During the women’s anti-apartheid campaigns in South Africa in the 1950s, there was a popular saying: “Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.” International Women’s Day, observed on March 8, was born more than a century ago of that same unshakeable resolve and opposition to oppression in all forms.
In 1975, the United Nations proclaimed the day an official holiday. Women’s groups and radical organizations commemorated the day long before then. The earliest events, in 1909, promoted universal suffrage. But socialists and other radical women in Europe, such as Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemburg, linked the end of gender discrimination to the abolition of capitalism. Over the years, women’s organizations worldwide have chosen the day to rally for economic justice, reproductive rights, an end to violence against women and other issues at the heart of women’s lives.
In recognition of International Women’s Day, Austin-based documentary photographer Alan Pogue and Observer multimedia editor Jen Reel selected these photos of Texas women—some known, some unknown—from the ’70s and ’80s. “These are all women that are actively taking control of the situation, asserting their rights and trying to communicate their worldview,” Pogue says. “In many ways, they were successful in shifting perceptions and even getting legislation passed.”
Click into the following slideshow to view images that celebrate the legacy of International Women’s Day.