The first national Women's Day was observed on 28 February 1909 in the United States following a declaration by the Socialist Party of America. In August 1910, an International Women's Conference was organized to precede the general meeting of the Socialist Second International in Copenhagen. Inspired in part by the American socialists, German Socialist Luise Zietz proposed the establishment of an annual 'International Woman's Day' (singular) and was seconded by Clara Zetkin, although no date was specified at that conference. Delegates (100 women from 17 countries) agreed with the idea as a strategy to promote equal rights, including suffrage, for women. The following year, on 18 March, 1911, IWD was marked for the first time, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. In the Austro-Hungarian Empire alone, there were 300 demonstrations. In Vienna, women paraded on the Ringstrasse and carried banners honouring the martyrs of the Paris Commune. Women demanded that women be given the right to vote and to hold public office. They also protested against employment sex discrimination. Americans continued to celebrate National Women's Day on the last Sunday in February.
In 1913 Russian women observed their first International Women's Day on the last Sunday in February (by Julian calendar then used in Russia). In 1917 demonstrations marking International Women's Day in St.Petersburg on the last Sunday in February (which fell on 8 March on the Gregorian calendar) initiated the February Revolution.
Following the October Revolution, the Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai persuaded Lenin to make it an official holiday in the Soviet Union, and it was established, but was a working day until 1965. On May 8, 1965 by the decree of the USSR Presidium of the Supreme Soviet International Women's Day was declared a non working day in the USSR "in commemoration of the outstanding merits of Soviet women in communistic construction, in the defense of their Fatherland during the Great Patriotic War, in their heroism and selflessness at the front and in the rear, and also marking the great contribution of women to strengthening friendship between peoples, and the struggle for peace. But still, women's day must be celebrated as are other holidays."
From its official adoption in Russia following the Soviet Revolution in 1917 the holiday was predominantly celebrated in communist and socialist countries. It was celebrated by the communists in China from 1922, and by Spanish communists from 1936. After the founding of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 1949 the state council proclaimed on December 23 that March 8 would be made an official holiday with women in China given a half-day off.
In the West, International Women's Day was first observed as a popular event after 1977 when the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for Women's Rights and International Peace.
Now, in some countries the day of March 8 is an official holiday, in some countries the day is not a public holiday, but is widely observed nonetheless. In Armenia, for example, after the collapse of the Soviet Union celebrations of IWD were abandoned. Instead, April 7 was introduced as state holiday of ‘Beauty and Motherhood’. In many countries, such as in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia, the custom of giving women flowers still prevails. Women also sometimes get gifts from their employers. Schoolchildren often bring gifts for their teachers, too.
In some cases International Women's Day has led to questionable practices that discriminated against men. Some believe the day is a relic of the Communist past.
Whatever the history is Ukraine gladly celebrates the holiday. In other words, there is no reason not to drink! ForUm traditionally asks public figures what this day means for them.
Maryna Stavniychuk, head of the state department on constitutional and legal modernization of President's Administration:
- This holiday was founded as an ideological one, but now we celebrate it as an ode to women, beauty, maternity and love. I like this holiday and I always congratulate my mom and mother-in-law. This year I will invent something for my daughter. I also don't forget to congratulate my girl friends.
Life is complicated, and within years you understand that kindness and love in relationships are the most important things. This holiday reminds us to express these feelings more often.
Gaitana, singer, winner of Ukrainian euroviosion-2012 contest:
- I like the 8th of March. This holiday makes me smile, and I expect flowers from my man and congratulations from my father and relatives. I will be glad.
Kost Bondarenko, director of the Ukrainian politics institute:
- March 8...Why not to celebrate it as a women's day? I decided to present my wife a tour to Lisbon. And of course I will congratulate my daughter, sister, mother-in-law.
There are many women in my life (smiling - ed.), and I have to think hard what to give them as presents, but for sure nobody will be forgotten.
Leonid Kozhara, MP from the Party of Regions:
- In my family this day starts with presents. My son lives separate now, but in past time we used to get up in the morning to go to buy flowers, and then we were cooking breakfast.
Women need presents, but what they need more is daily attention and understanding, as they have more cares than men.
I wish the women all the best, and in particular understanding men, obedient children and optimism and hope for the better.
Lilia Hryhorovych, MP, chairman of the Ukrainian women union:
- I don't have any anxiety about this holiday. I really enjoy the Mother's Day. In my family the 8th of March is just a calendar holiday, and my friends and colleagues feel the same, so nobody expects many flowers and presents.
Volodymyr Byatrovich, historian:
- March 8...I am very skeptical about this holiday. It feels very Soviet, like February 23. My wife does not celebrate IWD and I am not going to congratulate her. There is a better holiday - Ukrainian and world Mother's Day.
Anyway, all women demand respect every day.
Dmytro Korchinski, leader of "Brotherhood", president of the Institute on problems of regional politics and modern political science:- For me March 8 does not mean anything. I do not celebrate Communist holidays and I don't congratulate people with them. As for my colleagues, relatives and women, well what can I do - they have to suffer.
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