Women’s March on Washington- Five Years Later

The first Women’s March was five years ago -half a decade of women fighting to defeat Trumpism.

It was historical. The largest single-day demonstration in recorded US history.

That March felt like democracy at its best. Who could have imagined how that very institution would hang by a thread just a few years later?

Since then a white supremacist mob urged on by a sitting president and carrying confederate flags stormed our capital to thwart the transition of power as Republicans lost their spine and donned blinders.

In a few short months, we face the likelihood the Supreme Court will overturn Roe v Wade. Already, 2021 was the worst year for abortion rights in half a century. In Texas, abortion has already been virtually outlawed for almost five months.

Abortion bans have been labeled “the new Jane Crow,” But we must not forget the original Jim Crow—the series of discriminatory laws that relegated Black Americans to second-class status—nor can we stop dealing with its legacy. The Senate attempted to do exactly that this week, in an effort to advance the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act and revamp the filibuster. But ultimately, an anti-democracy bloc of Republican senators, joined by two Democrats, blocked both measures.

Now instead of marching it feels as if America is sleepwalking towards disaster.

But on that cold day in January 5 years ago, those of us who participated in the Women’s March were left with a feeling of empowerment.

We would take hold of our democracy.

January 21, 2017 A Day Of Hope

Walking into the crammed National Mall in DC filled with hundreds of thousands of people who simply rejected the racist, sexist, xenophobic Trump agenda was an instant balm to the despair that had been my new normal for the past several months.

As far as the eye could see, I was enveloped by a vast blanket  of pink and brown, black and white, a sea of diversity and solidarity, one voice with many issues.

A massive expanse of women and men and children, their pink pussyhats bobbing in a sea of protest choosing freedom over fear.

Womens March Washington DC January, 2017

Women’s March Washington DC January, 2017. The largest single day demonstration in recorded history

Across the country women came hundreds and thousands of them, by planes and trains and automobiles. All showing up to drown out Trump and have their voices heard. Some driving straight through the night from the heartland for 18 hours straight, with no sleep arriving blurry-eyed but energized; they came by the boatload on crowded buses and trains of solidarity among strangers who quickly became sisters.

There were no walls that day, no boundaries between gender or class, color, or creed. There was comradery and compassion so that a Trans tax attorney from Brooklyn peacefully mingled with a meat packer from Kansas, war-weary veterans of marches past their spirits ignited once again, their sparkling eyes wise and knowing, rubbed shoulders with wide-eyed millennials in their first-ever march.

They were all there as a repudiation of what Trump is about, walking boldly together, as together we enter dangerous territory.

The march was a show of force, proof that for however many people are happy about Trump’s inauguration and that number is far smaller than he or his press secretary would have you believe, many more were unhappy.

Sally Edelstein in front of Capitol

I was so proud to be part of this patriotic crowd of unified voices and diverse agendas, melded, supported, and enhanced by one another.

“We will be watching,” I wrote at the time. “ We have our eye on you. and we will continue to make and keep America great. Keep your hands off our democracy!”

It seemed so simple then.

Democracy, I still have my eye on you, if now only a bit more tired.




  1. John

    It was such an emotional day and, as we have grown to expect, you reconstruct it and frame it brilliantly, Sally. As we all suffer through difficult times, your voice remains strong. And growing stronger. I know you will keep fighting and that your art will continue to inspire folks everywhere to wake up and stand up for democracy.


    • Thank you. As defeated and distressed as so many felt after Trump won the election, mobilizing and giving voice our discontent and call for accountability was empowering. The voices have not diminished in the ensuing years but the other forces that were set in place to tear at out democracy seem at times to overpower them.
      In fact a tweet from Liz Cheney today is very alarming:
      “A former Speaker of the House is threatening jail time for members of Congress who are investigating the violent January 6 attack on our Capitol and our Constitution. This is what it looks like when the rule of law unravels.”

      Liked by 1 person

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