In 1869, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and a few other women birthed the movement that gave women the right to vote. In 1974, Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty birthed the Christian feminism movement with their book All We’re Meant to Be: A Biblical Approach to Women’s Liberation and their subsequent founding, along with a few other women, of an organization now called Evangelical & Ecumenical Women’s Caucus-Christian Feminism Today (EEWC-CFT). On November 9, 2016, Teresa Shook, a retired attorney and grandmother living in Hawaii, birthed a movement to preserve and expand women’s rights and all human rights. A small group of visionary women have changed the course of history.
The January 21, 2017, Women’s March on Washington began on November 9 with one woman’s creating a Facebook event page. Before she went to bed that night, she had 40 responses. When she woke up the next morning, she had more than 10,000. Soon sister marches sprang up in cities in all 50 US states and more than 75 countries around the world, drawing an estimated 3.2 million people.
Now I must tell you that I’d rather write than march. I’d rather be alone or with a few friends or family members than in large crowds. But I felt compelled to join the sister march in Austin, Texas, and I’m so glad I did. It was an incredible, empowering, inspiring experience.
Finally getting through heavy traffic into Austin, I was moved to tears as I saw crowds of people gathering in colorful hats and shirts, holding signs with messages of justice and peace. I met my friends Judith Liro ( priest of St. Hildegard’s Community, featured in She Lives! and on my blog), Francesca, Sarah, Wyatt, and others from St. Hildegard’s.
We were just in time to fall in step with the throngs to inch our way down Congress Avenue to the state Capitol. No one pushed or shoved or spoke anything but words of peace and kindness and passion for justice. Some held signs advertising “free hugs.” Many of the signs quoted Hillary Rodham Clinton’s famous statement at the 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women: “Women’s rights are human rights.”
Excitement and joy filled the air as we marched for more than an hour to chants and drumming. We spoke with many people along the way, taking pictures with their enthusiastic permission. The amazingly diverse crowd, estimated at 50,000, moved slowly along, some in wheelchairs and some in baby strollers—various ages, genders, races, gender identities, religions, abilities, political parties. Even dogs joined the march and were as polite as the people!
When we reached the Capitol, I was awestruck by the sea of people and signs. Our spirits continued to soar as we stood crammed together for more than two hours of stirring speeches and music. Sheryl Cole, the first black woman elected to Austin City Council, told the crowd that her son attends the University of Pennsylvania where he received a mass text threatening him after the election. She told the cheering crowd she is now more “fired up” than ever to take action. Congressman Lloyd Doggett also spoke words of hope: “This is not a time for despair; it’s a time for democracy.” Sarah Wheat of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas called on us to challenge the Texas Legislature which “every session tries to find a way to cut women’s health care.” Chuck Smith of Equality Texas said his LGBTQ rights group came to stand in solidarity with Planned Parenthood to support health care access for all. Senator Wendy Davis challenged us to take the energy of the march into local organizing, contacting representatives, and running for office. Pointing to the Goddess of Liberty crowning the Texas State Capitol dome, she inspired us to protect and expand freedoms for women and for all.
The Women’s March renewed my resolve to work for women’s rights and all human rights through Equity for Women in the Church, Christian Feminism Today, Dallas Gathering of Religious Leaders, and other justice-making organizations. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Letha Dawson Scanzoni, Nancy Hardesty, Theresa Shook, and other visionary women show us how to change history.
Published on Christian Feminism Today. Used with permission.