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International Women’s Day celebrated with a Google Doodle

Published: March 8, 2012 | 10:01 am
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International Women’s Day — which falls on March 8 every year — has been around in one form or another for more than 100 years. It’s had a complicated life though; its meaning has shifted from era to era, and even today it means different things in different regions of the world.

The premise, that women deserve the same rights and opportunities as men, is uncontroversial enough (which isn’t to say it’s that simple or free of debate at home or abroad). The day — ever malleable — has had an interesting history though.

In its early life, the events had a socialist tinge. A National Women’s Day was observed in 1909 in the U.S. after a declaration from the Socialist Party of America. The following year, at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin put forward the idea of an international day to advocate for the cause of women’s rights. The motion passed unanimously.

In 1911, International Women’s Day was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland with rallies demanding voting and working rights for women. More than a million people marched in the demonstrations, according to the United Nations’ account.

Throughout the First World War, Women’s Days in Russia became a centre for protests against the country’s involvement in the conflict. These reached an apex in 1917 when they became the focal point of the unrest that would eventually lead to the Czar’s downfall.

International Women’s Day was primarily an Eastern Bloc holiday until the 1970s. While its original politics have shifted or faded altogether, it remains a public holiday in many of the countries today — a day when it’s customary for men to buy the women in their lives flowers or other small gifts.

In 1975, the UN started celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8. Two years later, the General Assembly adopted a resolution inviting member nations to observe the day as well.

In recent years, the UN has centred its events around a particular theme relating to women’s rights. In 2004, it was “Women and HIV/AIDS.” In 2007, a little less succinctly, the theme was “Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women.”

This year’s theme is empowering rural women to end hunger and poverty.

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