The day after the global Women’s March on 21 January 2017, History Workshop Online asked marchers to submit their reflections, impressions and experiences of the day in order to help preserve its history. The first collection of responses can be found here.
We are grateful for all of the messages received. Though we received too many responses to publish them in their entirety on our website, we will ensure that they are all properly archived and preserved for posterity. If you attended the Women’s March in Washington DC and have signs or stories to share, please also consider contacting The Women’s March on Washington Archives Project or The Smithsonian. If you marched in London, you can get in touch with The Bishopsgate Institute which collects signs and placards from all London rallies and protests.
Read on for memories of the Women’s March from Washington DC, London, Paris, Vancouver, Dublin, Nova Scotia, Florida, North Carolina and California.
Shirley Schaeffer marched in Washington DC. [Submitted 28 January 2017]
Erin Skinner from Kansas marched in Washington, DC. [Submitted 25 January 2017]
My name is Erin Skinner. I’m 21 years old. I live in Kansas in the United States. In the picture above, I’m the one holding the sunflower. I marched in Washington, D.C. I first found out about the march through a friend on Facebook who was interested in going to the march in Topeka. When I found out there was a group going to D.C., I jumped at the chance. Everything was going great, until I had to tell my parents (who are staunch Trump supporters) that I planned to march. My mother tried to come up with all these excuses for why I shouldn’t go like “there will be strangers there” or “none of your friends are going—that should tell you something.” She even went as far as yelling at me about how it won’t do any good, and it’s pointless. She even told me, “Why can’t I have normal kids who do normal things!” After hearing that, from my own mother none-the-less, my enthusiasm and spirits about the march were pretty low.
When I got to the bus, and got to know all the women and men that were going with me, my spirits and enthusiasm were lifted. Getting to the march put me on cloud 9. […] We saw people with boom boxes blaring “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” We saw a little girl, standing on her porch dressed as Ariel, waving at us while her mother recorded/took pictures. Some of the locals even thanked us for being there and doing what we were doing. I was surrounded by people who were in the same boat as me. From a group of college age girls from England to a woman from India to a family from D.C., people were coming together, and it was so beautiful.
Once we finally got to the march, I had to hold back my tears. I saw signs that made me emotional, but one sign in particular got me. This guy was holding up a sign, it was two-sided. On one side, it said something about hugging a badass woman. On the other, it said, “Without A Badass Woman I Wouldn’t Be Here Today.” There was also a group of teens/young adults from France with a sign that said, “France Walks With You.” I wanted to go up and hug them. When we got to our spot, which was by a row of porta potties, people where getting on top of them to see over the crowd. One woman did, and she was taken aback by the crowd size. She wanted people to give her their phones so she could take a panorama of the crowd for them. I gave her my phone, and was not disappointed.
After that, a group of us had gotten restless because we weren’t marching, and it was already past 2:00. So, we decided to march on our own. Being in that march, I have never smiled more in my life. Around us, there were chants of “I am woman, hear me roar” to “Tell me what democracy looks like, this is what democracy looks like.” I don’t think it has still really hit me yet that I got to me apart of something so historic. I was apart of history. If I ever have kids, or whenever my niece/nephew is old enough, I’ll be able to say that I was on the right side of history.
Dr Peter Schauer marched in London. [Submitted 30 June 2017]
I made the Picard placard that Lu Williams photographed being held by Ian McKellen at the Women’s March London [Editor’s note: see below]. My friends and I began reusing this old meme in June of last year following the result of the Brexit vote, so it was a natural choice to print out and carry for the march on the day after Trump’s inauguration. After a sullen afternoon of downloading and printing images while the inauguration scrolled in the background, we were ready to march on Saturday.
