PORTLAND — Hundreds of thousands of women are expected to descend on the nation’s capitol this week to take part in the Women’s March on Washington, which is scheduled for the morning of Jan. 21.
Among them will be several thousand women from Maine, including a variety of area residents who say their participation is about advocacy, not protesting President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration.
Even so, it’s the often divisive and disparaging rhetoric that permeated the presidential election that has some marchers fearing women, minorities and other groups who have made significant strides toward equal rights will now be pushed back to the margins.
Organizers of the Women’s March, which has inspired local marches around the country – including one in Portland, which will start at the Eastern Prom at 10 a.m. Saturday – say on their web page that “the rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us.”
So, the website says, “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.
“The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”
Susan Harrison, of Portland, and Kristen Farnham, of Falmouth, are two of the organizers of the Maine contingent that will travel to D.C.
Both women said their involvement in the event stems from their belief that citizens have a responsibility to stand up for the rights of themselves and others, particularly when those rights seem to be under attack.
“It’s very important to me to stand up for the protection of everyone’s rights, safety, and health, as well as for the safeguarding of our one and only environment,” Harrison said.
And, Farnham said, “I believe that there is a social contract, in which our citizenship comes with both rights and responsibilities. Part of our shared responsibility is to offer all people the opportunity to lead safe, productive, and healthy lives.”
Neither woman is surprised by the outpouring of support for the Women’s March, nor the desire of so many women to take part.
“We have been delighted and humbled by the tidal wave of interest and participation,” Farnham said. “There is a history in Maine of civic engagement (and the thousands in Maine who are engaged in this effort) demonstrate that this spirit is thriving and will be carried forward into the next four years and (beyond).”
In terms of her hopes for the Women’s March, she said it “will give voice to the shared values held by millions of people across America. We … support policies that protect people of all faiths, races, and sexual orientations, provide access to affordable health care and protect the environment.
“Our country has made tremendous progress in these areas and we are not interested in moving backwards. We hope that giving voice to these values reinforces them with our public officials and has a ripple effect out into the future,” Farnham said.
Both women also said the march and the enthusiasm being generated has been “a wonderfully effective way to galvanize people.” Harrison said it’s their hope to keep the momentum going long after the march is over.
“We have seen an increased level of awareness and activism overall since the election,” Farnham said. “The Women’s March is one way to express that, but I expect to see much more civic participation going forward. This could manifest in any number of ways, including calls to legislators, public testimony, volunteering, donations, letters to the editor and running for office.”
In all, she said those organizing the Maine contingent have received more than $20,000 in donations and more than 25 buses full of participants will roll from Maine to the nation’s capital.
For Stephanie Brady, of Scarborough, taking part in the Women’s March is important not only for herself, but also as a lesson for her children.
“I think it’s imperative to demonstrate to both of my middle school-aged children that I’m actively doing something (and that) collectively we can make an impact,” Brady said.
After the election, she said, “I felt completely discouraged and defeated and needed to do something; take action somehow. I want to be an inspiration to my kids and have them see that I didn’t just stand idly by and accept this. I have a 12-year-old son and it’s important that he understands that these are not simply female issues.”
Overall, Brady said her hope for the march is that “we will send a clear message globally that we did not vote for this man, we’re not on board with who he is or what he represents and want more for this country. This is an important moment in history.”
To keep momentum going after the march, Brady said she’s already renewed her membership to Ms. and the Feminist Majority Foundation. She has also pledged support to Planned Parenthood.
And, she said, “I’ll continue to have an open dialogue with my family about how election outcomes may potentially impact causes I’m passionate about. I’m concerned we are going backward as a nation, not making forward progress. I want to ensure that does not happen however I can.”
Gloria Peterson, of Brunswick, said she will march because “after the election I needed to do something. In the days after the election I was scared, angry, depressed and confused. I felt like my whole perception of this country was completely flipped upside down.”
So, she’s hopeful that “taking part in this march will help me on the path to heal(ing) and give me the strength to stand up for what I believe in and prove to myself that I am not alone in this.”
