International Women's Day

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day to celebrate the gains women have made over the years and to bring our attention to the issues that still face us. Most of all, it’s a day to recognise that we, as women, have made and continue to make a difference; it’s a day to celebrate women’s contribution to making Australia and the world a better place for everyone. International Women’s Day is an annual event usually held on 8 March.

The first IWD was held on 19 March 1911 in Germany, Austria, Denmark and other European countries. German women chose this particular day because on that date in 1848, the Prussian King – faced with an armed uprising – had promised many reforms, including an unfulfilled one of votes for women. A million leaflets calling for action on the right to vote were distributed throughout Germany before IWD in 1911. In 1913, IWD was transferred to 8 March. The first IWD rally in Australia was held in 1928 in Sydney.

Since those early years, IWD has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. Of course, much has improved since then, but we still have some way to go to achieve equal opportunity for women, not only in Australia but throughout the world.

So IWD is about remembering the battles long fought to build a society that is just and fair to all its members. A society in which diversity, tolerance, safety, social justice and equality between women and men is a given. It’s about celebrating what women have done, are doing and can do.

The IWD colours

Purple, green and white are the official international women’s day colours.

The colours originated from the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in the UK in 1908. The colours were said to represent:

  • White for purity in public as well as private life.
  • Purple for justice, dignity, self-reverence and self-respect (and representing the women’s vote).
  • Green for hope and new life.

The colours unified the women’s movement and emphasised the femininity of the suffragettes. The tricolour of the WSPU soon became a visual cue for the women’s movement in other countries.

More recently, two changes have occurred:

  • The use of the colour white has more recently been rejected as purity is a controversial issue and attitudes towards the role of purity from women differ greatly.
  • The introduction of the colour gold representing a new dawn has been commonly used to represent the second wave of feminism.
Find out about IWD

More information about IWD is available under the women’s focus tab at