After a morning of coffee, tape and staples, I walked into town with friends, one a veteran of the poll tax protests of the 80s, the other a photographer, to find the march was far larger than anyone expected. While we waited in the cold, we learned that the front of the march had already reached Trafalgar Square, and the sea of people around us was only a small part of an overwhelming response to the incoming administration’s agenda. Finally we were underway and the rest of the march passed peacefully and in good humour, with much singing and chanting from the women all around us. No one took much notice of the signs we were carrying beyond a few pictures and some requests for explanation of my friend’s broken emoji sign.
When we finally reached Trafalgar Square, we were among the last to be allowed in, as the police closed the street behind us due to overcrowding. We struggled through the crowd, hoping to hear the speeches, but it was so busy that we couldn’t hear anything, so we pressed through to the other side, emerging at St Martins, where people had already begun to leave their banners and signs in the railings. With some reluctance, and thinking I would rather remake it than store it until the next protest, I threaded the offcut handle of my sign through the railings and left.
Lu Williams from Essex marched in London. [Submitted 30 January 2017]
In an effort to combine my activist work through Grrrl Zine Fair and my own position as an artist; I sat down to create a visual pun. ‘IMPEACH’ my placard read. Hovering above the lettering sat a rather ridiculous peach, bejewelled with Trump’s livid features and his ill-famed hairstyle. The sign itself gained a fair amount of respectable nods during the march; but as I put this sign down, Sir Ian Mckellen picked up Peter’s. With perfect timing and forming an unadulterated composition for internet virality- I reached for my phone to capture Peters sign, left in the railings moments before. I posted the image to twitter immediately upon my realization that as quickly as I took the photo, Sir Ian had taken it from the railings. I was fully prepared to out myself as a Trekkie for such a wonderfully precarious meme moment- IRL.
The march for me embodied the urgency for solidarity between feminists that I hadn’t seen in my lifetime. It is these real world experiences which solidify us, marching alongside women of all genders and our allies, standing up to a homophobe on the bus, sharing a smile with an exhausted mother in a museum, the friendly nod between two unshaven femmes as they reach for the handrail on the tube. Despite the somewhat dislocated feeling between activism and seeing change, these real world experiences equate to self-preservation, togetherness and a glimmer of hope. It’s a really hard job being an activist – as those who spend more than ten minutes on red-pill Reddit know all too well.
I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to reflect on the march; how important it is to keep the energy seen across the world ablaze in the years to come; as my phone went wild overnight.
We were both shocked that the image circulated so widely, in comparison to the thousands of more urgent statements we saw both in London and online, especially those that read “I can’t believe we still have to protest this”. We are thankful to Sir Ian McKellen for his positive message, and hope that some who saw the image also read his statement, in which he states that we “cannot let [Trump] reign unchallenged”. We hope that this message will have reached people and communities who would not otherwise view protest photos, though we are also aware that the image and text were quickly disconnected, and the image of “Magneto” holding a sign of a facepalm became another in an endless parade of visual gags in the churn of the internet. Worse still were those communities which turned the message around and saw only a man holding a picture of another man facepalming a protest led by women, and those that asked why non-Americans should care who the president is. This is wrong, as Sir Ian stated, Trump’s presidency has impacted us all, and inaccurate, as the maker of this sign is, in fact an American, who supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries, voted against Brexit, and voted for Hillary Clinton in November. These failures might well lead to despair and resignation, an eternal facepalm as one reads each new account of political disaster on both sides of the Atlantic, but the march, and Sir Ian McKellen’s message, gives us hope that not all will take things as they are given, and that those who seek to turn back the clock on progress will not have the loudest voice or the last word.
Melissa Merritt marched in the Sandy Cove, Digby Neck march in Nova, Scotia Canada. [Submitted 29 January 2017]
A short video of our march went viral and the whole world seemed to be enthralled with our mini group of 15.
I marched for many reasons. I oppose all Trump’s tyranny as did most participants in the marches world wide. On a personal level, I marched for the many abused women in my rural community. I am not sure why women still have to endure the misogyny that they do but as I marched my thoughts were also on the women that hold others down.
The sad truth is; women are sometimes just as tough or worse to other women. The marches were such a great triumph over this. Millions of women walking together.
