, suffragist Mary Dennett and some of the staff from The Woman Rebel formed the National Birth Control League (NBCL).
Learn how the conflict between these two women, and their opposing approaches to women’s rights, influenced the future of the birth control movement.
If asked to name the heroes of women’s suffrage in the U.S., the likes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony would probably come to mind – and for good reason. In the mid-19th century, they were among the foremothers of a movement that would, decades later, result in the passage of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote in the U.S.
But the efforts of these early campaigners would have not had such a successful outcome if not for those who came after them, and kept the fight moving forward.
Discover the legacy of Alice Paul, the militant suffragette and influential social activist who took what Stanton and Anthony started all the way to the legislature – twice, when you count the Equal Rights Amendment.
*See the International Women’s Day website: www.internationalwomensday.com.
Learn more about diverse, multi-format resources – including video, books, journals and primary sources – for better insights, better research and better learning in women’s and gender studies.
Courtney Suciu is ProQuest’s lead blog writer. Her loves include libraries, literacy and researching extraordinary stories related to the arts and humanities. She has a Master’s Degree in English literature and a background in teaching, journalism and marketing. Follow her @QuirkySuciu