Is there anything remaining to be said about that glorious day that brought so many joyfully to the streets? Probably not. It was captured worldwide on televisions and phone screens and the front pages of newspapers. For the multitude of participants, it remains a treasured memory, a small beacon of hope that even in the grey of winter, the sun breaks through with brilliance.
For those who came of age on the crest of the second wave of feminism, it was déjà vu. Helen Reddy’s anthem to women’s power made a comeback, emblazoned on signs carried by women who were not yet born when she first proclaimed “I am Woman/ Hear me ROAR!” For others, it was their first taste of activism, their first stretching of the muscles of civic pride and ownership.
I walked with my youngest daughter and her friend, an art teacher from a suburban Catholic school. And while it was not Moira’s first time on the street, it was the first time she chose to be there, joining her mother not as reluctant accessory but as an informed and passionate women in her own right. And while the faces and slogans of second wave feminism were prominent, they did not dominate.
Indeed the crowd gathered that day on the streets of Chicago bore testimony to the progress we have made since the sixties. Once criticized as a movement of white middle class women, these women, and men, reflected the resplendent conversion which has transformed gender politics and resistance. Women and men of all ages and ability, of all gender permutations and sexual preferences, crowded together forming a human rainbow of possibilities.
One of the more prominent signs bore the face of a beautiful woman adorned in an American flag hijab. It hardly mattered that people could barely move, so compressed were we along the main thoroughfares of downtown Chicago. We were brought to a literal standstill by a shared action of solidarity that exceeded our greatest expectations.
“There is no more march,” was the directive which spread through the masses. So we stood in place, gazing eastward toward Columbus Drive where the speakers held court for those early participants who were able to get within earshot of the bandstand. It hardly mattered. We basked in the sunshine and in each other’s presence and we speculated as to the size of our numbers (250,000? really, after a certain point, does it matter?)
Eventually the tribe split in two, with some following the call to head west toward Federal Plaza and others of us seizing the opportunity to snake our way toward the speakers’ stage. There in the blessed noonday sun, women of all ages and costumes danced among those seated in wheelchairs and folding chairs and those standing and smiling and greeting old friends and new acquaintances.
And as for the man in Washington or Florida who engendered this outpouring of human connection– he, also, hardly mattered.
The wave of love and compassion and belonging washed over all such pettiness and divisiveness and we glistened with renewed hope. How could we not when Mother Nature Herself granted us such a day of renewal in the midst of our winter? And those of us who stood with the young women who will carry forward this movement of inclusion and caring remembered those who came before and testified with their lives:
Thank you, Margaret. The village is in good hands.
Gerry Gorman, Ph.D.
Margaret’s Village Board member