08 March 2010

A century of international women's rights

International Women's Day

SAHA celebrates one century since the second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen in 1910. At this gathering, the suggestion was made to create an annual day to fight for women's rights. International Women's Day is now commemorated on March 8 worldwide. The date commemorates the famous New York City 'Bread and Roses' protest march held by a group of working women in 1857 to gain shorter working hours, improved wages and enfranchisement. International Women's Day is now an official holiday in at least fifteen different countries. This day was granted official recognition by the United Nations in 1975, the International Year of Women.

In South Africa, the struggle for women's rights was central to the fight against apartheid. The most famous moment of women's rights in South Africa took place on August 9, 1956. On this day, 20 000 women from all walks of life marched on the Union Buildings in Pretoria. They brought with them petitions signed by over 100 000 women opposing the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act of 1950, which would control their movement and require many to carry pass books. Since 1994, August 9 has been celebrated as a national holiday in honour of all women of South Africa and their contribution to the creation of an equal and democratic society.

Since its inception, the South African History Archive has accumulated a vast collection of posters, photographs and documents related to women's rights. Many of the collections reflect the powerful contribution of women to the struggle.

Some, but not all, of these collections are listed below:


Click here to see the rest of SAHA's collections.


Federation of Transvaal Women 1987 Calender

   The Federation of Transvaal Women (FEDTRAW) adopted the Women's Charter as a way of voicing their demands, 1987, SAHA Poster Collection (AL2460_0216)


Women played an important role in the drive to end conscription in South Africa