International Women’s Day: why the 8 of March?

© UN Photo/Rick Bajornas - Local farmers and members of the Awash Fentale agro-pastoralist community in the Afar region of Ethiopia,

Established by the United Nations in 1977, “International Women’s Day” owes its origins to the protests of women, particularly in Europe, who demanded, at the beginning of the 20th century, the right to vote, improved working conditions and gender equality. 19 March, the last Sunday of February, 15 April and 23 February are among the key dates for International Women’s Day.

  • 1910: in Copenhagen (Denmark), hundreds of participants gather at the Second International Conference of Socialist Women (the first having been held in 1907) and decide to organize an annual day for women to bolster their efforts to achieve voting rights.  
  • 1911: a day for women is celebrated in a number of European countries and in the United States. But this celebration occurs on 19 March, in commemoration of the revolution of 1848 and of the “Commune de Paris”.  
  • 1913: Russian women celebrate their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday of February, by organizing clandestine gatherings.  
  • 1915: As the First World War rages, a huge gathering of women is held in The Hague (Netherlands) on 15 April. Participants include over 1 300 women from over 12 countries.   
  • 1917: Women labourers take to the streets and declare a general strike announcing the Russian Revolution. The date was 23 February.  
  • After World War II, 8 March begins to be celebrated in a number of countries, before being recognized by the UN as International Women’s Day in 1977.  
  • 19 March, the last Sunday of February, 15 April, 23 February are among the key dates for International Women’s Day. But where, then, did the 8th of March come from?  Ask Julius Cesar and Gregory XIII! Before the Revolution, Russia had not yet adopted the Gregorian calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 to mitigate the errors of the Julian calendar, which owes its name to the Roman emperor who had chosen it 46 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. The Gregorian calendar is used today in the large majority of countries. In 1917, 23 February in Russia thus corresponded to 8 March in the other European countries. It’s as simple as that!
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