Una LaMarche is a journalist, author and award-winning blogger based in Brooklyn, New York.
International Women’s Day, on March 8, celebrates the incredible power of women. It’s a beautiful opportunity to amplify our diverse voices and stories, recognize our struggles and pay homage to our achievements. It’s a rallying cry for activism, a global human rights movement that builds momentum with each passing year. It’s a reminder to women around the world to keep fighting for paychecks that reflect our worth, cultures that respect our boundaries and laws that protect our bodies. It is, quite frankly, a lot to fit into a single day. We should get more time—ideally, every day.
The holiday—if you can even call it that, since it’s built on the tireless work of generations of women—has roots 170 years deep. The first known women’s rights gathering was in 1848, in Seneca Falls, New York, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton gave a feminist edit to the Declaration of Independence, writing: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.”
A version of Women’s Day was first celebrated in the United States in 1909, more than a decade before we finally won the right to vote. Women’s History Week was launched in 1980, and expanded to a month in 1987. It’s a worldwide phenomenon now, with many countries setting aside time in March to honor women and how far we’ve come. Obstinate governments that seek to oppress women’s voices and perpetuate gender inequality are hardly a thing of the past, but rather than break our spirits, they have served only to galvanize us into action, connecting us across continents and communities in pursuit of progress.
This year in particular feels like a sea change, as if rather than shooting for breaking the glass ceiling, we are causing a tsunami that could sweep the whole building off the ground. Empowered by the Women’s March, #MeToo and Time’s Up, women of all ages, races, religions, sexual identities and social classes have been taking to the streets (and to the voting booths) to demand change. More than ever, we are rising up—just call us Alexandra Hamiltons—and working together, using our collective power to reject the status quo and ensure a better future for all women. The impact of the movement is undeniable: 2017 saw the passage of a law to end violence against women in Tunisia, the banning of child marriage in three countries, the success of the Afghan Girls Robotics Team and countless other breakthroughs. When Time magazine named The Silence Breakers—brave women who went public with their stories of abuse and harassment—its Person of the Year, it was a bittersweet triumph. Clearly we are on the right side of history and gaining ground every minute. We are being heard, inspiring others and making a difference.
There are some things that make sense to celebrate in a day; a birthday or anniversary can easily be bookended by a single sunrise and sunset, and then filed away until the next year. But the strength of women united across the globe cannot be so easily contained. We are too vibrant and too determined. We have come much too far to stop now. So let’s celebrate women on Thursday. And then let’s spend the other 364 days finishing what our sisters started at the Seneca Falls Convention, until we don’t need a calendar date to remind us that we matter.