WASHINGTON—Ginny Dameron didn’t know what to expect from the Women’s March in Austin, Tex., last January. She usually avoids big crowds, and worried about the potential for confrontation. But seeing tens of thousands of people show up at the state capitol, she says, “wowed” her: “It was the sense that we were not alone.”
Odelia Younge also felt conflicted over whether to join the March in San Francisco — at first. Her top causes: reproductive and social justice, especially for the black community. “I decided to show up in a way I wanted to,” she says. She made her mark that day by shouting positive chants with her friends in the crowd — shifting the focus to what they want, not what they’re against.
For Emily Porter, the decision was easier. As a mom to two daughters, she says she felt compelled to be there. Marching on the Mall in Washington, D.C., awoke feelings of empowerment and validation. “It wasn’t just me feeling angry,” she says. “There was a real sense of female community.”
These women’s stories are emblematic of marchers nationwide who took to the streets on Jan. 21, 2017: They came out spontaneously, and for different reasons. And they were ultimately encouraged – and changed – by the experience.
Now, a year later, there’s something else they agree on: the pull toward political engagement has stayed with them. Whether it’s donating to campaigns, hosting forums, or engaging their neighbors, each of them has found a personal way to participate in politics.
“I’ve called my representatives more than in my entire life,” Ms. Porter says.
The same is true of women across the country, who since the marches have rushed to file candidacies at every level of office. That energy has also seeped through to other aspects of American life, amplifying female voices on issues where women have long stayed silent and moving feminism to the center of national discourse.
“The Women’s March gave me an opportunity to pull myself out of helplessness and join with others who are advocates for women,” says Miranda Orbach, who went to the march in Washington with her partner and their families. The experience, she says, “grounded and inspired me.”
A hastily organized outpouring
The Women’s March ranks comfortably among the largest one-day demonstrations in recorded American history, rivaling the Vietnam War Moratoriums in 1969, the first Earth Day in 1970, and demonstrations opposing the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Crowd scientists estimated that at least 470,000 people participated on or near the Washington Mall alone. Along with 673 sister marches held in all 50 states and 32 countries, the total number of protesters reached an estimated 3 to 4.5 million.
It was in many ways a hastily organized outpouring, an organic response to the 2016 election and what many saw as the unprecedented – and unacceptable – divisiveness of the newly elected president, Donald Trump.
“The women’s marches in 2017 reflected a mass sentiment among women across the board against Trump, but for very different reasons,” says Barbara Ransby, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Some, she notes, were dismayed that Hillary Clinton had lost, after coming so close to becoming America’s first female president. Others were aghast at Mr. Trump’s perceived racism and “the arrogance of wealth and privilege that he exudes.”
To read the full story, click here.