ActiveHistory.ca repost – International Women’s Day (IWD) and Human Rights 2014

ActiveHistory.ca is on a two-week hiatus, but we’ll be back with new content in early September. During the hiatus, we’re featuring some of our most popular blog posts from this site over the past five years and some of the editors’ favourite posts from the past year. Thanks as always to our writers and readers – see you again in September!

The following post was originally featured on March 7, 2014.

IWDBy Veronica Strong-Boag

Author’s note: This post was commissioned as an IWD blog by the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. It was initially approved and posted by the Museum on 4 March 2014. It was, however, almost immediately withdrawn as ‘Communications’ at the Museum deemed the one line comment on the current federal Conservative government unacceptable as written. The offer of a substantive footnote and illustrative example from the author brought no reply. ActiveHistory.ca has reposted this time-sensitive contribution here, to which examples of anti-women policies and a footnote have been added.

International Women’s Day on 8th March should be a key date in the human rights calendar. Its place is hard-won. When Charlotte Bunch, a leading figure in the creation of UN Women (2010), insisted in 1990 that women’s rights are human rights in the Human Rights Quarterly and Edward Broadbent, from the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, served in 1993 as a judge in the Vienna Tribunal on Women’s Human Rights, one half of humanity’s entitlement to fair dealing remained globally contested. That struggle continues.

Although recognition that women’s rights are human rights pre-dates even writings of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) in the western tradition, IWD emerged in 1908 with a mass women suffrage meeting organized by American socialists.  By 1911 the idea had reached Europe, where again it persisted as a special interest of the left. Unlike ‘Mother’s Day,’ also first observed in 1908, which celebrated women as maternal and peace-loving, IWD initially concentrated on waged and industrial labour. Early champions such as the German socialist Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) intended to highlight tragedies such as the 1911 New York Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and economic oppression generally. When IWD became an official holiday in Russia after 1917 and in the new People’s Republic of China in 1949, even as both countries failed to offer equality, liberal democracies, not to mention dictatorships, shied away.

Champions of equality, however, persisted.

Click here to read more.

3 thoughts on “ActiveHistory.ca repost – International Women’s Day (IWD) and Human Rights 2014

  1. Little Missy

    I regularly read your bog and forward a good deal of your articles. But this one takes the cake. A potentially good critical write-up, sadly marred by the myopic comment “When IWD became an official holiday in Russia after 1917 and in the new People’s Republic of China in 1949, even as both countries failed to offer equality, liberal democracies, not to mention dictatorships, shied away”. While this is a history blog, this lack of insight into historical facts is incredible. Let alone to report the incredible achievements made in Russia and Canada (remember USSR survived the Great Depression for it’s lack of dependence on global capitalism, while other countries starved; the huge role USSR played in defeating Germany in WWII and the betrayal buy England and USA after the war, etc.). Canada, at the same time, had already managed to dessicate the aboriginal population, reap incredible poverty on the Chinese, Sikhs and other non-settler-stock immigrants, and even the Dutch Settlers who were admitted for being ;white Christians’ over but who also faced extreme xenophobia and ethnocentrism, all of whom broke their backs to work here, and faced a ‘failed equality’ i(as is implied in this article, if China and Russia ‘failed’ them by implication Canada won?)n Canada — yet this article smugly points to a consoling blanket faith in the wrongs of China and Russia. What a shame considering the article is also themed on critiquing some narrow nationalism in currency at the moment yet itself falls right into the same trap.

  2. Little Missy

    Furthermore, I would add, that as a woman, I am really unhappy about the cheap and ahistorical comments made here about Russia and China. It is certainly not the time nor the place for such comments with all the other misreporting about Russia at this time.

  3. Little Missy

    I regularly read this blog and forward a good deal of your articles. I missed this on in March, but I am astonished and disappointed to read it now. A potentially good write-up with an important and timely critique, sadly marred by the myopic comment “When IWD became an official holiday in Russia after 1917 and in the new People’s Republic of China in 1949, even as both countries failed to offer equality, liberal democracies, not to mention dictatorships, shied away”. While this is a history blog, this lack of insight into historical facts is incredible. Let alone to completely dismiss the achievements made in Russia (remember USSR survived the Great Depression for it’s lack of dependence on global capitalism, while other countries starved; the huge role the USSR played in defeating Germany in WWII and the betrayal of the USSR by England and USA after the war, the public education system of day and night colleges and universities all freely available, etc.). Canada, at the same time, had already managed to decimate the aboriginal population, reap incredible poverty on the Chinese, Sikhs and other non-settler-stock immigrants, and even the Dutch Settlers who were admitted post WWII for being ‘white Christians’ but who also faced extreme xenophobia and ethnocentrism (while the Christian Caribbean nannies were being deported and not admitted to Canada), all of whom broke their backs to work here, and faced a ‘failed equality’ (as is implied in this article, if China and Russia ‘failed’ them by implication Canada won? A bizarre claim). Did ‘liberal democracy ‘succeed’ in Canada? If so, for whom? Did Canada succeed in offering it’s citizens ‘equality’? If so for whom? By smugly falling back on a self-consoling blanket statement on purported lack of ‘equality’ of China and Russia, this article fails in its aim. What a shame considering the article is also themed on critiquing narrow nationalism, the policies of which certainly do ensure misery and poverty for women and girls (and men and boys too by the way), yet this article falls right into the same trap that it critiques. As a woman, I am really unhappy about using China and Russia faith-based strawmen in an article about ‘human rights’ and ‘women’s equality’. This blog is about using history and historiography to dig through the rubble of assumptions and get at the root of things, surely not to fall back on old stereotypes and assumptions. It does nothing to change the hard reality of history and contemporary lack of ‘equality’ that pummels many lives. Sorry for the multiple postings, if you could enable it to edit comments that would be most helpful.

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