I felt strong, worthy and happy to be a woman. Let the women of the world unite against evil.
Dr Ruth Evans marched in Washington DC. [Submitted 25 January 2017]
I was at the March in Washington D.C. I am a British Citizen, but a US Permanent Resident. I live in St Louis, Missouri, and work at Saint Louis University. I’m a feminist, and wanted to record my deep concern about where Trump’s administration might be taking us. The buses to DC from St Louis were full, so I and a friend took a bus from Springfield, Illinois. We had to drive one and a half hours to Springfield, and then 12 hours to DC. And back.
I’ve never been on such an exhilarating and politically inventive march. It was packed with people, overflowing into all the streets of the capital, making our point over and over again, in slogans and chants and wonderfully outlandish costumes and artifacts (one person bore aloft a huge knitted model of the female reproductive system, pink Fallopian tubes and all). Our vast and undeniably impressive and unignorable physical presence was overwhelming. It was a huge movement of resistance to Trump’s persistent denigration of women and their rights. There was not a single arrest. This was due in part to the nature of the demonstrators, but also to the fact that security was minimal, and that the police and national guard in DC were completely relaxed, and even on our side. there was no aggression from anyone. Some commentators observed that it was a very white demonstration. I’d like to record that there was nevertheless a strong African American and Muslim presence (on the way back to the bus on the Metro we sat next to 5 young Muslim women in hijabs who’d all been on the march).
Why did I go? Because I wanted to march alongside women (and men) of color, LGBTQ people, trans people (yes, singling them out), women (and men) of different faiths and of no faiths, the vulnerable and the not so vulnerable, the poor and the not poor, immigrants and illegal immigrants and citizens and permanent residents (I’m one) because I think we do have a solidarity and I think that that tentative solidarity is important right now, politically and rhetorically; because I am concerned about the prospect of women’s rights’ legislation being rolled back under the next administration and I want to protest that; because I am concerned that federal funding for women’s health and workplace issues will be withdrawn or severely curtailed under the next administration; because it will be part of history.
Alice Jorgensen marched in Dublin [Response submitted 29 January 2017]
I’m English by birth but have lived in Ireland since 2006, when I came here to take up a post at Trinity College, Dublin. My husband joined me shortly afterwards and we have two children born in Dublin. I wanted to take part in the march out of love for my many American friends, almost all of whom are horrified by developments in their country, and out of my own sense of appalled helplessness at Donald Trump’s election victory.
I haven’t been on many protest marches and made the rookie error of turning up early. At 11.45am (the advertised start was 12 noon) there were only a few people at the Garden of Remembrance and I braced myself for an embarrassingly feeble protest. I met a (male) friend very quickly and we chattered somewhat nervously together. But the crowd grew and grew. By the time some other friends texted to say they were there it was difficult to force our way through all the people to where they were standing. I think the march set off around 12.30.
I didn’t have a banner or a pussy hat. There were fewer pink hats than I expected, but there were some very fine ones. We marched down O’Connell Street. It was only at O’Connell Bridge that I realized quite how big the crowd now was, as the front of the march had already crossed it coming back as we were crossing it going south. The route looped down D’Olier Street, round to College Green and back up.
The crowd was fairly loose, no crush, and we chatted as we walked. Chants didn’t really get going in our sector. But there were some excellent signs and banners, and a Mexican lady had made a Donald Trump piñata that she was pulling behind her on an upright trolley!
Afterwards, seeing all the images of the different marches on social media, I became really moved to have been part of such a huge, beautiful, idealistic moment. It was an incredible relief from the sensation of gloom and helplessness that has gripped me more and more through the last few years – it gave me a sense that there were still people who value what I value, who believe in openness, tolerance, equality, minority rights. […] Read more at Alice’s blog here.
