International Women's Day/Year
The United Nations declared 1975 as International Women’s Year (IWY) to promote women’s social and political rights. As part of this, March 8th was chosen as International Women’s Day. This day has been celebrated annually ever since.
Activities to mark the year were held around the world –– and Newfoundland and Labrador was no exception. The Newfoundland Status of Women Council (NSWC) received federal funds for a Local Initiatives Project (LIP) that enabled the hiring of nine part-time staff at the St. John’s Women’s Centre. This staff set up a speakers bureau, produced pamphlets on women’s issues, and set up courses for women – such as auto mechanics, carpentry, and women studies. The NSWC also held a Women’s Day of Health (to provide information on issues not commonly discussed at the time, such as birth control and menopause) and sent a representative, Lillian Bouzanne, to the IWY conference in Mexico.
The NSWC wasn’t the only busy group. The Corner Brook Status of Women Council opened a Women’s Centre in 1975 and the Central Newfoundland Status of Women got its start. Pro-Feminae, a team from the Canada Employment’s Centre in St. John’s toured the province to raise awareness about women’s employment issues. The Women’s Institutes developed seminars for rural women about legal issues and worked with the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) to hold a provincial conference called “Women – Creative Leadership.”
It was an exciting time as expressed by Helen Symonds in the excerpt below from a NSWC newsletter:
I WAS BORN on March 8th, 1975 and yet I am 36 years old… For years I have been living and wondering why I have felt different than the people around me …Then on March 8th of this year, I forced myself, with my husband's insistence, to attend INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY…What I experienced from that day…was of such magnitude that it was like being born. Of course, I am still in the infant stage but am learning all the time …that it is great being a woman, that even though I am someone's wife and someone's mother, I also am a person with a very real identity of my own…
- Excerpt from “I Was Born on International Women’s Day” by Helen Symonds (NSWC Newsletter, Nov. 75, Vol. II. No. 9)