Peterson said the message of the Trump administration and lawmakers seems to be that they could eliminate the progress of not only the Obama administration, but that of so many before him. “I am participating in this march not because I am against anything, but because I am for progress and equality,” she said.
Like some of the other local women taking part in the Women’s March, Peterson is also doing this as a lesson for her young son.
“I want him to grow up and see that you stand up to bullies and that as an American in a democracy you have the right to protest what you don’t think represents the values of the country,” she said. “I (also) want him to grow up in a progressive and inclusive country.”
Overall, Peterson said, her hope is the march opens a dialogue between the incoming administration and the people they seem to be targeting.
“I hope that it makes them think twice before they repeal the (Affordable Care Act), build a wall, go forward with their ridiculous criminal justice programs, de-fund climate change research, de-fund Planned Parenthood, de-fund public education and move forward with their mass deportation plans,” she said.
Her future plans include running for political office. “I want to set an example for my son,” Peterson said.
Nicki Hudson, of Westbrook, said she’s going to D.C. because “there is a large segment of the population who sent a message that women, people of color, immigrants, refugees, and people with disabilities don’t matter (with their votes). I am marching to remind President-elect Trump, and his supporters that the rights of all citizens are to be protected and valued.”
Hudson has a son and daughter, and said “I need to do everything I can to create an inclusive environment where my daughter will be treated as an equal to my son. I want to show both of my children that the treatment of women and the opinions of women matter.”
She added, “My hope for the event is that a large number of supporters will congregate together to make a strong and unified statement that women’s rights are human rights. The incoming administration is accountable to all of us (and) it’s our job, as the opposition, to be a frequent reminder of what we expect from our leaders.”
Robin Matthews, a Windham nurse who cares for victims of sexual assault, said she was motivated to take part in the Women’s March because “President-elect Trump’s attitude towards woman is horrifying (and) I am concerned (about) how we are going to end sexual violence.”
She also said she’s marching because “I have concerns that woman’s rights and voices may turn back to the 1950s (especially) if we do not come together as a country and make known that we are not second-class citizens.”
Matthews said her hope for the Women’s March is that “our country will be educated on the concerns of woman, minorities, children and immigrants. My goal is not to perpetuate anger, but to collectively bring together energized individuals to work with our administration. To move forward, not backward, in the treatment of woman, minorities, children and immigrants.”
Harrison said anyone interested in supporting the Mainers taking part in the Women’s March on Washington “can add their name on our Facebook page and a marcher will represent them.”
In summing up her thoughts on the march, Farnham said, “The response to this has been overwhelming and very moving, with people coming together from all over the state in love and support.”
Women’s March organizer Genevieve Morgan of Portland at work on a sign.(Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)Abby Zimet of Portland, left, and Deb Bickford of Buxton paint signs while Simon Adams and his son Henry, 5, of Gray, look on in Portland Sunday, Jan. 15, during a gathering to prepare for the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington. (Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)Jennifer Jones of Falmouth, seated, paints a sign Sunday during a Portland gathering in preparation for the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington. Maine organizer Kristen Farnham and her daughter Audrey, 9, of Falmouth, stand to Jones’ left.(Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)Meg Lannon of Scarborough, left, Robin Rubin of York and Lisa Glines of Portland prepare signs Sunday, Jan. 15, in Portland in preparation for the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington.(Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)Women’s March Maine organizers Genevieve Morgan of Portland, left, and Kristen Farnham of Falmouth, seated, with Farnham’s daughter Audrey, 9.(Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)Jodi Langelier of Buxton creates a sign Sunday, Jan. 15, in Portland in preparation for the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21.(Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)Simon Adams and his son Henry, 5, of Gray, paint a sign Sunday, Jan. 15, in Portland in preparation for the Jan. 21 Women’s March in Washington, D.C.(Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)Jennifer Jones of Falmouth paints a “No Means No” sign in Portland on Sunday, Jan. 15, in preparation for the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington.(Dan D’Ippolito / For The Forecaster)