What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day is an annual day of celebration for the accomplishments of women and the advancements that have taken place for women’s rights. It is additionally a day that has historically been used to draw attention to any inequalities women may experience in society through protests and demonstrations.

The first official International Women’s Day occurred in 1911 in several European countries. The day was used to protest the disparities women were experiencing during that time. Among those disparities of the early 1900s, women were not allowed to vote in governmental elections, hold public office, and gender discrimination (via unfair wages and opportunities in the work place) was prevalent. Of these inequalities they were attempting to bring to light, the most important was women’s suffrage, the right of women to vote. Women simply wanted to have a voice in society and be shown the same level of respect as their male counterparts.

International Women’s Day is generally observed around the world on March 8. Although it is not considered an official holiday in the United States, many people celebrate it as if it were each year; however, International Women’s Day is considered a holiday in several countries throughout the world.

Why is it Important for Students to Celebrate International Women’s Day?

In order to avoid repeating history, students and adults alike must have an understanding of the past. The decisions and events of the past form the foundation of any nation, and it is imperative that those shortcomings be studied so that the progression of a nation not be stunted and continues moving forward.

Furthermore, learning from our nation’s previous mistakes better informs us on how to make the future brighter for each and every citizen. The purpose of observing International Women’s Day is no different. Women (and all people) must look at the many advancements that have taken place in the journey for women’s rights and inequality over the years in order to gain an appreciation for all that has been achieved. This should also instill a spirit of thankfulness for the women who pioneered the movement and helped make those achievements possible.

When students learn about International Women’s Day, they realize how important it is to be brave, determined, and unwavering in one’s beliefs. Students can discover specifically how the women of the past continued to pursue equal rights and treatment despite receiving backlash and resistance from others. Even though it may have seemed impossible to many during that time, they did not abandon their cause until they saw it to fruition. Regardless of gender, this kind of persistence teaches students to never give up and stand firmly on what they believe in, because if they do so, they have an opportunity to make big changes in the world.

How to Celebrate International Women’s Day in Your Class

Narrative Writing Activity

To further understand what it was like for women in the early 1900s, students can place themselves in the figurative “shoes” of a 20th-century woman by responding to the following question: If I were a woman facing the inequalities present in 1911, what would I do to change them in order to make things better in the future? Students of all grade levels can participate in this writing prompt to some magnitude. Older students can create large narrative essays with researched facts and evidence providing additional information to support their ideas. Younger students can support their ideas based on their understanding of the history surrounding International Women’s Day.

Historical Figure Study

There are several women who helped to catapult the rights of women to the forefront of society. Students of all ages can select a historical figure who was prominent in the women’s rights movement to study. Students can also select successful women who have famous discoveries or achievements as well. Women like Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and Rosa Parks are some wonderful examples to start with. Students can research their historical figure and create a poster board or digital presentation displaying key facts and details from his/her life to present to classmates. As an ELA extension, students could even write research reports on their chosen historical figure.

Live Museum

Continuing off of the historical figure study, students can create a live museum displaying these special figures from history. A live museum requires students to dress up as historical figures. Additionally, students must pretend to be their historical figure in order to answer questions about their character to those observing the museum. The completion of a live museum requires lots of research beforehand so that students have adequate knowledge about their historical figure. Although this activity is typically observed in middle grades and below, some older students may benefit from its implementation as well.

Acrostic Poem Project

Students can be challenged with the task of creating acrostic poems centered on the importance of bravery and courage when it comes to fighting for what one believes in. The first letter of each line should spell a word that describes a characteristic of someone standing up for his/her beliefs (i.e. brave, strong, determined, relentless, etc.). This activity is suitable for all ages, and the requirements for completion can be adjusted for complexity by grade level.

Write a Letter

To celebrate International Women’s Day, students can write letters to important or special women in their lives. Students should be detailed in their writing and include why they appreciate, value, and revere the letter’s recipient, etc. This activity is suitable for all grade levels.

Fundraise for Special Women’s Causes

Students can help make a difference for International Women’s Day by supporting a cause that is focused specifically on women. There are several national organizations that are aimed at supporting women that students could decide to raise monetary funds for, but it may be even more beneficial to create a campaign within the school to raise funds for local girls’ club, women’s organization, or shelters and agencies committed to supporting women who are going through a hard time, etc. Through this activity, students can make a difference in their local communities all while putting to use their skills of persistence and determination as seen by the women who started International Women’s Day so many years ago.