On January 21, 2017, DC’s national mall reverberated with chants of “this is what democracy looks like!” as over half a million women, men, and children took to the streets to participate in the Women’s March in the District of Columbia. The protesters marched down the national mall to the White House to send a message of solidarity during Donald Trump’s first day in the presidential office. This DC march was the largest to occur on the national mall since the 1960’s and 1970’s anti-Vietnam War protests.
DC Was Not Alone
DC was far from the only city to participate in the Women’s March. Over two million people marched across 673 cities around the world. The protesters expressed concern regarding a number of issues that included: racial justice, reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, workers’ rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigration rights, environmental justice, and an end to violence. The Women’s March was a shining example of the proper exercise of our First Amendment rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech. There were no reported arrests made in Washington, DC, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, or Seattle during the Women’s March.
Perhaps a reason for the lack of arrests is that women are no strangers to having to pick up signs and take to the streets to have their voices heard. Women have been marching for their rights for over a century. On January 19, 1913, thousands of brave women marched for women’s suffrage outside of the White House the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. While it took seven years, their voices were finally heard with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote in 1920.
Rallied in the Face of Adversity
However, the right to vote was not the end of the battle. In 1972, women took to the streets again to march for the Equal Rights Amendment after Congress passed it as they awaited thirty-eight states to ratify. On Mother’s Day in 1980, a then record-breaking 90,000 women marched in Chicago to pressure Illinois to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The ratification ultimately fell short by three states, but women continued to be resilient.
In the mid-1970s, a movement swept through college campuses in reaction to violent crimes against women which has since become known as “Take Back the Night.” One of the first “Take Back the Night” protests was held in October 1975 in Philadelphia after a microbiologist was stabbed to death while walking home alone. The Take Back the Night Foundation continues to hold marches and events to the present day. The movement gives victims of violent crimes an opportunity to be heard then allows their peers to stand with them in support.
In 2004, over seven hundred thousand women participated in the “March for Women’s Lives” on DC’s national mall. The protest was in reaction to anti-abortion policies from President George W. Bush’s administration and an effort to prevent his re-election. Although President Bush was reelected, these courageous women set the tone for empowering movements to come.
Banding Together When it Matters
Women and their allies standing together in times of discomfort and fear truly embodies the importance of equality for all women. The greatest hope is that someday women will no longer have to pick up signs in order to remind people that women’s rights truly are human rights.