For a single day, the arteries of the nation’s capital ran pink.
On Jan. 21, the day of the Women’s March, somewhere between 800,000 and 1.2 million marchers took to the streets in Washington. They listened to Gloria Steinem and Maxine Waters and Madonna and then they took off toward the White House. It was not billed at a protest, but of course it was exactly that. The man now living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue stood for much of what they said they opposed.
It’s been a year.
We asked six women to look back at what the march meant then, what it means now and whether — in the long moral arc of the universe — it made a difference.
The 27-year-old, stay-at-home mother of two kids spent eight hours at the March, with her 5-month-old, Eliza, strapped to her chest.
Then she went back home to Rock Hill, S.C., where she ran for office for the first time. Mick Mulvaney vacated the congressional seat in her home district seat to become director of the Office of Management and Budget, so his spot opened up. With no experience, no staff, no funds and one slightly stunned husband, she did it.
She lost in the May primary to a better funded Democrat, but she’s still pursuing a job on Capitol Hill.
“I just want to get back out there,” she says. “I want to be a part of it. But I can’t right now. So I have to trust that things will be good for me in the future when it’s my time.”
The March itself, Edith Carey says, was magical. “Your body was constantly pressed up against other people, and the humanity and the kindness was just so healing.”
The high lasted about a week. “But then life goes on, and you make your phone calls to senators and you feel like, ‘Am I even getting through to anyone?’ ”
The onslaught of news and drama and baffling presidential tweets kept coming and coming, wearing at the 43-year-old folk singer’s hope. “It’s like the country is in the most toxic boyfriend relationship it’s ever been in with anyone,” says Carey, a mother of two young children. “It’s just horrifying, and you can’t get over the last trauma before there’s another one.”
Carey, a mother of two children, is beset with guilt that she’s not doing more to protest the Trump administration, but she’s not sure what, exactly, would make a difference.
For Cary, the March was transcendent and she’s so glad she was there. But did it move the needle? Does it matter now? She’s not sure.
“I’m feeling so broken down,” she admits. “Is anything going to ever change?”
Christina Martinez has been having a lot of important conversations since she attended the Women’s March in Los Angeles. The 36-year-old single mom from Long Beach, Calif. had never devoted much time to politics, but since January, she can’t stop talking about it.
She’s talked to her girlfriends about the gender pay gap, sexism in the workplace, and the #MeToo movement. “There’s so many subjects we didn’t discuss before,” Martinez says. “Now we’re like, ‘How do you feel about it?’ ‘Where do you stand?’ ‘Have you gone through something like this?’ ”
Those conversations inspired her to get an additional professional certificate, which lead to a promotion and a raise at the law firm where she works as an office manager.
But of all the conversations Martinez has had since the March, none have been as crucial as the ones she’s had with her 12-year-old daughter, Mia.
“I talked to her about the pay gap between women and men, how we do the same jobs as they do but we don’t necessarily get the same pay that they do. I talked to her about how there’s men making decisions about women’s health, and how it’s not really fair because they’re men and they don’t know what we go through [with] our bodies.”
“We as women, we have these struggles, but they were just something we silently struggled with,” Martinez says. “And now, it’s something like, let’s talk about it. Let’s discuss how we feel.”
The D.C. Women’s March was a day of catharsis for the 53 year-old from Santa Cruz, Calif. And then, on the plane home, Marshall turned to the friend who’d traveled with her. “What do we do now?” Angela Mrashall asked.
Her friend started hosting meetings to write postcards to representatives. Then Marshall did the same. She went to a meeting of a Democratic Club and hooked up with Santa Cruz Indivisible. Marshall, who works part-time for a small-town chamber of commerce, told the Indivisible leaders she could devote 20 to 25 hours a week to the group. By June, she was named Indivisible’s director of membership development.
Every morning, Marshall wakes up and makes five phone calls to representatives. Every night, she turns on Rachel Maddow’s news program on MSNBC and checks Twitter and flips over to Fox News to see what they’re covering. She was a rabid news consumer before the election. But now, she says: “It’s been more obsessive — 24/7. For me, it’s helping. The more information I know, the more power I have to share that information with people who aren’t watching the news.”
As the second year of the administration gets underway, Marshall has found reason to believe her efforts are making a difference. To her, good news has come in the form if indictments in the Russia investigation. “We’ve got the carrot in front of us,” she says. “It’s exciting to see.”
Raheemullah, a 38 year-old mother of three daughters, organized a bus of mostly Muslim women who traveled from Chicago to Washington for the March.
“We had people randomly coming up to us saying, ‘We love you. Nothing is going to happen to you. We’re here for you,’ ” she remembers. “I can’t tell you what that did for me — when your heart is breaking, but then it’s filled up with love.”
For her, the March was transformative. She had always been an activist within the Chicago Muslim women’s community, but in the past year she’s felt emboldened to fight more stringently for equality and to join forces with other marginalized groups.
Of course, that confidence was tested soon after she arrived home, with the pronouncement of the travel ban. That brought Raheemullah out to more protests at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.