Happy International Women’s Day from the DEI Committee!
International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global holiday celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It is also a day that seeks to raise awareness about issues affecting women around the world, highlighting various initiatives and campaigns focused on improving women’s lives and increasing gender equality.
The impetus for establishing IWD can be traced back to 1908 when thousands of women marched through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay, and the right to vote. A year later, the Socialist Party of America declared the first National Women’s Day. The idea to make it international came from a woman named Clara Zetkin who suggested it during the 1910 International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. The 100 or so women in attendance unanimously agreed on her suggestion. Thereafter, in 1911, IWD was first celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. The March 8 date came about as a result of a wartime strike by women in Russia in 1917. Due to its ties with socialism and communism, IWD did not get much traction in the United States until many years later around the 1970s when the United Nations celebrated IWD for the first time.
This year’s campaign theme is #BreakTheBias. The colors for IWD are purple, green, and white. Purple signifies justice and dignity, green symbolizes hope, and white represents purity.
A few interesting (and surprising) facts:
– Prior to 1972, women were banned from running in marathons.
– Prior to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, credit card companies routinely denied single women access to their own lines of credit. Cards were reserved for men and married women who could have their husbands cosign on their applications.
– It was not until 1975 that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a ban excluding women from serving on juries. Prior to this time, less than half of states allowed women to serve. Among the reasons for excluding women: they were not fit to hear the details of criminal cases, they would be too sympathetic to accused criminals, it is improper for men and women to serve on juries together, and they should focus on their obligations as mothers and wives.
– Prior to the 1970s, maternity leave was considered permanent – employers were under no obligation to retain workers who got pregnant. Women did not have protection and access to benefits until the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
– Single females were denied the right to use birth control in 26 states up until 1972 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Massachusetts law that made distributing birth control to single women illegal.
Takeaway — a lot of change occurred in the 1970s due largely to former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. For more information about this year’s campaign, see https://www.internationalwomensday.com/theme.