“While any day makes for a great opportunity to celebrate the women in your life,” write journalists Selena Barrientos (@Selena__Barr) and Katarina Avendano, “International Women’s Day gives you one more reason to do exactly that. International Women’s Day is a global holiday that recognizes women’s incredible achievements, raises awareness and encourages others to advocate for gender equality.” Although this may sound like a recent effort inspired by a “woke” generation, the fact of the matter is that the day has been celebrated for over a century. Journalist Sarah Pruitt (@sarah_pruitt), reports, “The first official National Woman’s Day [was] held in New York City on February 28, 1909. (The organizers, members of the Socialist Party of America, wanted it to be on a Sunday so that working women could participate.) Thousands of people showed up to various events uniting the suffragist and socialist causes, whose goals had often been at odds.”
According to Pruitt, the movement soon spread beyond the United States. “The concept of a ‘woman’s day’ caught on in Europe,” she writes. “On March 19, 1911 (the 40th anniversary of the Paris Commune, a radical socialist government that briefly ruled France in 1871), the first International Woman’s Day was held, drawing more than 1 million people to rallies worldwide. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, most attempts at social reform ground to a halt, but women continued to march and demonstrate on International Woman’s Day.” The fact that International Women’s Day was associated with the socialist movement probably set back, rather than promoted, women’s rights. It wasn’t until 1975 that its observance was officially designated by United Nations. Currently, however, International Women’s Day is a national holiday in many parts of the world.
This year’s observance is particularly poignant because March 8th was established as the date for International Women’s Day in the midst of the 1917 Russian Revolution. Journalist Suyin Haynes (@suyinsays) explains, “Russia (where International Women’s Day was established in 1913) was facing unrest for other reasons [besides the ongoing world war]. It was against the backdrop of a country exhausted by war, widespread food shortages and escalating popular protest that the nation’s 1917 International Women’s Day demonstration was held on Feb. 23 of that year — the equivalent of March 8 in the Russian calendar, indicating the significance of the date of the commemorations today.”
According to historian and activist Rochelle Ruthchild (@RRuthchil), of Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Russia’s revolutionary men were upset at the women. She writes, “Women were mostly the ones on the breadline, and were the core protesters. In fact, male revolutionaries like [Leon] Trotsky were upset at them, as these disobedient and misbehaving women were going out on this International Women’s Day, when they were meant to wait until May [referring to the annual worker’s protests on May 1].” But, as the late Eleanor Roosevelt stated, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”
With Russia now embroiled in a war of its own making in Ukraine, this year’s International Women’s Day celebrations could be used by Russian women to help end the unjust war and prevent further bloodshed and suffering. It wouldn’t be the first time women were encouraged to act to end war. Back in 411 BCE, satirical Greek playwright Aristophanes staged a play entitled “Lysistrata,” which encouraged women to step in and help end the Peloponnesian War. The play was a bawdy anti-war comedy in which Lysistrata convinces the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands as a means of forcing the men to negotiate a peace. Ironically, of course, male actors played all of the female roles. Supposedly, the Greeks believed it was too dangerous for women to perform publicly and that having men portray females neutralized the danger. But, as Geena Dunne (aka G.D Anderson (@G_DAnderson)), an Australian feminist writer and founder of Australian charity, The Cova Project, observes, “Feminism isn’t about making women strong. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”
The world is not just in need of women’s strength it needs their intellect as well. The world would have progressed much faster had men not repressed women’s intellect throughout much of history. Fortunately, a few women have fought to ensure their intellectual contributions made a difference, including Marie Curie, who remains the most famous female scientist in history. She was the first woman to win a Nobel prize and the first person to win two in different fields, physics and chemistry. Since her achievement, three more women have won Nobel prizes in physics (Maria Goeppert-Mayer ; Donna Strickland ; and Andrea M. Ghez ). Unfortunately, they represent less than two percent of those receiving such recognition.
A few more women, seven in total, have won the Nobel prize in chemistry, representing less than four percent of honorees. In addition to Marie Curie, they include: Irène Joliot-Curie ; Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin ; Ada E. Yonath ; Frances Arnold ; Emmanuelle Charpentier ; and Jennifer Doudna . The scientific field in which the most women have won Nobel prizes (twelve) is the field of Physiology or Medicine. Unfortunately, these women represent less than six percent of awardees. They include: Gerty Theresa Cori ; Rosalyn Sussman Yalow ; Barbara McClintock ; Rita Levi-Montalcini ; Gertrude B. Elion ; Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard ; Linda B. Buck ; Françoise Barré-Sinoussi ; Elizabeth Blackburn ; Carol W. Greider ; May-Britt Moser ; and Tu Youyou . In addition to scientific achievements, eighteen women have won Nobel Peace Prizes, sixteen have won the Nobel prize for literature, and two have won Nobel Memorial Prizes in Economic Sciences.
The website National Today exclaims, “We all know the world couldn’t run without women. … This is the day to appreciate their efforts!” It’s surprising the world has advanced as far as it has while repressing half of its brainpower for most of history. Even today, women’s contributions are too often overlooked and underappreciated. Women certainly deserve a day that recognizes their contributions and they need to know that those contributions have not gone unnoticed. I’m certainly grateful for all the amazing women on the Enterra Solutions® team.
 Selena Barrientos and Katarina Avendano, “28 Incredible and Empowering International Women’s Day Quotes,” Good Housekeeping, 15 February 2022.
 Sarah Pruitt, “The Surprising History of International Women’s Day,” History.com, 19 February 2021.
 Suyin Haynes, “The Radical Reason Why March 8 Is International Women’s Day,” Time, 7 March 2019.
 Barrientos and Avendano, op. cit.
 Staff, “International Women’s Day – March 8, 2022,” National Today.