“I marched with my 1-year-old daughter Donatella Laia,” Andrea Rojas Solari, 38, who attended the Women’s March on Washington, told Women in the World. She and her daughter joined a sea of more half a million peaceful marchers to stand up for the dignity and equality of women in a political environment that has been increasingly hostile. Rojas Solari grew up in a dictatorship in Chile but has lived in Washington, D.C., since 2013. “My mother brought me to protest marches where we sang songs of freedom and resistance. Our voices were ultimately heard and democracy arrived to Chile,”Rojas Solari recalled. “Those marches had a profound impact on me and eventually inspired me to a career dedicated to fighting for human rights.”
Marcia Plant Jackson, 68, a nurse practitioner from Leverett, Massachusetts, marched with her daughter Rose Jackson, 32, who lives in D.C. and is a senior policy advisor at the Open Society Foundation. Jackson said, “We’ve created these incredible activist daughters who are shaping the world in so many spheres. They can’t imagine what it was like to have an illegal abortion. I had a classmate in college who had to get on a train, go into New York City, meet somebody with a car and be blindfolded and driven somewhere to get an abortion. And I’m not that old. I keep saying to people, ‘this is what’s going to happen,'” she said.
Jackson said she was deeply concerned about the future of reproductive rights in the U.S., commenting, “I was often railing at my 32-year-old daughter, ‘What’s the matter with millennials? Don’t they understand how horrible this could be?’” She and her daughter discussed how the anti-abortion movement had managed to steal the language of life, and Marcia argued, “I am a nurse practitioner. I save lives. I am pro-life from pregnancy to grave. And I believe absolutely in the right for a woman to choose her reproductive story.”
Maria Stephan, 39, lives in D.C. and is the co-author of Why Civil Resistance Works. Stephan marched with her mom, Marianne, 75, who lives in Clarendon, Vermont. Maria and her mother discussed their support for Planned Parenthood, and Maria commented, “The irony is that the number of abortions has plummeted, and the organization that has been responsible for the plummeting of abortions is being targeted. How have we not won the battle that Planned Parenthood is pro-life?” Her mother Marianne was concerned about the current political culture, one in which a presidential candidate openly mocked a disabled person. She said, “I feel very honestly that I don’t like to see people bullied. I don’t like to see people made fun of. I want to stop this hatred, these lies.”
Many women who participated in the march, including Linda Sarsour, director of the Arab American Association of New York and one of the national co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington, were motivated by their mother’s experiences and memories of the impact of the previous generation’s fight for equality. At the march, Sarsour told the crowd, which stretched down Independence Avenue as far as the eye could see, “I organize for my mother. I march for my daughter and all my children.”
Among those listening to Sarsour was journalist Lauren Bohn, 29, who flew in from Istanbul, Turkey, to march with her mom Nancy, 55, who lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Discussing her motivation to attend the march, Bohn said, “I’ve been covering civil unrest — revolution and devolution — in the Middle East for the past six years. Never did I think I’d fly home to march on Washington, D.C. with my mother. I am feeling all the feels and privileged … that this was the first time I took to the streets in my own country. As I’ve learned all too acutely in the Middle East, protests and marches are only the beginning.” The day after the march, the organizers launched the 10 Actions 100 Days Campaign to keep the millions across the nation who participated in Women’s Marches engaged in ensuring basic women’s rights and seeking greater equality.
An estimated 45,000 people with disabilities participated in the Women’s March on Washington, including Gail Davis who sat in a wheelchair holding a “Stronger Together” sign and was accompanied by her daughters, Tracey Stawn and Jodi Thomas. “We came up from Orlando, Florida to march together,” said Davis.
Meg McNeill, 32, who lives in New York City, marched with her mom, Sue, 64, who was a Vietnam War protestor, and her dad, Steve, a Vietnam vet. “My mom has been sad and scared, like many of us, ever since the election. I think this march was incredibly invigorating for all of us, especially her,”McNeill explained the day after the march. “We were literally dancing down the street. I feel grateful that this is who taught me how to be a woman.” Her mother added, “The march was a healing experience even though I didn’t think we would ever have to fight for some of these basic freedoms and rights again. I was so glad to march with Meg at my side so she can carry the torch forward beyond my lifetime.”
D.C. natives were out in force, among them Frances Williams, 49, who marched with her sister Veronica, 45, and her nieces Tatyana, 17, Ashanti, 26, Kiantay, 21, and her great nephew Nolan, 1. The day after the march, Williams was still elated and said, “Yesterday was amazing. My family and I are still on cloud nine because we saw so many amazing women who came together for this peaceful march. My nieces kept talking about how polite and nice people were.”
Her nieces were particularly impressed by 6-year-old speaker and activist Sophie Cruz, an American citizen whose parents are undocumented immigrants. Cruz, who was among a group of speakers that included activist Angela Davis and actress America Ferrera, spoke to marchers in both English and Spanish reminding them, “We are here together making a chain of love to protect our families. Let us fight with love, faith, and courage so that our families will not be destroyed.”
As for Rojas Solari, the woman from Chile, she has never forgotten what life is like in a dictatorship. After marching with her daughter she reflected, “I hope by bringing my daughter to the Women’s March that she learns to respect diversity and that she is inspired to take a stand for what she believes in. I want her to understand the power of people uniting for a common cause to overcome unjust governments. Although it was not comfortable carrying my daughter for many hours and miles during the march, I was touched by the kindness and spirit of solidarity of my fellow marchers. I am sure my daughter will always hold part of that spirit in her heart.”
Rojas Solari and her daughter Donatella Laia, like the hundreds of thousands of women who participated in the Women’s March on Washington, ended the day near the White House, where they laid down their protests signs to form part of a message, which stretched across the city proclaiming once again “Women’s rights are human rights!”