In 1913, thousands of suffragettes paraded on the nation’s Capitol, demanding equal rights. Fast forward 104 years, and their cause has been reignited.
“Women don’t like to rock the boat. They want to be respectful and get along. But now they’re beginning to feel frustrated,” said Caroline Ridgway, one of three leaders organizing the effort to bring Collier and Lee County residents to the upcoming Women’s March on Washington. “There’s a need to elevate the dialogue and recapture the feminist activist spirit that had been a hallmark of prior women’s generations.”
Organizers estimate the march will draw 200,000 participants from across the country, including 25,000 from Florida. More than 500 people from Collier and Lee counties are expected to attend.
The march, which will begin the day after the inauguration, is one of many that have taken place since the suffragettes took to Washington. In 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. 1965 saw the March on Washington for Peace in Vietnam and 1979 to 2000 saw four major marches for LGBT rights.
This time the focus is back on women.
“The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us,” wrote national event spokeswoman Cassady Fendlay in a November press release, citing half a dozen minority groups. “In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”
Though the march was inspired by what some consider to be Trump’s offensive messages, local event organizers are quick to point out the march is not an anti-Trump rally.
“I want to march for who I am, not to oppose somebody,” said Anne Hartley, co-march organizer for Collier and Lee counties and professor of environmental science and civic engagement at Florida Gulf Coast University. “I want to be proactive, not reactive — I wouldn’t do it if it was just a march against Trump.”
Hartley and other organizers say their primary reason for participating is to experience a sense of solidarity with other women.
“This isn’t a protest. This is a rally, a movement, a march that’s inclusive to everyone,” said Florida march organizer Emma Collum. “If you voted for Trump and you believe women’s rights are human rights and you believe in a progressive Florida, then I really hope you’ll join us.”
The event has drawn more than 70 partners, including Planned Parenthood, the NAACP and Amnesty International. Famed feminist Gloria Steinem and humanitarian Harry Belafonte will be honorary co-chairs.
“We will keep working for a democracy in which we are linked as human beings, not ranked by race or gender or class or any other label,” Steinem said in an announcement.
Not all of the marching will take place in D.C. For those who can’t make the trek to the nation’s capital, more than 100 cities across the nation will be hosting “sister marches.” Florida has eight organized marches, including one in Naples, set to begin at 10 a.m Jan. 21 at Cambier Park. The international community will also be making their voices heard in Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and in a dozen cities throughout Europe.
While most Collier and Lee marchers will be flying individually to D.C., several overnight Rally Buses have been booked for those who prefer to travel in a group. The Naples Rally bus, which still has dozens of seats available, departs from Urban Estates at 12:30 p.m. Jan. 20 and returns at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 22. Riders will have from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the day of the march to explore D.C. and make their voices heard.
The cost for the round-trip bus ticket is $310. However, those who can’t foot the bill may have another option.
Collum created a charity called Sponsor a Marcher to fundraise for low-income Floridians who want to attend.
Donations can be made at www.fundraise.com. The effort has raised more than $20,000 of the $100,000 goal. Collum urges marchers in need of a sponsor to reach out to her through the Florida chapter’s Facebook event page.
“If this just becomes march about people who can afford to get to D.C., then we’ve failed,” she said.
The march will begin at 10 a.m. Jan. 21 in front of the U.S. Capitol at the intersection of Independence Avenue and Third Street SW.