The Art of Toronto International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day occupies a special place in the history of women’s struggles. On March 8, 1908, 30,000 women textile workers in New York went on strike with the slogan “Bread and Roses”, which symbolized their plea for economic security and a better quality of life. When the strike began every shirtwaist factory in New York City was an open shop. When it ended, 13 weeks later, 312 shops had a full contract. Two years later, the German socialist Clara Zetkin proposed that March 8 be set aside each year as International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate our on-going struggle for bread and roses.

Since that time, and particularly with the rebirth of the women’s movement in the 1960s, women around the world have claimed March 8 as a day of protest, solidarity, and celebration. From our various areas of struggle, we come together each year to celebrate our victories in the battle for women’s liberation.” – Excerpted from a 1981 IWD Pamphlet

Although celebrated in many places around the world since the early years of the last century, Toronto feminists first organized around International Women’s Day in 1978. Since then, the International Women’s Day/March 8th Coalition has continued to plan an annual rally and march that brings women’s equality, labour and social justice activists together behind a common theme.

These Toronto celebrations have inspired some of the most iconic imagery in the women’s movement. Each year’s artwork illustrates a particular theme decided upon by the March 8th Coalition. That design is replicated on pamphlets, buttons and other materials related to IWD. Most of the artworks, though depicting varying themes, often share common features from year-to-year and incorporate bold designs with bright eye-catching colours and strong lines.

Much of this amazing artwork is available in the Rise Up! archive. We also have buttons pamphlets, music and lots of photos of the Toronto IWD events.  You can also check out music performed by the Red Berets for Toronto IWD, as well as Bread and Roses performed by Catherine Silverglen.

Toronto IWD Artwork by year & theme

Other IWD Material

Many different groups also created specific buttons, posters or flyers for their own organizations and IWD events over this period.  Some of those already on our website include:

But we need more!

Rise Up! would love to have many more materials  on our website reflecting the wide range of IWD events and involvement across Canada from the 1970s, 80s and 90s. Please upload any material, or send us an email about what you have.

Related Photo Material

Fleck Strikers Lead 1979 International Women’s Day March

International Women’s Day (Toronto) – Lesbians are Everywhere!

International Women’s Day (Toronto) – Lesbian Youth Peer Support Contingent

International Women’s Day Committee Contingent at Toronto IWD

Organizer Carolyn Egan and International Women’s Day March(Toronto)

International Women’s Day 1982 (Toronto) – Display at IWD Fair

International Women’s Day March 1978 (Toronto) – Organized Working Women

International women’s Day 1978 (Toronto) – Organized Working Women

Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza (JWCEO) at 1990 International Women’s Day (Toronto)

Lesbians Making History at Toronto IWD (1987)

International Women’s Day (Toronto) – Women Say No to Racism

The Red Berets – International Women’s Day 1990 (Toronto)

International Women’s Day 1990 (Toronto) – Latin American Women’s Collective

International Women’s Day 1990 (Toronto) – Take Back the Night

International Women’s Day 1990 (Toronto) – Drummers

International Women’s Day 1990 (Toronto) – Jewish Women Against the Occupation

International Women’s Day 1990 (Toronto) – INTERCEDE

International Women’s Day 1990 (Toronto) – Claim Your Power

International Women’s Day 1990 (Toronto) – Violence Against Women

International Women’s Day 1990 (Toronto) – INTERCEDE

International Women’s Day 1990 (Toronto) – Voice for Guatemalan Women

International Women’s Day 1990 (Toronto) – Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza

International Women’s Day (Toronto)- Black Women’s Collective & Women Against Arms Race

International Women’s Day (Toronto) – International Women’s Day Committee

International Women’s Day (Toronto)

International Women’s Day (Toronto) – Choice & Fighting Poverty

The Red Berets – International Women’s Day 1986 (Toronto)

The Red Berets – International Women’s Day 1981 (Toronto)

The Red Berets – International Women’s Day 1983 (Toronto)

The Red Berets – International Women’s Day 1982 (Toronto)

The Red Berets – International Women’s Day 1983 (Toronto)

International Women’s Day 1982 (Toronto) – Women’s Right to Choose

The Red Berets – International Women’s Day 1981 (Toronto)

International Women’s Day 1981 (Toronto) – IWDC Activists Marianna Valverde & Carolyn Egan

The Red Berets – International Women’s Day 1981 (Toronto)

The Red Berets – International Women’s Day 1981 (Toronto)

The Red Berets – International Women’s Day 1981 (Toronto)

The Red Berets – International Women’s Day 1981 (Toronto)

International Women’s Day (Toronto) – Organized Working Women