On January 21, 2017, one day after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, over 500,000 men and women marched on Washington D.C. to support women’s rights. This protest was modeled after the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
The march was also reminiscent of the Million Woman March of 1997 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which focused on empowering black communities in America and uniting African-American women across the nation.Like its predecessor, the Women’s March on Washington seeked to “send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights,” according to its website.
The rally did not explicitly state that it was anti-Trump in nature. Rather, the Mission & Vision Statement reads, “The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us… and our communities are hurting and scared… In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore.”
More than 670 sister marches on all seven continents took place around the world to show support for the rally in Washington D.C., for an estimated total of three million marchers around the world. The march invited all – regardless of gender or identity – who believe that “women’s rights are human rights” to join the movement.
Co-president of the Feminism Club Annie Roberts ’17 led the efforts along with other student alliance leaders to organize a trip for Deerfield students to Washington D.C. “I thought that either the D.C. march or the Boston march would be great opportunities to do something that I know will have a lasting impact outside of the ‘Deerfield bubble,’”Roberts stated.
Ellie Friends ’17, co-president of the Gender Sexuality Alliance, commented, “As a young person who is just starting to put myself in the political conversation, this march marks a moment in time where I am able to join and feel supported by other women, young and old, fighting for the same thing as I am.”
The trip to the capital was organized entirely by students, without sponsorship by the Deerfield administration. Students initially approached the administration requesting aid for travel costs to Washington D.C. Chief Financial Officer Keith Finan researched information on the march and consulted with International SOS, a security assistance company analyzing travel risks.
Mr. Finan said, “We have an obligation not to put students in harm’s way or even in situations where there is probability that harm could happen to them. Given the size of the crowds and the uncertainty about whether or not there would be counter-demonstrations, the risks are sufficient that we did not feel we could participate in sending students to the March.”
Although there was not a bus leaving from Deerfield Academy, several students traveled in the shuttle bus from Greenfield to Washington D.C. Other students participated in sister marches held in Greenfield and Boston. In contrast, Northfield Mount Hermon, a peer school, sponsored a bus to travel to the march.
After marching in Washington D.C., Aliana Thomas-Adams 17 reflected, “I definitely gained a strong sense of hope [for] this country… Seeing the determination to fight for what we know is right was so inspiring.”