How Women’s Month came to be

  • Written by  Sairah Mae R. Saipudin
  • Published in Features

The beginning of the celebration of Women’s Month can trace its roots in the socialist and labor movements in the United State of America. The first ever Women’s Day happened in New York City on 28 February, 1909 as a national observance which is organized by the Socialist Party. This was done to commemorate the one year anniversary of the strikes by the garment workers in New York, where a large number of women went and marched through lower Manhattan to Union Square to fight for economic rights, the same strike was also done to honor the 1857 protest, where garment workers fought for equal rights and a 10-hour day.

International Women's Day was first celebrated on 19 March (not the later 8 March), 1911. A million women and men rallied in support of women's rights.

In 25 March, 1911, a tragic fire occurred in Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York City, which took the lives of more than 140 working women, this was see0n as indicators of unfair labor practices and inhumane working condition that women workers face thus sparked numerous demonstrations organized by the National Women’s Trade Union League and other concerned groups.

In Europe, the Socialist Women’s International Conference suggested that 8 March should be the International Women’s Day (IWD) and not only a commemoration of the death of the women workers in the New York fire, but more of a recognition of all working women around the world. Since 1913, IWD has been observed annually on 8 March.

The celebration of IWD has since inspired many major historical events, such as the general strike which began the Russian Revolution in St. Petersburg in 1917, where 10,000 women textile workers stood and fought against unfair working conditions and labor practices.

Due to the rich history of women organizing, IWD was officially recognized by the United Nations to celebrate women’s contributions in all spheres of development, across different cultures; thus in 1975, the UN formally designated 8 March to be the day of celebration of achievements of all women around the world and to reflect on advancement made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and fortitude by ordinary women who had extraordinary roles in the history of women's rights.

In the Philippines, Former President Corazon C. Aquino signed Proclamation No. 224 s. 1988 on 1 March, declaring the first week of March each year as Women’s Week and 8 March as Women’s Rights and International Peace Day. Then on 17 March, 1988 she signed Proclamation No. 227 s. 1988 providing for the observance of the Month of March as Women’s Role in History Month which designated the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW, now Philippine Commission on Women) as the secretariat to coordinate the nationwide observance. On 10 April, 1990, she signed Republic Act (RA) 6949 an act declaring 8 March of every year as a Special Working Holiday known as National Women’s Day, to encourage both the government and private sector to participate in Women’s Day activities. The day has since become the highlight of women-related events and activities in the country.

The celebration has become an occasion for meetings and discussions on various gender-related issues, with activities such as Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Beijing Platform for Action, the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015), the Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development (1995-2025), and the Framework Plan for Women.