The Women’s March, 2017
On January 21, 2017, the day after the presidential inauguration, women came out to demonstrate. Angered by the language of the 2016 presidential campaign and worried about a political culture that was misogynistic and attacked equality for people of color, immigrants, and the LGBTQ+ community, hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets in the nation’s capital. Millions more joined in sister marches across the country and around the world. They hoped to revitalize the women’s movement and send the message that women would continue to fight for social justice. Women of color who felt marginalized since the suffrage movement took this opportunity to remake feminist activism in their own images.
Organizing the March
Calls for a march came from multiple sources, and conflicts quickly emerged over who should organize the march and how to ensure diversity among organizers, participants, and speakers. Ultimately, one of the largest protests in the nation’s history was cofounded by a diverse group of women seeking to honor the legacy of suffragists, feminists, and other civil rights activists while striving for a more decentralized and inclusive movement. Three years later, both the march and the tensions continue.
Some women linked their protest in 2017 with the suffragists who had picketed the White House in 1917 and marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1913.
Humorous, angry, or heartfelt, marchers expressed their emotions and concerns with handmade signs. Women’s space and safety; the environment and science; abortion rights; the ERA; health care; immigration; LGBTQ+ rights; kindness; racial and economic justice; motherhood; encouragement of girls; and citizenship were just some of the issues colorfully depicted on signboard.
Curators collected some of the signs marchers discarded in front of the museum after the Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
Creating New Symbols
In many shades of pink, pussy hats were intended as a humorous way to turn a vulgar term used by Donald Trump that had surfaced during his 2016 presidential campaign into a symbol of protest and empowerment. There was a backlash against the lighthearted hats when some marchers felt the symbolism excluded transgender women and women of color.
History Repeats Itself
This was not the first time that women used a presidential inauguration to draw attention to their cause. In 1913, the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, suffragists held a parade that clogged the streets of the capital. Marchers returned in 2018 and 2019.