Obama Comments on International Women's day

In observance of International Women’s Day, and during Women’s History Month in the United States, the United States stands with people around the globe to reaffirm our commitment to the equality, freedom, achievements, and advancement of women.  

 From the global challenge of climate change, to a world that is not yet free from poverty and conflict, our challenges are many.  Women are vital to the solutions to these problems, and we will not sow the seeds for a brighter future or reap the benefits of the change we need without the full and active participation of women around the world.

 Worldwide, women play leadership roles in the health and education of our families, in our fields, our factories, our classrooms, our laboratories, and our boardrooms.  With or without awards or acknowledgement, women have taught us about hope, about courage, and about opportunity. 

 The United States is filled with great hope that our daughters, and the daughters of all nations, will continue to serve as leaders in the pursuit of our collective well-being and have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.  Today, Michelle and I remember, celebrate, and honor the sacrifices, talents and leadership of women around the world.


About International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is observed in countries around the world on March 8.   It has been marked and observed as a combination – Mothers Day, Valentine’s Day, and celebration of women’s influence as a political and economic force.   Sometimes one or another of these facets of the occasion is emphasized, and through the history of the Day’s observance a variety of causes and purposes have been served.

International Women’s Day traces its origins to the agitations in the early 1900s of women factory employees, mostly in New York City’s garment industry.  The first observation of a special day is supposed to have been in 1909.  The celebration gained impetus in 1911 as part of the bitter reaction to the Triangle Shirt Waist fire in New York City’s lower east side, in which scores of young, mostly Jewish immigrant women  were killed.  It was a cry of labor for a radical improvement in working conditions.  The day was closely associated in those early years with socialist political movements, both in the U.S. and in Europe, and was often coupled with women’s opposition to the meat grinder war then raging on the Continent.  Word of the movement was circulated widely – women in Russia were aware of the day, and when the act of a courageous band of them, gathered to fast in protest of war and Tsar, beginning on February 23 (March 8th in the new calendar, shortly to be adopted) coincided with the abdication of Nicholas II, the Tsar, the initial fasting day was fixed for the celebration of women’s day – at any rate that is one of the stories.  In the early 1920s Russian women petitioned the gentleman appearing then to be in charge in the premises, Mr. Lenin, for recognition of the Day in the Soviet calendar. This was done, although no one got the day off.  It was viewed as an occasion of importance, honoring not only women of one’s kinship circle, but, among others, women school teachers, women office and factory workers, and the plentiful lady friends; and from 1965 on one did indeed get the day off.  Its association during all this period with the apparatus of Soviet power made it highly suspect elsewhere in the world and with the dissolution of Soviet hegemony and influence around 1990 the day was shunned as an emblem of a hateful period and its celebration banned in some of the former satellite countries.  It has continued, at all events, as a major occasion in post-Soviet Russia.  It has at the same time been revived and recalled to its American origins in the U.S. and dozens of other countries around the globe.

 Since in the U.S. we do have Mothers Day and Valentine’s Day, and, if one looks carefully, a fitfully observed Secretary’s Day, the March 8 Women’s Day has never gained a real momentum in popular consciousness.  Its chief purpose in our society, therefore, is turned back to the original rationale, the righting of the historic slights visited on women, a memorial of past sorrows and past victories in the cause, and a practical pressing for specific improvements in laws and business practices and social arrangements that place women at a disadvantage in coping with a society difficult enough to navigate at best.

The Women’s Day celebrations in the U.S. and Europe are marked with colloquia, conferences, receptions, and like gatherings for study and conversation on these essential issues of civic and economic life.  Dialogue on Diversity takes satisfaction in calling its friends’ attention to the occasion of Women’s Day, March 8th, since our own purpose, one that actuates us in our programs the year round, is to converse and study and place in motion initiatives of advocacy on the political and economic concerns that are the cause of women, a cause that has remained, in whatever altered form, a motivating force in the 100 years since the Day’s founding.




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