Signs, slogans and seals on International Women's Day in 1975

With signs and slogans, women turned out to mark International Women's Day on March 8, 1975, a year the United Nations also designated for women.

United Nations also named 1975 International Women's Year

Songs and slogans on International Women's Day, 1975

48 years ago
Duration 1:27
In 1975, Canadian women march to demand equal pay during the United Nations' International Women's Year.

The United Nations had designated 1975 as International Women's Year, and on March 8 — International Women's Day — Canadian women turned out to celebrate, and protest, on the streets. 

"Through the heavy snowstorm they came, chanting their slogans and singing their songs of protest," said CBC reporter Dan Bjarnason, pointing out that not only women were participating. 

They carried signs demanding quality daycare and the right to choose abortion — and were joined by protesters calling for an end to the Atlantic seal hunt, then a hot-button issue.

Before the march, an indoor rally was addressed by labour organizer Heather MacNeil, who talked about her eight years of experience helping women bank employees get the promotions they deserved.

The 'Why Not' campaign

The Why Not! button campaign and International Women's Year

48 years ago
Duration 2:52
The Canadian government's Why Not! button campaign has drawn criticism from some Canadian women.

The march may have had more participants than in years past because the government of Canada was celebrating International Women's Year.

Earlier in 1975, the CBC's Catherine (Trina) McQueen reported on the mixed reaction to the nationwide newspaper ads that were the most visible facet of the federal Why Not? campaign.

"The campaign, and the Why Not? slogan, have been denounced as a condescending waste of money by a whole spectrum of women's groups," explained McQueen.

'Tokenism to women'

Poster reading "women graduates don't earn as much as men graduates. Why not?"
The 1975 newspaper ads drew attention to inequalities between men and women in the workplace. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

The newspaper ads called attention to a lack of women on corporate boards, and inequality in earnings by men and women university graduates.

"It's tokenism to women," said Vancouver MP Simma Holt. "But the real things that matter to women are being delayed, set aside, and now it has almost become a joke." 

The director of the International Women's Year secretariat disagreed.

"The people who are doing a lot of the complaining are people who have arrived, people whose consciousness has already been raised, who don't need the campaign," she said. "We're not talking to the converted, and yet it seems to be the converted who are doing the complaining."

52,000 requests

Stack of mail
The office of the Why Not? campaign received 52,000 requests for buttons, posters and information. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

The piles of letters to the campaign's headquarters requesting "Why Not?" buttons were no joke.

According to McQueen, the office had received more than 52,000 requests for buttons, posters and information.

"Ottawa may not be active enough on equal rights to suit some women, but it is militant about spending money," said McQueen. "For International Women's Year, the United Sates set aside about $300,000. Canada has $5 million."

Protester holding fake white seal pup
People protesting the Atlantic seal hunt joined the crowds on International Women's Day in 1975. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

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