Reflecting on the Women’s March on Washington on International Women’s Day


By Bridget O'Toole

My body, my mind, my power; my right to choose; my right to be; my right to equality and a president who believes in it. On Saturday, January 21, I fought for this, we joined together and fought for this.

It’s safe to say no one expected the turnout that occurred at the Women’s March on Washington, as well as marches around the world. The sheer amount of people that came to protest, and protest peacefully was amazing. I was honored to be a part of history.

I woke up the happiest I have ever been at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday, I was excited to make a change, and to feel as if I had a voice. I decked out in pink, threw on my pink beanie and was out the door. By 6:00, I was at the Metro stop in Shady Grove, floored by the amount of women and pink that I saw just there.

Slowly, as the 45 minute ride to Washington D.C. wore on and each stop welcomed more pink hats, the metro became cramped. Every nook and cranny was filled with women and when we finally filed out of the metro car, a sea of pink spilled out.

Walking towards where the speakers were assembled, there was no denying history was about to be made. Blocks and blocks away from Constitution Avenue pink still remained the most prominent color of the day.

When I arrived at the starting place of the march, the energy was overwhelming, the posters were brilliant and held with dignity, and chants had already started. The most prevalent signs were those referencing Hillary Clinton’s quote, “Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights,” as well as a play on words regarding some of Donald Trump’s most controversial remarks towards women and the comments he made in the Access Hollywood video.

It was obvious that the March organizers could tell that the crowd would far exceed what they had been expecting.  This caused them to cancel the original march route and reroute the procession towards the White House.  The area in front of the stage was filled and the crowd poured down Constitution Ave.  The area behind the stage also filled up, with the National mall filling to the brim. Standing a good deal away from the stage I had no room to move and literally had no elbow room, as I came close to elbowing others around me with the slightest misstep.

The speakers came well prepared and were passionate about a broad range of issues including paid family leave, anti-discrimination protections, a living minimum wage and immigration reform to name a few. Their words drew a great deal of applause and cheers, including from myself.

Standout speeches came from America Ferrera, Michael Moore, Van Jones, Scarlett Johansson, Cecile Richards, Gloria Steinem, as well as the Mother’s of the Movement.

I stood watching a jumbotron as speeches came and went and eventually fatigue hit around me.  An older woman next to me felt light headed and had to sit in the middle of the street as she vomited. The day was long and remaining standing and stationary for about 6 hours took a toll on some.  What was amazing was how everyone supported each other during this time – handing out extra sandwiches or water to those who were hungry and thirsty, or making room for someone to sit if they needed to rest.

I became friendly with those around as the sense of community became visibly overwhelming. Photographers and those looking for a better vantage point climbed trees near us.  Those around the trees would help them climb up and descend so they could have an optimum spot to watch history unfold before their eyes.

Those with extra food offered it to those around them; my favorite being a cookie that a woman from Wyoming had made at her bakery, they were delectable and kept me going for a few more hours after I had eaten one.

The music performances were also quite inspiring, songs by Alicia Keys, Janelle Monae and Madonna kept the crowd upbeat as many became restless with the many speeches from unknown people, they wanted to begin marching or listen to speeches from more familiar faces.

Most around me began marching before the organizers of the march said it was time for us to depart. The speeches had gone long over the allotted time and they didn’t attempt to stop us due to the substantial amount of people in the streets.

Marching was very slow at first, as some people didn’t want to begin until we were dismissed, but the majority had already commenced in marching. As we began marching, Madonna began singing and I’ve never felt more empowered than I did marching to the beat of “Express Yourself”.

It felt odd walking through streets that hundreds of thousands of cars drive on throughout the day. Different groups branched off as we marched and it seemed as if we had completely taken over D.C. These people caused a great deal of mayhem because they walked on streets that weren’t closed and traffic on some roads came to a standstill.  Many police officers who were trying to maintain order said they hadn’t expected the turnout and the march was a much bigger and harder event for them to coordinate than the Inauguration just a day before.

The march lasted for hours and we were encouraged by those in buildings waving and cheering us on. Chants were said with pride and signs were still proudly held. My favorite chants included “This is what democracy looks like,” “When they go low, we go high” “Hey hey, ho ho, Donald Trump has got to go” and many more.

Eventually I broke off from the crowd near a restaurant, Rosa Mexicano, and had to wait for about two hours to eat dinner because there were so many people in the area. Once again, pink was the most prominent color in the restaurant; gathered in that space with those women was an incredible feeling.

The news came on at the restaurant and we got to see the history we were a part of.  It was an amazing feeling to see and hear about the numbers at the march and to realize that I had been a part of that.  We watched the press conference that Sean Spicer held in which he talked of Inauguration crowds that were larger than our march, the entire restaurant erupted in boo’s, knowing that the story was false.

Reflecting on this march on International Women’s Day, I realize how important it was for me as well as the thousands of other women to march. The march gave me a sense of community and unity that I struggle to find living in a conservative leaning town.

Women are at the foreground of their potential and this march showed what we can do when we come together. Since the march, more women have been running for office; in fact, I was inspired to intern at Emerge Maryland, a program that trains women to run for office. I now realize that my small voice can really make a difference, as it did at the march.

This march rendered a picture of strong women; that I won’t stop fighting, and we won’t stop fighting against the power that has been shifted to a divisive administration. The power will always lie within women, because when we unite we can fight just about anything.

Marching allowed me to see what democracy looks like, what togetherness looks like, and what the America I believe in looks like. I have the power, and we have the power, and it’s time this nation stops underestimating women. We’re the 51% and we can do this.