Fueled by recent activism movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, this International Women's Day is a strong reminder of the progress women have achieved, but also a wakeup call that there is still a long way to go. Since the beginning of International Women’s Day in 1909, Mar. 8 has had a dual meaning: 1) to celebrate women, past and present and 2) to push for more progress for future generations.
This year’s International Women's Day theme is #PressForProgress, “a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity." Before last year and the rise of the #MeToo movement and the women’s march, few Americans knew this observance even existed despite the UN officially celebrating it in 1975.
The first International Women’s Day took place in New York City in 1909 when thousands of women stood in solidarity with women garment workers protesting against the dangerous workplace conditions. Women marched through the city demanding shorter hours, better pay, and the right to vote.
Women soon began participating in other marches across the country and holding booths to rally for women’s right to vote. There was even a U.S. women’s political newspaper with the latest updates on the suffrage amendment called The Suffragist. Susan B. Anthony dedicated her life to women’s suffrage, and although she gathered countless petitions from states, and appeared in front of every congress from 1869 to 1906, she was consistently greeted with laughing politicians and was denied the right to vote. It wasn’t until 1920 that Congress passed the 19th Amendment allowing women to vote nationally.
The right to vote is just one part of women’s rights celebrated on International Women's Day. Activist Alice Paul introduced the Equal Rights Amendment as the next step in gender equality in 1923. A second wave of activism swept the nation in the 1960s, pushing for the amendment to pass. It took nearly 50 years for Congress to see it through, but we are still to this day waiting for three-fourths of the states to approve it.
But today in the face of the #MeToo movement, another wave of feminist activism is sweeping the country that is reviving the women’s rights movement. Since October 2017, women have taken to social media all across the globe to speak up about their experiences with sexual assault or harassment.
“This is just the start. I’ve been saying from the beginning it’s not just a moment, it’s the movement,” says Tarana Burke, an activist who founded the #MeToo movement in 2006 to help survivors of sexual violence. “Now the work really begins."
Check out the gallery above to see photos of the women's rights movements throughout the years.