Vrouwendag: International Women’s Day in the Netherlands

Vrouwendag: International Women’s Day in the Netherlands

International Women’s Day remains an important date in the international calendar. Every year on March 8, thousands of people around the world gather to celebrate women - while also continuing the ongoing battle for women’s rights worldwide. 

But how did this tradition come to be, and how has vrouwendag been observed in the Netherlands throughout the decades? Let’s dive into the history of this significant day.

What and when is International Women’s Day? 

As the name suggests, International Women’s Day - also known as IWD - is a global holiday celebrated annually on March 8. In recent years, March 8 has even been named a public holiday in some countries, including Uganda, Cambodia, and some German federal states

To this day, International Women’s Day occupies a key position in the international women’s rights movement, and is designed as an opportunity to highlight a number of key issues, including but not limited to gender equality, reproductive rights, and (sexual) violence against women.

International Women’s Day 2024

Every year, International Women’s Day falls on March 8. This means that, in 2024, International Women’s Day is on Friday, March 8.

A brief history of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day has been around for decades; the first recorded “celebration” of the day was in the United States back on February 28, 1909, but at the time it was known as National Women’s Day. Organised by the Socialist Party of America, some claim it was designed to commemorate a protest by female garment workers in New York on March 8, 1957 - but researchers have generally disregarded this as a myth. 

A little over a year later, an International Socialist Women’s Conference was held in Copenhagen in August 1910 - it was at this event that a group of German delegates suggested the establishment of an annual Women’s Day. By the following year, the dream came to fruition: the first International Women’s Day was observed by people in Austria, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland on March 19, 1911.

While initially there was no set date for IWD, over time the idea spread and marches and protests were held around the world in honour of the women’s rights movement. It was in the USSR  that the day became more officially associated with the date of March 8 and, in 1917,  Bolsheviks Alexandra Kollontai and Vladimir Lenin declared it an official holiday in the Soviet Union. 1922 marked the first time that Women’s Day was celebrated internationally on March 8.

International Women’s Day remained a predominantly communist holiday until the late 1960s when it was adopted by second-wave feminists. The women’s rights movement continued to grow and, in 1975, the United Nations got involved too. Since 1977, International Women’s Day has been recognised as an official UN holiday for women’s rights and world peace.

International Women’s Day in the Netherlands

International Women’s Day is, of course, also celebrated in the Netherlands, where it is known as vrouwendag (“women’s day”). 

History of Women’s Day in the Netherlands

While Dutch women didn’t get involved in the first IWD in 1911, the country didn’t take too long to follow in the footsteps of its European neighbours: the first vrouwendag took place on May 12, 1912, and was organised by the Dutch Association of Social Democratic Women's Clubs (BSDVC). 

While groups in the Netherlands continued to observe the day throughout World War I, during and after World War II public interest in the day waned. It’s reported that only communist women’s groups continued to honour International Women’s Day in the 1940s and 50s. 

In the 1970s - at around the same time that IWD gained traction as an international movement - women in the Netherlands developed their own women’s rights movement (Heksennacht), but Dutch interest in International Women’s Day was also revived thanks to second-wave feminists. 

Image: Dutchmen Photography via Women's March in Amsterdam on International Women's Day (Vrouwendag)

Vrouwendag 2024 events

In the Netherlands - and around the world - International Women’s Day is marked by a wide variety of events, organised by various women’s organisations. These events could be anything from concerts and performances, to lectures and demonstrations, all aimed to draw attention to the topics of women’s rights and gender equality. 

Some of the major events taking place in honour of vrouwendag this March include: 

International Women’s Day quotes

Whether you’re trying to learn more about this meaningful day, or are looking for inspiration for an Instagram caption on March 8, here are some important and inspiring International Women’s Day quotes: 

  • “There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.” - Michelle Obama
  • “Extremists have shown what frightens them most. A girl with a book.” - Malala Yousafzai
  • “Each time a woman stands up for herself she stands up for all women.” - Maya Angelou
  • “A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life.” - Virginia Woolf
  • “I’ve spent my entire life in male-dominated fields - first in the military, now in Congress. And this International Women’s Day, allow me to share what I’ve learned. You don’t need to be “one of the guys". You are strong, brave and destined to lead. Own it.” - Senator Tammy Duckworth

Do you know any other quotes worth sharing? Pop them in the comments below!

Thumb: ElenaBaryshnikova via

Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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