International Women's Day and Women's History Month

International Women's Day and Women's History Month

I attended the celebration of International Women's Day in Cambridge last night. The theme was "Women Fighting for Economic and Social Justice: A Celebration of Margaret Fuller's Legacy." Margaret Fuller, born in Cambridge in 1810, was a pioneer in many ways:

  • First American to write a book about equality for women
  • First woman foreign correspondent and war correspondent
  • First woman journalist

Joy Harvey, Cambridge Women's Heritage Project, introduced the session panelists, each of whom spoke about her work in the context of international activism with a Cambridge connection:

  • Joan von Mehren, Author Minerva and the Muse: A Life of Margaret Fuller, provided an overview of Fuller's life and legacy
  • Bishnu Pariyar, Founder, Empowering Dalit Women of Nepal (EDWON) shared her personal experiences of growing up in Nepal and, through encouragement by her father, pursuing education for herself and empowerment of women in her community and beyond
  • Chris Low, Co-Director and Founder of Matenwa Community Learning Center in Haiti and a Cambridge educator, shared her experiences working as an educator both in Cambridge and on an island of the coast of Port-au-Prince

This session made me think about my heroines and heroes who encouraged me to pursue my full potential. There are so many, but like many of the women honored tonight, my mother and father were the ones who encouraged me to believe that anything was possible for me. The encouragement provided and example set by my mother, who had been told by her mother in 1950's Belfast that women can't be doctors, be the first in her family to attend university and then go on to help found one of the first women's health clinics in Boston, and obtain her M.S.W. the year I graduated from high school, showed me that women can do anything.

I also admire Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Gloria Steinem - just to name a few!

Please comment with your story of heroines or heroes who inspired you.

More about International Women's Day
More about Women's History Month


I never met her, but I was always inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt.

FYI here is a little about how, over the decades, International Women's Day has changed it's view of "who" is oppressing women:

International Women’s Day was created in 1910 to promote socialist political objectives and was always referred to by the Communist name ‘International Working Women’s Day’. It was restricted primarily to the Soviet bloc. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the word ‘working’ was largely dropped along with it’s socialist meaning. Beginning in the 1970’s IWD became a vehicle for feminist concerns. Whereas IWWD was previously used to highlight women’s oppression by a class of bourgeois upper class men and women, 1970s feminists changed the basis of the day by stating that men as a class of “chauvinists” completely controlled women who were each and all men’s victims. Women were no longer viewed as part of the bourgeois upper class. One can say that in the 1970s IWD became a brand new IWD with males -all males- for the first time being promoted as the single enemy. But even with this new ideological basis IWD limped along as a fairly insignificant world event until 1980s when “Patriarchy Theory” was elaborated as the brand new theory and also new basis for the need to observe IWD. It was in the 1980s that women began to celebrate IWD in vast numbers (mostly out of a new concern that men were out to oppress them) and on this basis the event has continued to grow primarily in terms of a gender war, the principle being that men alone as a privileged class hurt women alone as the oppressed class. International Men’s Day has a completely different reason for coming into being. Although IMD objectives occasionally intersect with those of IWD, such as advocating equality between the sexes, it is predominately about celebrating positive male role models, a very worthy aim in a social context which tends to highlight ONLY males behaving badly. Said concisely, International Women’s Day started as a day for women to promote socialist objectives, especially for proletarian women to fight against oppression by the upper bourgeois class comprised of men and women both. In the 1970’s it became a new movement claiming that men alone oppressed women, and that IWD will be used as a vehicle to promote, primarily, an assumed gender war. Said differently IWD shifted from being a class war, to a gender war. International Men’s Day is not based on the assumption of a gender war. IMD is primarily about promoting and celebrating positive male role models in a contemporary world context which is obsessed with teaching all young boys and girls that males behave badly, and only badly.

Thank you very much for adding the historical background to my story, of which I was aware, and also for providing information about International Men's Day, of which I was not aware!

I am in complete agreement with you about the importance of promoting and celebrating positive male (as well as female) role models. I would like to see a combined day entitled "International Gender Equity/Equality Day."

I disagree with your comment about IWD having become a vehicle to promote a presumed gender war. I am in complete agreement with the goals of International Men's Day - including promotion of gender equality - and look forward to participating in/reporting on this event on November 19, 2010.

- Siobhan


Yes you are right, IWD is more than a view that men oppress women though this is a strong current in the event.

The primary source website for International Men's Day, which includes a historical archive, is here: