By Anne W. Semmes
On Saturday, day one of Donald Trump’s presidency, a Women’s March on Washington will kick off at 10 a.m. with an estimated 200,000 gathering on the National Mall. Their mission is to “send a bold message to our new government… and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.”
With talk that the march could swell even larger, transport to Washington is a challenge; word at this writing is that buses and trains are booked solid, with people traveling from across the country, and across the pond!
“I’m going,” says Coline Jenkins, our town resident with significant suffragist genes from her great-great grandmother, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who fought hard for women’s rights and the women’s right to vote, and won in 1920. Coline comes to the march a bit by default. She may be a registered Republican (her great-great grandfather, Henry Stanton, co-founded the Republican Party) but Coline voted for Hillary Clinton.
The story goes that a year ago, confident of Clinton’s eventual victory, Coline with two colleagues booked a hotel room for Clinton’s inauguration. She walked the walk with Hillary, traveling to Chappaqua to see Hillary vote, and was there at the Javits Center in New York looking up at that giant glass ceiling, believing it would soon be shattered.
Coline was left with a nonreturnable and “expensive” hotel room reservation, now shared by one fewer of the colleagues; but another had managed to get them seated tickets before the swearing in podium. The die was cast to attend the inauguration, with the march easily attended the next day.
Coline looks upon the march as all “about upholding the Constitution. It’s about the inclusion of women in ‘We the people,’ in order to form a more perfect union.” She is in concert with the march’s honorary co-chair, Gloria Steinem, who has commented, “Our constitution does not begin with ‘I, the President.’ It begins with, ‘We, the People.’”
There’s a precedent for this Washington women’s march, which Coline duly points out. A day before Woodrow Wilson’s first inauguration in March of 1913 suffragette Alice Paul, who authored the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to secure constitutional equality for women, had brought together some 8,000 women from across the country for a Woman Suffrage Procession with “multiple bands, banners, squadrons, chariots, and floats,” history records, with a lead banner declaring, “We Demand an Amendment to the United States Constitution Enfranchising the Women of the Country.”
But it took a while to get the ERA passed, being introduced in every session of Congress from 1923 until it passed in 1972. It was then submitted to the state legislatures for ratification, and over the years has been ratified by (alas) only 35, short of the 38 states needed for it to become part of the Constitution!
So Coline has inherited the long view. The loss of her female candidate for the presidency has not dampened her expectation that she will see a woman become president in her lifetime. After all, she says, “We make up 51 percent of the population.”
That 51 percent may well be what’s driving the traffic toward Washington tomorrow. Coline is in the know about the fact that it’s the Department of the Interior that owns the land of the National Mall that gives out the permits for the busses to be converging both for the inauguration today, Jan. 20, and tomorrow, Jan. 21. She has learned that on Jan. 21 the permits for buses triple the number for the 20th—400 bus permits for the inauguration, 1,200 bus permits to accommodate the Women’s March.
Coline also has a backstory of the pressure Amtrak has been under. In Boston, apparently, a woman with especial grievances toward our newly elected president tried to get tickets on Amtrak traveling to Washington for the march but found them all sold out. Amtrak offered to accommodate her by adding another car if she could guarantee 60 travelers. A car was subsequently added.
On the Monday after Inauguration Day and the Women’s March, Coline has been invited to lobby on Capitol Hill for the Equal Rights Amendment by a Virginia delegation. She explains, “Although the ERA was first introduced in 1923, almost 100 years ago, it remains three states short of ratification.” And she asks, “Who doesn’t believe, ‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex?’”