News World On This Day: How one rally for women’s rights started a global movement
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On This Day: How one rally for women’s rights started a global movement

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It was a few years before World War I broke out when women around the world started to gather and vent their anger.

Although they spoke different languages and lived far away from each other, there were several things they could all agree on.

Women young and old were sick of working hard for little to no pay, and being banned from voting at elections.

Little did they know, these meetings of like-minded women were about to start a global movement.

Delegates from Jamaica, Sierra Leone and Nigeria met in London on March 8, 1947 for International Women’s Day. Photo: Getty

In 1908, against a backdrop of terrible working conditions, 15,000 American women took to the streets in New York demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.

Over the next few years, the concept of a “woman’s day” started to catch on around the world.

Madame Chiang Kai-shek (Soong May-ling) made a speech in front of 10,000 Chinese women at the International Women’s Day in Chongquing, China on March 8, 1939. Photo: Getty

Then on March 19 in 1911, more than a million people turned out to rallies across Europe to mark the world’s first International Women’s Day.

However, it wasn’t long before momentum quickly ground to a halt with the beginning of World War I in 1914.

But by then, the match had already been lit.

Three years later, a massive demonstration partly inspired by Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai began on March 8, 1917 (though according to Russia’s Gregorian calendar, it was February 23).

Women’s Suffrage Demonstration in Petrograd (St Petersburg), Russia on March 8, 1917. Photo: Getty

Looking back, this protest proved to be a crucial link in the chain of events leading up to the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the Russian Revolution.

Russian revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai. Photo: Getty

With the old-fashioned Russian ruler out of the way, a newly formed constituent assembly soon granted women the right to vote.

Over the course of the 20th century, as more and more governments started letting women vote, International Women’s Day was celebrated in all sorts of ways by people at the grassroots level.

The movement was finally formalised in 1975, when the United Nations adopted International Women’s Day on March 8.

Members of the National Women’s Liberation Movement mark International Women’s Day in London on March 6, 1971. Photo: Getty