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I love this International Women’s Day photograph, “Women on the March, on the front page of today’s (March 9) The New York Times: The caption reads: “Member of Les Rosies, a feminist group, were among those who took to the streets of Paris for International Women’s Day.” 

Women from Spain to Turkey also took to the streets on March 8, advocating for gender equity and empowerment.

An antecedent of International Women's Day dates back to February 28,1909, when Woman’s Day, also known as National Woman’s Day, was observed by socialists women in America.

A year later, August 1910, in Copenhagen, Denmark, at the Socialist Women’s Conference, Clara Zetkin, a socialist and fighter for women’s rights, called for the establishment of an annual “Women’s Day.” The delegates—100 women from 17 countries—unanimously supported the proposal.

In 1911, over a million people marked the day in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Socialist women continued to celebrate National Women’s Day in America, although in much smaller numbers.

In 1917, Russian working women held a massive strike, an impetus to the Russian Revolution, on February 23. (March 8 on the Gregorian calendar that was adopted in 1918.) Two years later, International Working Women’s Day was established in Russia on March 8 that became International Women’s Day in the 1920s.

In 1925, several newspapers in America published a photograph with the headline “International Womens’ Day in Russia.”

In 1977, the United Nations officially recognized International Women’s Day (IWD), on March 8, launching IWD as a mainstream global event with an emphasis on economic justice, political empowerment, and women’s well-being.

That same year in California, Molly Murphy MacGregor, project director for the Sonoma County Commission on Women, had a novel idea that she suggested at a meeting planning for the annual celebration of IWD on March 8, 1978: Her idea was to coordinate IWD with a week-long celebration of women’s history. A former social studies teacher, Molly was well aware of the dearth of women’s history

in school curricula. (Prior to that, Laura X had organized a march in Berkeley, California, on March 8, 1969 that resulted in the creation of The Women’s History Research Center. She had also called for a national women's history month, given that women comprised more than half of the population.)

The Sonoma County women’s history week, March 6-10, 1978, included the distribution of packets of information for schools, an essay contest, speeches, and a culminating parade through downtown Santa Rosa. Molly took news of the women's history week to the East Coast when she attended a 1979 conference held at Sarah Lawrence College, Yonkers, New

York, that was chaired by Gerda Lerner, known as the “godmother of women’s history.”  Fired up, participants agreed to plan annual women’s history events and to seek national recognition.

President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation designating National Women’s History Week in 1980. That same year, Molly co-founded the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) that has produced an Everest-size mountain of materials, organized countless events, gave speeches galore,and spearheaded the drive to secure federal recognition of women’s history.

(I met Molly at a women’s history workshop in 1992, thus beginning a cherished connection. She just recently semi-retired as executive director of the NWHP, now known as the National Women’s History Alliance.)

The first congressional women’s history resolution was passed in 1981. Congress continued to pass annual resolutions, as the idea spread to the states.

By 1986, fourteen states had declared March as Women’s Month. In 1897, Congress passed a joint resolution, Public Law 100-9, designating the month of March as Women’s History Month.  Here are three links:

President Biden’s Proclamation on Women’s History

National Women’s History Alliance

Images, top to bottom: Women on the March,” The New York Times, March 9, 2024, p. 1, photograph by Linda Hickson; “Woman’s Day” Kenosha News, (Kenosha, Wisconsin), February 27, 1909, p. 1 ; “International Women’s Day in Russia," The Coosa River News, (Centre, Alabama) April 25, 1924, p. 3 (Caption: Moscow—March 8th was designated as IWD in Russia. Thousands of women participated in a great demonstration and procession thru the streets of the city. The procession later wended its way in to the tomb of Lenin, where homage was paid to the memory of the late Russian leader. The women are shown here at Lenin’s tomb."); Molly MacGregor Murphy photograph,”Ladies, Stand Up and Be Counted, Rohnert Park Cotati Clarion, March 1, 1978, p.1; “Women Have Their Own Week, Rohnert Park Cotati Clarion, March 3, 1978, p. 3; Gerda Lerner historical marker, Sarah Lawrence College, photograph by Linda Hickson.

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