This has become the winter of my discontent, starting with my husband’s sudden need for surgery that grounded us for the winter. I adjusted to that, but the recent national political scene has disturbed me so vividly that I was ready to march after the January 20th inauguration.
I’ve never been a rabid activist. My girl friends since grammar school will tell you that I was smart, but was more concerned with boys and clothes. I was Miss Rick-Rack and Rhinestones. But I learned to be part of the solution, not the problem, if I wanted a career. My first, and I think my most outrageous protest, consisted of joining my Illinois Bell Labs female colleagues in wearing slacks to work on a steamy July day in 1969 when the corporate dress code required skirts with hems below the knees. My then husband even tried to stop me from going to work that day. It’s a far cry from the NASA discrimination on display in the movie Hidden Figures, but the rules changed because of our actions. No woman was ever sent home to change her clothes again by some white man in a white shirt and tie. And, I divorced that that husband!
On the day of the March, my friend and I found a central spot just one block south of the main stage at Independence and 3rd at 8:23 AM. It was crowded, but we wove our way through to where we thought we might see the stage. But, as always, I could not see the stage and was not eye-ball to eye-ball with the people around me, but eye-ball to shoulder. Height, rather the lack of it, gets me every time. I held my phone high over my head to see the stage. Luckily, we were right next to gigantic speakers so we could hear clearly over the roar of the crowd.
By 2:00 PM our old legs were starting to cramp as speaker after speaker called us to action and musicians intoxicated us with music. The crowd chanted “March! March ! March!” and the streets reverberated. The march itself was two hours overdue nor did it happen as hundreds of thousands overwhelmed the mall and the surrounding streets. Clearly, it was time for us to make our escape. We shuffled ever slowly south to the edge, finally breaking through the mass of people.
Within the hours, back home in Crystal City at a favorite bar, we watched the live coverage as we devoured a well-earned lunch while sharing stories with two moms and their daughters from Chicago who marched as well. One of the daughters had graduated from North Central College, just like me many years earlier.
Men, women and children from all over the country of every age and race stood shoulder-to-shoulder, many sporting “ovary” pink hats and signs from the humorous to the most weighty and outrageous, proclaiming our rights to speak, resist and protest. The crowd was definitely anti-Trump, but people were earnest yet festive, behaving with friendliness and kindness as were the police and National Guard who, from what I witnessed, never brandished weapons. I was pleased to be there.
It was just thrilling to hear Gloria Steinem speak. I remember when I first read an issue of Ms. Magazine, at a time when I couldn’t keep my own last name when I married, get a credit card in my own name, nor a mortgage loan. She and others of our generation sparked me to take control of my own finances, be they good or bad (and trust me they were bad at one time). I will never forget the day in 1983, when I bought my first home by myself with my own mortgage loan with my own money for a down payment.
We women are just as smart and can be just as dumb as men. That is our right and I want to keep it that way.
I know pro-life friends felt left out of the march and will disagree, but to legislatively ban abortion is unacceptable to me because when women have control over their own bodies, we all are better for it. I look to Colorado state which sponsored the landmark teenage contraception program that has resulted in a 40% decrease in abortions and 40% decrease in unwanted pregnancies state-wide across all income groups.
I never imagined it would be necessary to march in the 21st century at age 70. I know and respect people who voted for Trump based on his promises of jobs, increased American competitiveness and strong international presence, not at all because of his inflammatory statement about immigrants, women and race. But I am afraid he believes and act on many of those statements, so I can no longer say “Relax. Give the guy a chance.”
I’m a Nasty Woman, as Trump called Hillary Clinton.