International Women's Day

A brief history........

Over the years on International Women's Day, women have taken to the streets, sparked off a revolution, and rubbed shoulders with Premiers, Prime Ministers and Presidents. They have demonstrated at the doors of newspapers and welfare institutions, occupied empty houses as squats for women escaping domestic violence, and helped to usher in new legislation - including the right for British women to vote.

Across the UK on March 8th unions and women's organisations will be holding events to celebrate women secure in the knowledge that across the world simultaneously other similar events will be taking place.

International Women's Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history and the struggle to participate in society on an equal footing to men. As men and women demonstrate across the globe celebrate we remember the struggles that women have had to achieve the vote, to hold public office, to gain the right to work and receive training and promotion prospects and their demands to end sexual discrimination in the workplace.

The idea of an international day for women first arose at the turn of the century, which in the industrialised world was a period of expansion and turbulence, booming population growth and radical ideologies.

  • In 1857 thousands of female textile workers marched through the wealthiest areas of New York to demonstrate against their miserable pay and working conditions. The tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire in New York City took the lives of 145 female garment workers, and these women's lives have been remembered at subsequent International Women's Day events.
  • The first National Women's Day was held in the United States on February 28th 1909.
  • In 1910 the Socialist International meeting in Copenhagen established a Women's Day to honour the movement for women's rights and to assist in universal suffrage for women. As a result of this decision, the first International Women's Day was held in Europe on 19th March 1911
  • In 1914 Russian women observed the last Sunday in February as their first International Women's Day and used it to protest against the first world war - and it has been used as an opportunity to campaign against wars ever since
  • In the 1920's the suffragettes celebrated International Women's Day as part of their campaigning for votes for British women. Sylvia Pankhurst broke away from her mother Emmeline and sister Christabel and their war effort work, because she wanted to include working class women in the struggle to achieve women's suffrage
  • In 1945 the UN became involved, the Charter of the United Nations was the first international agreement to proclaim gender equality as a fundamental human right.
  • In the 1970's celebrating International Women's Day was revived by the women's liberation movement and events were held across the UK
  • In 2005 ASLEF's delegation took a motion to the TUC Women's Conference asking for International Women's Day to be a bank holiday in the UK - this was carried unanimously by delegates

Every year the WRC supports International Womens Day by holding their own event or by attending events arranged by like minded organisations.


By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies. For more information please refer to ASLEF’s Privacy Policy