By Alexis Wainwright
Marching in downtown Chicago for the Women’s March this weekend might have seemed vital for many, but others thought it was far more crucial to march in the nation’s capital.
Thousands of Midwesterners traveled to Washington Saturday joining an estimated 500,000 protesters on the National Mall. Women and their families throughout the states of Illinois and Michigan prepared all of last week for these trips.
In Illinois more than 3,200 people said they were going to the Women’s March in Washington on a Facebook event’s page. Sure enough, at about 6:30 a.m. Saturday four charter buses from Rogers Park pulled into a neighboring lot on New York Avenue, one of Washington’s main thoughfare.
Several women in furry pink hats were clearly excited as they began unloading buses with protest signs. One woman on the bus from Schaumburg said she was motivated by last November’s election results to make her presence known in Washington.
“I was shocked at the election results,” said Mary Ann Bretzlauf. After she arrived in D.C. “Seeing everyone streaming toward the rally site was really exciting. [The] crowds made me remember that many people don’t support this president, but [I am] also concerned about the direction our country is going in.”
Although the Washington protestors said there were demonstrations in their hometowns, they said they came to Washington because the massive demonstration there was more important. “It’s important to be in Washington because that’s where the Inauguration was,” Bretzlauf said. “Having that backdrop of the capital in the background made it a once in a lifetime experience.”
Spaces on buses leaving from Michigan heading to Washington were sold out by Jan. 21. In addition to seats on commercial buses, charter bus companies also sold out for the weekend.
Phoebe Hopps, the Michigan coordinator for the women’s march, estimated that at least 5,000 people from her state went to Washington for the march.
As thousands packed buses, thousands more boarded airplanes. One couple, Jodi Hollis and Cathi Halvin, said they booked their flights early. Halvin, a teacher, said she told her class why it was important for her to attend the march.
“I was explaining to my class that women haven’t had all the rights,” Halvin said. “Things such as being able to get a credit card in your own name, being able to serve on a jury. That wasn’t until the seventies that rights like that they take for granted.”
Halvin’s students told her that single women couldn’t obtain contraceptive birth control pills until the 1970’s. Halvin said there is still much to be done such as equal pay for women, which had to be explained to her class.
“I’m here to support my sisters and the young women,” said Evanston resident Cathy Williams. ”Women are coming together, and were going to take over, and we going get it right,” said Williams, who rode a bus with 220 other women from Evanston. “I think my presence here and my voice can do a lot. “
Ada Vaughan, a Chicago native, also made her way to Washington but made sure she brought her 9-year-old daughter along. Vaughan explained why the trip to Washington was important.
“I’m bringing my daughter to witness the inauguration,” Vaughan said, “and to be an activist first-hand to make our voice heard about gays and lesbians, African American rights, and women’s rights.”
The women’s march exceeded projected numbers nationwide, which resulted in some marches cancellations. Additionally, the March on Washington surpassed President Donald Trump’s Inauguration attendance rate.