Women’s March Post-update

Recently, there has been a massive upswing in activism and advocacy on many issues including a huge ground swell to defend women’s rights. Many District 6 Zontians recently participated in the Women’s Marches in our District and in Washington D.C. The following are local photos from the Chicago and Madison Marches along with a personal story of a member attending the Washington March. Please continue to be active in advocacy events in a non-partisan fashion highlighting Zonta’s efforts to empower women!

BY: Susan Barton
In front of me, to my left and to my right, I see pink hats – pale rose, fuchsia, hot pink, magenta, striped, heathered, cable-style, fringed, decorated with pompons, flowers, and feathers. I’m listening to chants from all sides. I join in on some and then opt to silently walk along, soaking up the feeling from this crowd that this day is of historic importance, a collective voice of people who don’t know each but came together in a purely voluntary way to express their opinions. Along the street, people perch on building steps and balconies, witnessing the mass that never seems to end on its way to the Ellipse. My sightline is crowded with signs and posters displaying a host of messages.

Why did I come to Washington and how did I get here?

In November when I first learned of the Women’s March in Washington, I felt an overwhelming need to add my voice to those speaking up for women’s issues. At this point, Washington was the only location offering that opportunity; the sister marches had yet to develop. I looked a few travel options – driving, plane or train – but with the anticipated traffic and crowding, opted to take one of the really buses. Heading to Washington on Friday night, I’d arrive on Saturday morning, join in the rally and Saturday evening get back on the bus and head home. Certainly not as cushy as the other options but a lot fewer concerns about finding my way around DC in the thick of things.

Three buses left Union Station Friday night, making several pit stops along the way. Since it was dark and very foggy the entire trip, our rest stop locations were a mystery. When we descended into the parking area, we noticed that there were at least 12 -15 other buses from other cities and states, all heading to Washington, stopped there as well. Can you imagine the lines of women wrapping around the store trying to buy a snack or lining up to use the bathrooms? Because my seat was in the back of the bus, the 20 minute stop became more of a 12 minute stop by the time I could get out. So, some stops ended up just being breaks to inhale fresh air and stretch my legs.

When we crossed the Potomac River in the morning and started heading towards the stadium where the buses were to park, we drove through residential neighborhoods where groups of people walked towards the rally point. Mothers pushing strollers, children hopping along and dogs with pink ribbons affixed to their collars were among the mix. Several families had set up little tables with signs, offering free coffee, or hot chocolate, or water to those passing by on their way to the rally. In many of the front yards or in the windows, signs and messages spelled out the occupants’ feelings…”Keep your tiny hands off my bill of rights” was one that I especially remember.

Everything everywhere was a mob. We were a moving mass of people that day. Walking from the stadium parking lot and heading to the Metro, we were greeted by guides, saying “Welcome to Washington, we’re glad you’re here”. They helped us find our way to the train, and Metro employees, definitely overtaxed that day, patiently took the time to help with the purchase of passes. Each car was filled to capacity – or probably beyond. I sat with a group of Afghans, mostly women, but accompanied by a couple of male videographers, who had come in from NYC to show solidarity for Muslims.

I got to the starting point at Independence and 3rd but just went with the flow, not knowing exactly where I was, to get to the main stage. Of course, it was impossible to approach the stage; the streets were thick with people as were the sidewalks. Many folks were hanging over ledges, hugging the curbs. Giant monitors above the crowd afforded a view and the possibility of hearing the speakers, if the din wasn’t overwhelming. In the crowd I met a group of women from Detroit, carrying large round signs, from their union, the United Auto Workers and spoke to women from Georgia. Once the speeches and entertainment had concluded, it was time to march – and off we went towards the Capitol and the Washington monument. And that’s where this account started, as I took my place among the peaceful but determined marchers.

I ended up at the base of the Washington monument where I chatted with a group of women from Rochester, NY. As we stood in line we heard noise off in the direction of the Capitol. It was cheering, starting far away and moving closer and closer to us, a tidal wave of roaring. By the time it got to us it was as if you could almost see it swelling and surging forward. I was among black women, Hispanic women, East Indian women, native American women, gay women, mothers, women rolling along in wheelchairs, couples, families, men, single marchers like me – no disturbances, no riots, but plenty of joy, determination and purpose.

I waited in line for food, waited in line for the Porta-Potties, waited in line for the Metro and came home with very swollen feet and needing sleep.
Would I do it again…absolutely.

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