“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
1978 – Women’s Liberation Now!
1979 – Jobs and Rights for Women
1980 – Bread and Roses in the 80s
1981 – The power of women’s unity
1982 – Women’s Right to A Job, Women’s Right to Choose, and Women’s Right to Independence
1983 – A Women’s Right to a Job, to Choose and to Peace.
1984 – Peace, jobs and reproductive choice.
1985 – Still Ain’t Satisfied/Organize For Change
1986 – Women Say No! To Racism
1987 – Fighting Racism and Sexism Together
1988 – Women unite to fight racism, sexism and economic inequality
1989 – Women Against Poverty
1997 – Women’s work is never done
1999 – Closures, Cuts and Coverups. Throw the Tories Out.
2000 – World March of Women
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:
Angela Davis: International Women’s Day 1985
Celebrate March 8th International Women’s Day – Public Service Alliance of Canada
Collective Action Collective Strength – International Women’s Day (CEIU)
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.