International Women’s Day: Where it came from and where it is going

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International Women’s Day is a celebration of women across the globe.  The roots of the day are found in the oppression of women and the fight for the right to vote in the United States, and have evolved into a force for socio-political change around the world.


International Women’s Day first came out of the United States’ women’s movement starting in 1908.  Following the momentum of 15,000 women marching through the streets of New York City, National Women’s Day began to be celebrated in the US in 1909.  At the International Conference of Working Women in 1910, attendees voted unanimously to create an International Women’s Day. It was celebrated for the first time in 1911.  According to the website for the day, “More than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination”.

In 1975, the United Nation’s celebrated International Women’s Day for the first time and the holiday was reinvigorated with the invention of the internet and international data sharing.  Today it is celebrated around the world with parades and marches to increase women’s visibility across numerous sectors and continue the fight for women’s rights.1

The Institute for Community Health (ICH)

ICH is a nonprofit consulting firm that provides participatory evaluation, applied research, and planning for hospitals, health centers, health departments, and community-based organizations.   ICH strongly believes in the power of collaborative work for collective change, and strives to work to create gender equity through health.

Program Spotlight: Bridges to Moms

ICH is currently working with Health Care Without Walls to evaluate their Bridges to Moms program.  Bridges to Moms provides a variety of social services to homeless women who are pregnant or new mothers. The program supports women throughout their pregnancies and after.  Activities include case management, health education, housing assistance, and securing transportation, food, and baby supplies. Bridges to Moms works to ensure that women and babies have primary care providers after birth, have transportation to appointments, and are supported during the first year of the baby’s life. ICH is evaluating the Bridges to Moms program by conducting interviews with participants and facilitating staff focus groups, as well as using medical records to compare birth outcomes between Bridges to Moms participants and others who have delivered at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. ICH is helping Bridges to Moms understand the impact that they have on the women they work with, as well as understanding how the program can be strengthened to meet participant needs.

Bridges to Moms was started by Roseanna Means, MD, a warrior for social justice and one of CNN’s 2011 Heroes.2 Dr. Means, the dedicated staff of Bridges to Moms, the program beneficiaries, and the ICH evaluators together demonstrate the power of women-led programming and collaborative evaluation in advancing gender equity.

1.   All information about International Women’s Day came from

Abigail Tapper, MPH

Research Associate