March: celebrating women since 1987

Organizations at the U use examples from the past to strengthen the future.

Since Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month in 1987, women’s groups across the country have been celebrating and commemorating women.

March 8 officially marks International Women’s Day, which honors women in countries all over the world and the collective power of women in the past, present and future.

This March, University organizations are commemorating women’s movements of the past, using them as inspiration for the present.

The student group Black Motivated Women will be hosting a discussion series throughout the month on topics ranging from sex education to domestic violence.

The group’s cofounder Ijeoma Okechukwu said the first talk, which will be held Wednesday, is titled “United we Stand, Divided we Fall.”

The group is inviting women on campus to come together and show support for one another despite different personalities and backgrounds, Okechukwu said.

She added that historical women who tried to step ahead and do greater things are the inspiration for the future.

“We shouldn’t always look back and see what people do. We should still be leaders today.”

A 1908 protest in New York City was an example of leadership for Amy Kaminsky, professor in the department of gender, women and sexuality studies.

About 15,000 women marched through the city demanding better pay, shorter working hours and voting rights, Kaminsky said.

In Minnesota, International Women’s Day wasn’t celebrated annually until a 1995 world conference in Beijing.

Barbara Frey, director of the University Human Rights Program, said Minnesota was well represented by the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights at the Beijing conference that addressed issues of equality and violence against women.

Since the conference, local organizations planned to continue bringing Minnesota’s diversity together on International Women’s Day, Sarah Herder, communications director of Minnesota Advocates of Human Rights, said.

Although it’s declared by the United Nations, International Women’s Day is better known in other areas of the globe than in the United States.

“Other countries of the world are much more likely to take to heart recommendations from the United Nations,” Kaminsky said.

International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month were results of the workers movement at the time of the Cold War, which was considered dangerous and anti-American, Kaminsky said.

The University Human Rights Program along with the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights will be celebrating International Women’s Day on March 15 at Coffman Union. Issues of poverty, education, economics and human rights will be discussed.

Significant historical events lead to International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month


In accordance with a declaration by the Socialist Party of America, the first National Woman’s Day was observed across the United States on Feb. 28. Women continued to celebrate it on the last Sunday of that month through 1913.


The Socialist International meeting in Copenhagen established a Women’s Day, international in character, to honor the movement for women’s rights and to assist in achieving universal suffrage for women. The proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference of more than 100 women from 17 countries, which included the first three women elected to the Finnish parliament.


As a result of the decision taken at Copenhagen the previous year, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time March 19 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded the right to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.

Less than a week later, on March 25, the tragic Triangle Fire in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working girls, most of them Italian and Jewish immigrants. This event had a significant impact on labor legislation in the United States, and the working conditions leading up to the disaster were invoked during subsequent observances of International Women’s Day.


As part of the peace movement brewing on the eve of World War I, Russian women observed their first International Women’s Day on the last Sunday in February 1913. Elsewhere in Europe, on or around March 8 of the following year, women held rallies either to protest the war or to express solidarity with their sisters.