Among the hundreds of thousands of people clad in pink hats, bearing homemade protest signs, and chanting, cheering, and singing on the streets of Washington D.C. and Boston on January 21 marched at least 57 school faculty members and 69 Upper School (US) students.
The mission of the Women’s March on Washington, according to its website, was to convey to the Trump administration and the global community that “women’s rights are human rights” and that “defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.” The initiative called all defenders of equality, regardless of gender, to show up and support groups targeted in the recent election, including immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQIA people, Native Americans, people of color, people with disabilities, and survivors of sexual assault. The New York Times calculated the turnout at 470,000 marchers, while The Associated Press quoted a city official who estimated that the crowd cleared half a million.
Becky Kendall ’18, who drove eight hours to D.C. to march with her mom, said that despite its size, she felt peace amidst the crowd and marveled at its scope and diversity.
“The number of countries and states represented on one street was so moving,” she said. “It made me realize that no matter how small of an impact I had today, I’m not alone in supporting women’s rights, and I have hundreds of thousands of people around me all working together to fight Trump and stand as feminists united.”
English Teacher Susie Bonsey marched in Washington with her college friends and applauded the event’s positive mission and emphasis on togetherness, particularly its underlying idea that, as others have pointed out before her, it was for something rather than against it.
“Regardless of where people stood on Trump’s exact policies, the march was open to everyone promoting human rights, human dignity, and equality among all people,” Ms. Bonsey said. “That common ground unified all participants.”
Art Department Head Laura Tangusso attended the march with her 29-year-old niece and noted how extraordinary and moving it was that the event was organized in just two months.
The idea for the Women’s March was introduced in a Facebook post by a retired lawyer in Hawaii after Trump’s election, and overnight, her post went viral, grabbing the attention of fashion entrepreneur Bob Bland. Bland then shared it with her large following and rallied a trio of social justice activists—Tamika Mallory, advocate for civil rights and gun-control; Carmen Perez, head of The Gathering for Justice; and Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York—to co-chair the event alongside her, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The momentum that followed was historic. The co-chairs planned for a two-mile route to span from the intersection of Independence Avenue and Third Street to the White House’s Ellipse, but due to unanticipated numbers, overflow spilled into multiple neighboring streets.
Still, Ms. Tangusso said, the experience never felt chaotic.
“I was most struck by how peaceful the march was, how diverse and how generous people were to each other,” she said. “On my bus on the way home, a young girl walked up and down the aisle offering cookies to everybody. Even the police were supportive. That said a lot.”
Before the march’s 1:15 start, a three-hour rally took place on Independence Avenue, where 44 speakers—including feminist writer Gloria Steinem, actor Scarlett Johansson, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, and Muhammad Ali’s daughter, Maryum Ali—and 16 musical artists took to the stage, the march’s website reported. Counted among them were Islamic scholars, Catholic and Jewish community leaders, labor organizers, transgender law experts, immigration activists, clean water activists, Standing Rock activists, and mothers of black sons and daughters killed by police and gun violence.
English Teacher Jean Klingler, who flew to the event with her daughter Lucy Lyman ’18, said the speeches by Representative Maxine Waters and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Tammy Duckworth, and Kamala Harris stood out to her for encouraging community action on women’s issues.
“Seeing the senators made it clear that Hillary isn’t the only and last viable female candidate for higher office,” Ms. Klingler said. “They—and Filmmaker Michael Moore—promoted not just voting but actually running for office, and I thought that just seeing them and hearing this message was as important as hearing from the celebrities.”
Lucy said the march restored some of her faith in humanity and provided much needed relief from her post-election gloom.
“My experience at the march was absolutely uplifting because it has given me some real hope to hold onto in this turbulent past week,” she said, referring to the last days of January. “The knowledge that hundreds of thousands of people refused to stand by and accept the new orders being set by the current administration really proved to me that democracy works.”