International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. This day is also a call-to-action, bringing awareness to women’s issues and fighting for gender equality worldwide.
Marked annually on March 8th, International Women’s Day (IWD) is one of the most important days of the year to:
- celebrate women’s achievements
- raise awareness about women’s equality
- lobby for accelerated gender parity
- fundraise for female-focused charities
The history of International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed since the early 1900’s. The first official International Women’s Day was celebrated over 100 years ago on March 19, 1911 has been celebrated each year ever since.
The first International Women’s Day came about when, in 1910 at the second International Convention of Working Women in Copenhagen, a woman named Clara Zetkin proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day – a Women’s Day – to press for their demands and bring attention to women’s issues.
The conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, responded to Zetkin’s suggestion with unanimous approval, thus creating International Women’s Day. Then, the following year, in 1911, the first International Women’s Day was celebrated in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland where more than one million women and men attended rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, and hold public office.
In the years and decades that followed, International Women’s Day continued to bring to light pressing issues that women faced, and fight for gender equality and rights. Finally, in 1975, International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations and in 1996 the UN announced their first annual Women’s Day theme, “Celebrating the past, Planning for the future.” Since then each International Women’s Day has had a focus theme.
The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world“, which celebrates the tremendous efforts of women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some influential Latinas who have made history
On April 8, 1993, Ellen Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman in the world to go into space. Aboard the Discovery shuttle for a total of nine days, Ochoa conducted important research about the Earth’s ozone layers. Since then, she has gone on three space flights, and spent a total of 1,000 hours in space.
In 2013, Ochoa went on to become the first Hispanic director, and second female director, of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas–another huge achievement for women and Latinas.
Doing back-breaking work under the unforgiving sun, sleeping in rough shacks with dozens of men to a room, all for below-poverty-level wages; farm workers in the early 20th Century, most of whom were immigrants from Central America, had a hard, painful, unjust life. That is, until Dolores Huerta and others like her came along. In 1965, Huerta created the United Farm Workers, and organization that worked tirelessly to improve the working conditions for farm workers. By leading boycotts, picketing, protesting and lobbying, Huerta was instrumental in bringing about legislation that protects some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Known to the world as simply “Selena,” the pop superstar brought Mexican Tejano music to the masses. Selena, along with Rita Moreno and Gloria Estefan, was one of the few Latin pop stars who crossed over into the mainstream. She is known and one of the most influential Latin artists of all time, winning a Grammy award in 1993 and a gold record in 1994 with Amor Prohibido. Her music is loved by millions and it is said she would have become the next Madonna had her career not been tragically cut short. Still, Selena lives on as a cultural icon for Latinas, a successful artist, and a beloved celebrity.
Julia de Burgos
Julia de Burgos was a successful published poet in her native Puerto Rico, though she struggled to get the recognition she deserved after moving to the U.S. in the 1930s. Her poems centered on themes that some considered ahead of their time, such as feminism and social justice. She also celebrated her identity as an black, immigrant Latina in her writing–all things that were outside the mainstream in early 20th-century poetry circles.
Her bold and daring writing has inspired readers for decades and helped set the stage for many Latino writers to come.
Maria Elena Salinas
Maria Elena Salinas is the longest running female news anchor on U.S. television, and is the first Latina to receive a Lifetime Achievement Emmy. Dubbed the “Voice of Hispanic America” by The New York Times, Salinas has become a figurehead for the Latino community.
She has always used her platform to cover issues that affect Latinos today, as well as being an active philanthropist, working to increase voter registration in the Latino community and helping Latino youth get into journalism.