Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Centenary of International Women's Day

"Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity."
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

International Women's Day which is officially celebrated Tuesday, March 8, serves to help build bridges of peace across the world as well as pay homage to the mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers who took such a strong stand for women's equality 100 years ago.

The idea was first proposed in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1910 at the second International Conference of Working Women. Women from 17 countries representing many social justice interests including unions and political parties attended the conference. The suggestion was unanimously approved, and the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19, 1911.

On that day more than one million women and men rallied for women’s rights, including the right to work, vote, be educated, hold public office and not be discriminated against. Less than a week later, a horrific fire in New York City took the lives of 140 mostly immigrant women. This disaster brought the plight of American working conditions for women to the forefront of International Women’s Day, and that continues to this day.

The United Nations designated 1975 International Women’s Year and two years later proclaimed March 8 International Women’s Day. Now 27 countries, including many not thought of as particularly enlightened towards the female sex, mark March 8 as an official holiday.

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