Happy International Women’s Day! The global holiday celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women worldwide. International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed for the last 110 years, honoring how far the women’s rights movement has come, while rallying for a more equitable future.
In honor of the special occasion, here are five facts you might not know about the March 8 event.
1. It began in 1911
Russian women on International Women’s Day in 1925.
(Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images)
The first IWD was held in 1911, celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on March 19 by over 1 million people. Official events in the inaugural celebration championed women’s rights to vote, work and hold public office, while denouncing discrimination, the organization reports.
Tragically, less than one week later, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire claimed the lives of over 140 working women in New York City. The disaster raised awareness of labor laws in the U.S. and unjust working conditions, further fueling IWD’s mission in the years that followed.
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Members of the National Women’s Liberation Movement participate in an equal-rights march in London to mark International Women’s Day in March 1971.
(Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
In 1913, IWD’s date was moved to March 8, a day on which it has been globally celebrated ever since.
2. International Women’s Day is not group- or organization-specific
The international crusade is not solely organized or operated by any one government, charity, corporation, NGO, academic institution, network or media group. Instead, IWD marks an inclusive push for action and advocacy, “whatever that looks like globally at a local level.”
3. Purple is the day’s signature color
Demonstrators hold a banner and placards during a rally marking the International Women’s Day on Istiklal avenue, in Istanbul, on March 8, 2019.
(YASIN AKGUL/AFP via Getty Images)
According to IWD, purple symbolizes justice and dignity. A combination of purple, green and white hues historically represented the push for women’s equality, dating back to the Women’s Social and Political Union in the U.K. in about 1908. While green signified the virtue of hope, white connoted “purity.”
Today, the color white is no longer used as the notion of “purity” is controversial, said IWD.
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4. It’s celebrated in many ways
A soldier of the Bundeswehr hands out a carnation to a passerby in front of the Brandenburg Gate on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2019 in Berlin, Germany.
(Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
Around the world, the empowering day is feted with marches, rallies, speeches, conferences and performances, among other traditions. In the U.S., the holiday is a highlight of Women’s History Month, which was officially designated so by Congress in 1987.
According to the BBC, some women in China are given a half day of work on March 8, while the exchange of flowers — particularly mimosa blossoms — is popular in Russia and Rome, Italy.
5. The 2021 theme is #ChooseToChallenge
A woman holds a banner during a rally to mark International Women’s Day at Union Square on March 08, 2019.
(Maite H. Mateo/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images)
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The #ChooseToChallenge theme calls for speaking out against gender bias and inequality and supports the advocacy of inclusivity.
“A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day,” IWD says of this year’s inspiration. “We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”