On Jan. 21, 2017, the Women’s March on Washington saw more than half a million demonstrators march on the streets of Washington. Standing in solidarity with women regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, gender expression, economic status, age or disability the march intended to send to the world the message that women’s rights are human rights. Sister marches in solidarity with the Women’s March totaled 673, including many outside the U.S. Many Smith students, faculty, staff and alumnae participated in the march across the country. Maria Wood ‘AC ’17, wrote to the Sophian about her experience at the March in Washington.
On the day after the Inauguration, my 13 year old daughter and I went to Washington D.C. to join the millions of people across the country and the world in the Women’s March. Our family had three generations of marchers, in Washington, Boston and Asheville, N.C., but the fourth generation, my 98 year-old grandmother, who was at the Great March on Washington in 1963, was not able to make it. Below is an edited version of an email I sent to her, describing our experience:
Today was exhilarating, exhausting, overwhelming, inspiring…
We were completists, and my feet are screeching at me in protest of the protest. There were so many people there. I have never been in a crowd close to that size before, and it was quite thrilling. Waves of chants surged up and died away over and over again. Sometimes there were amorphous cheers that came out of nowhere, and carried you up into a swelling wooooo for no apparent reason other than the sheer spine tingling energy of joining voices with lots of other people, while raising signs high in the air.
There were far too many speakers, many of them quite good. Van Jones was dynamic and inspiring, Gloria Steinem was eloquent and warm and motivating (Smith alumna, of course), Michael Moore was personable and urgent and Ashley Judd and Scarlett Johansson were charismatic and unifying. There was very good singing and a band that stuck it out for over four energetic hours, accompanying everyone. A whole gang of elected officials crowded on to the stage at one time and took turns speaking, including Tami Duckworth and Kamala Harris, who were both exciting as members of a new generation of young, diverse Senators. Kamala Harris especially was a great speaker.
The city was absolutely flooded with people. You looked up and down the streets and to the left and the right and the ocean of people did not end. I chatted and made friends with people from Minn., Chicago, N.C., Annapolis and Washington D.C., but we did not see anyone we knew, except for my old flute teacher and mentor from Asheville who I marched next to for about 10 or 15 minutes before realizing who it was!
Lots of my friends and relatives were there but it was far too crowded to rendezvous with anyone. Nobody’s phone could get any signal, so it was like olden times when you couldn’t just call anyone up anytime. The result was a vacation from constant contact and also from the news – we were there, being part of the big story of the day, but not reading about it as it unfolded.
It felt historic and important, and it made me want to do it again, to do it until everyone in this country is equally valued, equally represented and has an equal chance at “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”