Australian Women's Register

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International Women's Day (1928 - )

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


March 8 is International Women's Day (IWD), celebrated throughout the world. Australian governments first officially recognised the day in March 1974, when Prime Minister Gough Whitlam announced Australia's participation in the United Nations' International Women's Year for 1975. Since then International Women's Day has become a regular event in every State and Territory, with a program stretching over the full week.

The first IWD was held on 19 March 1911 in Germany, Austria, Denmark and other European countries. The date was reputedly chosen by German women because, on the same date in 1848, the King of Prussia had promised votes for women among other reforms. The promise was made in the face of an armed uprising, and remained unfulfilled (see

The first unofficial IWD in Australia took place in the Domain in Sydney on March 25 1928, organised by the Militant Women's Movement and calling for equal pay for equal work; an 8 hour day for shop girls; no piece work; the basic wage for the unemployed and annual holidays on full pay.

Another rally took place in 1929 in Sydney and Brisbane. The late Edna Ryan - feminist and unionist - took part, and during the Whitlam years she successfully campaigned on equal pay before the Industrial Relations Commission. The movement spread, especially among trade union women.

(entry researched and written by Marie Coleman)

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