What we hold today as a celebration may have begun as a protest. In 1909, the very first “National Women’s Day” was held in New York City to draw attention to the conditions women faced working in the garment industry. Around the world, as the labor movement gained momentum, the idea of an annual “Women’s Day” spread and took root in Europe. The very first International Women’s Day in 1911 was marked by over one million people participating. Parades and demonstrations celebrating women were coupled with demands that women be given the right to vote and protected from discrimination.

Since 1914, March 8th has been the day the world pauses to recognize the contributions of women in every area of life, from work to home to politics to leadership and learning, creativity and discovery. During the 1960s, the feminist movement shifted the focus of International Women’s Day from women in the labor force to equal opportunity and equal rights for women. The United Nations gave March 8th additional significance when it officially became a sponsor of International Women’s Day in 1975.

Today, International Women’s Day is truly celebrated around the world, from Azerbaijan to Zambia. It’s become an occasion to increase the visibility of women’s achievements, accelerate equality, foster creative collaboration, and keep forging positive change for women and girls everywhere.