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International Women’s Day

International Women’s day comes every year on March 8. It’s a day for women to celebrate their achievements and everything it means to be a woman.

I feel as women we often overlook our own accomplishments, instead focusing on the next task for us to do. I think it’s fantastic that there is a day for us to take a step back and celebrate all we have achieved so far (though I think we should be doing this every day). I wanted to take a closer look at this day and its history.

How it all Began

I always assumed International Women’s Day was a recent development, starting sometime in the early 2000s. What I didn’t know is that you can actually trace International Women’s Day all the way back to the 1900s. The first known celebration happened in 1909, in New York City which was organised by the Socialist Party of America. Of course back then it was just called “National Women’s Day” and was actually held on the 28th of February. The following year in 1910, news of what happened in New York spread to Denmark sparking conferences about organising an annual Women’s Day event. Eventually in March 1911 the first official women’s day was held. Over one million women in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland participated in over three hundred demonstrations. Finally on March 8 1914, International Women’s Day spread to the UK, inciting a massive march from Bow to Trafalgar Square.

What it Means for Women

International Women’s Day didn’t used to be the celebration it is today. At the beginning of the 20th century it was still illegal for women to vote. Women’s Day used to be a day of protests and marches for the vote, as well as female employment and sexual discrimination. Iconic feminist Sylvia Pankhurst was even arrested on this day in front of Charring Cross on her way to give a speech on the first Women’s day in Britain. Interestingly, much like modern feminism women’s day wasn’t just about equal rights (although this was the main focus) it was also used as a peace movement. On March 8th all over Europe women allied together protesting against the first world war. For decades now women’s day has been used for standing up for equality and peace and has been a landmark of the progress of women.  

When it is condensed down, all Women’s Day is really about is women standing up for themselves and what they value. You don’t have to do this through a big march, or a rally (although good for you, if you do.) It can be something as simple as being menopausal and proud. It can be going into work and getting HR to make the workspace more accommodating for you and your symptoms. It can be through sitting your children down and explaining to them what the menopause is and why it shouldn’t be something we have to keep a secret.

International Women’s Day in 2019

In 2019, while we might not have to fight for the vote anymore, there are still so many hurdles we have to overcome. For many women it’s sexual harassment in the workplace with the #metoo movement. For many of us going through the menopause, a constant struggle has been changing the stigma around it. Many people (including me a few years ago) think menopause consists of three symptoms; hot flushes, night sweats, and no periods. I had no clue about any of the different treatments, or how outdated any of my information was about them. When we think about our grandmothers, all they had for the menopause was a herbal tea and a fan for hot flushes. Now we have so many different options. We have HRT (which really isn’t as scary as it used to be), gels, supplements and other alternative therapies. There’s also this really horrid image of menopausal women, that we’re old and “all dried up.” For many years the menopause was associated with the lonely old spinster with the ten cats. I don’t know about any of you, but I for one am none of these things. The last few years for me have been all about changing the conversation we have about menopause. Let’s all modernise the conversation and bring it up to 2019. The menopause does not mean old. The menopause does not mean that our lives are over. Most importantly the menopause does not mean that we are any less beautiful, amazing, and powerful.

Author: Erica Fraser