Saturday, March 18, 2017

“And Still I Rise”

Five million women gathered around the world on January 21, 2017—the day after the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States—from Washington, DC to Singapore, Athens, Sidney, Helsinki, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and hundreds of other cities.  They gathered in solidarity to “march, speak and make our voices heard.”  Regardless of what you think about the marches, the speeches, or the myriad voices raised on that day, no matter your political persuasion or social values, these gatherings were significant.  Women will no longer be relegated to second-class citizenry.

The women who “march, speak and make our voices heard” are not radical revolutionaries.  Their demands for equality are not outlandish.  They want to be treated as human beings!

History records other such marches by women.  The day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration (March 3, 1913) a women’s Suffrage Parade of 5,000 to 8,000 suffragists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, demanding the right to vote.  They got it!

On this day, March 18, 1863, one hundred fifty-four years ago, fifty women, wives and mothers of Confederate soldiers, marched (some called it a “riot”) on the streets of Salisbury, North Carolina.  The local merchants were profiteering from the war by raising prices on food.  The women demanded that the merchants sell at government prices.  The merchants refused.  The women broke down one shop door and threatened others.  A local newspaper described the mayhem as the “Female Raid.”  The women netted “twenty-three barrels of flour as well as molasses, salt, and even twenty dollars in cash.”  The Salisbury “Bread Riot,” and the “food riot” in Richmond, Virginia that same year, illustrate the power of women to bring about change.  The local newspaper reporting the incident in Salisbury, criticized not the women, but the county commissioners who failed to provide adequate aid for soldiers’ families and who should “go, all blushing with shame for the scene enacted in our streets on Wednesday last.”  “And Still I Rise,” writes Maya Angelou, giving us notice that women will continue to “march, speak and make our voices heard.”  

(Photo from Reuters)

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