Holly Maturzo marched in Jacksonville, Florida [Submitted 28 January 2017]
The handmade sign that stays with me from the march in Jacksonville, not only in my mind, in my heart, but as a tremor through my body as when I first saw it stoically carried. An older woman with shoulder-length, greying hair tucked under a dark blue cap stood still on the edge of the curb at the roundabout where the marchers circled the statue of Andrew Jackson. She wore a long, black knit dress and white sneakers and held a copper walking cane; moving and standing was not comfortable, yet she was fiercely determined to present herself and her message. Her cap bore the distinguished bold and crisp embroidery of the U.S. Navy’s insignia and the words “U.S. Navy Retired.” She demanded attention, holding an elongated white poster board across her midsection on which several shades of fluorescent marker read: “DID YOU ASSUME THAT I AM WEARING MY DAD’S HAT? OR MY BROTHER’S MAYBE? THEN YOU ARE THE REASON I’M HERE.” My shoulders shook with tears. I’m sorry.I’m sorry, my body seemed to want to say. How many women from how many different walks of life have felt this mis-seen, this invisible. She told one of the local papers that the march had given her a feeling for life again, more than having gotten her out of her house it lifted her depression that one sensed was caused by much more than one election. And that is a core of the gift and wisdom of handmade participation. Everyone *is* an artist. *Everyone* is a creator. This, too, is a human right. It is not only for those of us who somehow have managed to create lives and careers around art. That is the first false story I would challenge among all the partisan narratives. It is not that artists are more left-leaning or more progressive. It is that all people, left, right, center or ambivalent can engage their artistic potency, however imperfectly, however sporadically, and when we do so we positively surprise ourselves with what is possible. We rediscover what is and has been so humanly present all along. [Read more at Holly’s blog here.]
Marybeth Hamilton from Columbus Ohio marched in Washington DC. [Submitted 23 January 2017]
I decided to attend the DC March seven days after the election, simply because learning about the plans to hold it was the first piece of news in that dreadful week that didn’t leave me feeling like crawling under a rock. My two friends and I drove out from Columbus on the day of the inauguration. At 11:45 am I began huddling in the corner of the back seat so that I could not see the dashboard clock. The prospect of witnessing the exact moment when Trump would take the oath of office felt like awaiting an execution, the decimating of any sense of hope.
In the end, the March was more exhilarating, galvanizing, and, yes, hope-inducing than I ever could have anticipated. Not that it was without drawbacks: a seemingly complete lack of volunteer marshals created a lot of crowd confusion, and a curious decision (perhaps forced upon the organizers by DC permit requirements?) to hold the rally first and the march second temporarily depleted our collective energy. (After standing in one place for six hours, the crowd around me grew seriously exasperated, a situation that not even hearing Madonna shout ‘FUCK YOU!’ to the March’s critics could entirely redress.) And, at a fundamental level, labelling this as a “women’s” march felt at the very least peculiar, if not seriously misguided, given that the majority of white women voted for Trump.
Yet once we were marching – shouting and chanting down the back of the Mall toward the Washington Monument and from there to the White House – all of my misgivings evaporated. The sense of collective purpose, of shared outrage, was palpable and rejuvenating, for me and for everyone I spoke to and saw. At regular intervals we witnessed moments of transcendent beauty: the seven-year-old screaming herself hoarse demanding “GIRL POWER”; the defiant young woman standing in front of the Washington Monument with a sign declaring “My Abortion Was Fabulous – Thanks”; the impromptu ecstatic rave that erupted around an enclave of hate-filled signs planted by the reactionary Westboro Baptist Church.
The sheer scale of what we were witnessing truly came home only after the March, when we were able to get reception on our phones and see the aerial photos that revealed the size of the DC crowd. With that, too, came the pictures and reports of the explosion of outrage and defiance and solidarity in cities and countries around the world. I’d come to Washington in mourning and I left in celebration. It was magical, inspiring, and utterly extraordinary.
