International Women’s Day and International Solidarity

This audio-only interview focuses on the international solidarity politics of the International Women’s Day Committee (IWDC) during the 1980s.  It explores how an engagement with liberation struggles in Central America,  South Africa,  Palestine, and Ireland shaped the debates and struggles that were unfolding in Toronto and Canada, thereby challenging any easy distinction among different geopolitical scales of politics whether local, national or international.  Cynthia Wright joined IWDC as a young woman in the early 1980s. She provides basic interpretive frameworks  for those unfamiliar with this history while emphasizing the partial and tentative nature of her account given the richness of this history, the range of actors, and the breadth of organizing in this period.  A key theme is the relationship between solidarity politics and debates about racism including racism in the feminist movement – as well as nationalism, colonialism and imperialism. The significance of the group’s internal debate about Palestine for the broader feminist movement is discussed. So, too, is the criticism IWDC received by some feminists in the wider movement for pursuing a so-called “male Left agenda.” In the process, the very definition of what is a feminist issue became subject to debate. Another key theme is the critical role of coalitions in shaping  solidarity organizing.  The significance of the exiles,  delegations, brigades, and solidarity groups who transited through Toronto to give talks and dialogue with women is also briefly noted, as is the centrality of the immigrant women’s movement in Toronto and exile formations.  

With Cynthia Wright

Interviewed by Franca Iacovetta

A photo of the International Women's Day Committee banner and contingent at a Toronto IWD march.
A photo of the International Women’s Day Committee banner and contingent at a Toronto IWD march.

Thank you…

This project has been made possible in part by Library and Archives Canada’s Documentary Heritage Communities Program.