Women’s protests throughout history
By: Ryley Fingler, Copy Editor
Do you remember learning that all of the big events in history were pretty much initiated by men, or learning that women have always been these passive damsels in distress, waiting to be rescued? Yeah, me too. Well, it turns out that’s not exactly true – women have been kicking butts and taking names for centuries now. As Women’s History Month begins to wind down, let’s take a look at some of the badass ladies that have worked to make the world a more inclusive place. Here are five of the most revolutionary women’s marches that have taken place in recent memory.
October 5, 1789 – Women’s March on Versailles
October 5, 1789 marked what The Guardian refers to as the “first protest march of women in modern history”. The Women’s March on Versailles was one of the earliest events of the French Revolution, and was sparked by the lack of food security for women in Paris, brought about by the extravagant dining habits of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Thousands of women marched, pitchforks and muskets in hand, to the Palace of Versailles where they confronted the monarchy. Some of the women even managed to get into the palace and made their way to Marie Antoinette’s bedchamber with the intent of killing her, only to find that she had already escaped. Eventually, the king agreed to distribute the bread at Versailles throughout the crowd, and returned to much less glamorous palace in Paris with his wife and children.
March 3, 1913 – Women’s Suffrage Parade
As we all (hopefully) know, women have a long history of fighting for the right to vote. In 1913, suffragettes had already been making strides for over half a century, but the Women’s Suffrage Parade is widely regarded as the movement’s first major event. Over 5,000 suffragettes marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., led by Inez Milholland. Despite a smooth start, the protesters were eventually met by groups of men blocking their path and taunting them; eventually, a number of male university students helped the women complete their march. Afterwards, over 200 people were reportedly treated for injuries. The Women’s Suffrage Parade undoubtedly had its roadblocks (pun absolutely intended), but it remains a symbol of determination and an important marker in the women’s suffrage movement.
October 25, 1997 – Million Woman March
On October 25, 1997 in Philadelphia, PA, between 500,000 and 2 million women marched to draw attention to the struggles of African American women in the United States. The march was intended to act as an inspiration for African American women throughout the country, and to solidify and repair relationships in the Black community. The day was filled with performances, speeches, and prayers from notable women including Winnie Madikezela-Mandela, Maxine Waters, and Jada Pinkett Smith. This October will mark the twentieth anniversary of the Million Woman March, and an event will be held in either Washington or New York City in celebration.
April 25, 2004 – March for Women’s Lives
Sponsored by the National Organization for Women, the March for Women’s Lives was a protest against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act put into place by President George W. Bush and his administration in 2003. Many women saw the law as an impediment to their reproductive rights and also focused on issues such as access to contraception and sex education. While an official number of attendees has never been reported, crowds are estimated to have been as large as 1.15 million people. The march was met with a number of pro-life protesters though there were no violent incidents as a result of the clashing ideologies. Despite its turnout, the protest did not result in the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act being repealed, and it is still in effect today.
January 21, 2017 – Women’s March on Washington
It’s safe to say that we’ve all heard of this one. Officially, the event that took place the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration was called the Women’s March on Washington, but in reality, it was happening worldwide. March organizers reported that 673 Women’s Marches took place worldwide, including 29 in Canada. In Washington, approximately 500,000 protesters took part; worldwide, the number has been estimated at around 5 million. The protests were in reaction to Trump’s widely controversial policies and statements, many of which have been regarded as misogynistic and anti-American. The Independent has referred to the Women’s Marches as “the largest – and most peaceful – day of protest in U.S. history.” Maybe America is on its way to becoming great again, after all.