Lise Henderson marched in Vancouver, BC [Submitted 24 January 2017]
I marched in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, along with more than 2,000 others, women and men, young and old. Living so close to the United States is very unnerving right now, so it was heartening to see so many people prepared to express their extreme distaste for the new regime there. Our march for women’s rights was a march for human rights for people of all genders, ethnicities and religions. In these distressing times it felt good to be part of an international movement that will hopefully be a wake-up call to political leaders everywhere.
Margaret Hallah from Brighton [Submitted 23 January 2017]
I have been a feminist all of my life but never found a political party which spoke for me. I was so happy when the Womens Equality Party was set up and am a founder member. I’ve been unwell and would not have felt able to go on the march on my own. It was great to travel with and have the support of my colleagues from Brighton and then to meet up with all the other members and supporters of the Women’s Equality Party from across the country.
I was marching against the normalisation of misogyny and creeping sexism which provides the breeding ground for male abuse and violence against women. For respect for women as people, not just as the mothers, sisters and daughters of men. I marched for and with my daughter for a better and more compassionate world for her and for any children she and her friends may have in the future. And I marched for myself because I can’t and won’t sit back and see progress towards women’s equality turned back. Not only that but I came across Grayson Perry and was so pleased to have my photo taken with him!
Sharon Archer from Raleigh, North Carolina [Submitted 25 January 2017]
I marched in Raleigh, NC where organizers announced there were at least 17,000 in attendance! It was an amazing experience. I was overwhelmed with emotion as I started getting close to the March staging area as I couldn’t believe how many people showed up. The energy was so positive and uplifting.
At the rally, an elderly lady collapsed behind me. So many woman stepped up to help. The woman were doctors, PAs, and nurses of varying ethnicity. Police officers made their way through the crowd to help getting the woman out. The officers were kind and respectful to the crowd and vise versa.
My friends and I left so energized knowing that woman will no longer be silent and that we will be a force to be reckon with!
Hayley Johnson marched in Los Angeles [Submitted 25 January 2017]
I will never forget the moment I walked out of the metro station at Pershing Square (DTLA) to be greeted by a colossal sea of humans moving as one for the Women’s March. Was this real? I was speechless and overwhelmed by the gravity of the scene, both literally and figuratively. I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way again, or a see a city so electrified by passion, courage, and power. I woke up the next day with a renewed sense of confidence in myself and my country after months of disquiet. This first glimpse from the LA March is seared into my mind, and my vision of the future. When I’m feeling lost & helpless, it will be a reminder of the sentiment I seek.
Lisa Murphy marched in Oakland, California [Submitted 23 January 2017]
~100,000 people walking, talking, chanting. Everyone friendly and positive w/ their fellow marchers. The marchers consisted of: babies and kids in strollers, elderly women in wheelchairs, women of all ages and ethnicities, men, transgender, and other allies of women. There were signs to make you think, signs that let you share in the disbelief that we are at this point in our nation, signs that made you cry, signs that made you laugh, and signs that had chants.
My favorite chant of the day was:
Leader: “Tell me what democracy looks like” Response: “This Is What Democracy Looks Like!”
A provocative moment: A 70+ year old woman in a wheelchair w/ a sign that said, ‘I am out here because after 71 years of progress, I do not like what I am seeing. ‘
Manisha Ganguly marched in Paris [Submitted 12 February 2017]
In Paris, more than 7,000 women showed up at the Women’s March, to protest Trump’s history of sexual assault, sexist comments and misogyny. With chants of “My neck, my back, my pussy grabs back”, “Fuck Trump” and a brass band playing music from the Spanish Civil War, the march made its way from Human Rights Square to Wall of Peace in front of l’Ecole Militaire, guided by seven police vans.The march had participation from 53 feminist and womyn’s organisations in Paris, including Alliance des Femmes pour la Démocratie, L’Amicale du Nid, Aufeminin.com, Parti socialiste, Le Planning Familial, Regards de Femmes and SOS Racisme. Organised through a Facebook event page, the march had 8500 expressing their interest in it. [See more pictures at Manisha’s blog here]