Irma Sayer and Arlinda Parr have advocated peace and equity longer than many people who consider themselves activists have been alive.
Sayer and her sister, Uda, were involved with the Salt Lake chapter of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom for more than 20 years. Parr chaired the group for a decade.On Monday, Sayer, 78, and Parr, 87, were awarded bread and roses, symbolic of economic security and a better quality of life, as part of an International Women's Day celebration.
Since 1857, when New York garment workers staged a protest, March 8 has been a day for the world's women to call for equality. In 1911, 146 women died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Co. fire in New York City because stairwells and elevators were locked shut.
International Women's Day commemorates their deaths and the continual fight for fair and safe working conditions for both sexes.
Justice, Economic Dignity and Independence for Women (JEDI) gave the awards while calling for more equity for women, especially low-income ones struggling to survive with welfare reform and increasing housing costs.
"Women are fighting harder than ever," said Alisa Dellapiana."Women and children are still getting burnt."
Expensive and hard-to-find child care, inadequate public transportation, medical bills, high housing costs and low pay keep many women in poverty, said Tamera Baggett, JEDI executive director.
"Women are leaving the welfare roles, but they are not out of poverty. They are having to be in the food lines," Baggett said. "Bad working conditions and poor wages are still there."
Sayer, who reared four children with her husband on a Mapleton farm, and Parr, who taught Spanish and English in Utah junior highs for 34 years, urged the women of JEDI to stay involved in their work.
"We're interested in everything with other women of the world," Sayer said. "Nobody can do it alone, so let's do it together."
Parr said she became involved with WILPF because the organization so thoroughly studied out every issue, and members were not afraid to speak out.
Sayer first began thinking about the condition of the world's women after a trip to Mexico as a youngster. After the U.S. entered the conflict in Vietnam, Sayer and her sister helped plan an anti-Vietnam rally in which 5,000 people walked down State Street. The sisters were then invited to the World Peace Congress in Moscow.
They were asked to help form a branch of WILPF in Salt Lake City in 1974. Uda Hanson died in 1996.
"I've always been interested in issues of the day," Sayer said. "There were deprived people and people who were living under dictatorial regimes. Once you start, you have to be active with all of them."