Local women share stories of participating in the Women’s March
By Angelica Ingram
Published Jan. 31, 2017
For Judy Skinner it really came down to the issue of health care.
Born and raised in the United States, Skinner couldn’t just sit idly by and watch other women march together on Saturday, Jan. 21 and not make her voice heard.
So she decided to take part.
A year-round resident of Haliburton County, Skinner, 71, joined thousands of other women in Naples, Fla., to participate in one of the many marches that took place across North America.
There were a number of reasons why she decided to participate, she said, but the one that pushed her over the top was the current government’s plan to change health care in the U.S.A.
“I’m an American but I’ve lived for so many years in Canada,” she said. “I don’t think anybody appreciates our health-care system more than I do. Especially in the last year when I went in for open heart surgery, to know that I would be so well taken care of.”
Skinner says in the U.S.A., getting diagnosed with a major illness can result in individuals losing their homes. She worries about what health care will look like for Americans in the future, especially for poor and underprivileged women.
“Poor women will die, and that’s not an exaggeration, that’s a fact,” she said.
Other reasons she felt inclined to march include issues around immigration and women’s rights.
“I don’t think women’s health issues should be decided by some fat old white guy in Washington,” she said. “Women are very smart, they are very capable of making very smart decisions.”
Called the Sisters Walk, the march was held in a park in downtown Naples.
It is estimated that more than three million Americans marched in the United States, equating to one in 100 people.
Skinner was overjoyed when her husband John told her he wanted to join her and was encouraged to see many other husbands, fathers and sons partaking as well.
“As an American I have felt very disturbed over some of the prospective changes to some hard won rights,” she told the paper. “For those of us who marched in the 1960s and ‘70s for women’s rights and, again, to end an immoral war, it is very frightening to think we have to take to the streets once more to protest against an administration hostile to the rights of women, minorities and the disenfranchised.”
Skinner said participating in the march was a wonderful experience and that the emphasis was on remaining peaceful and respectful.
“It was just an incredible experience,” she said. “It was very welcoming ... and I think that’s what the feeling was across the country.”
Skinner said the signs she saw at the march were both heartwarming and funny, reaching across various concerns from education, LGBTQ rights, marriage equality and so on.
“My favourite was ‘I thought we dealt with this s%$& in the ‘60s,” she said. “And it made me laugh and I thought yeah, I thought we did too.”
A member of a large family, Skinner has many relatives living in the U.S.A., including many nieces who participated in marches in Washington, Seattle and other locations.
“I am so proud of these wonderful women.”
A registered Democrat, Skinner votes in the American elections and was feeling optimistic and joyful the morning of Nov. 8, 2016.
“I woke up on election day so excited and thinking I wish my mom was alive to see the first woman president of the United States. She would be so excited,” she said.
Her feelings the night of Nov. 8 were a bit different.
“I cried. I absolutely wept. I could not believe it,” she said. “It was like somebody had socked me in the stomach.”
Skinner said those that criticize the marchers should remember that they care very much for their country and its citizens.
“We were raised to be patriotic and to stand up for our country. With so many hard won rights currently in jeopardy, we have a duty to stand up.”
Haliburton’s Wendy Bateman was also unwilling to sit on the sidelines and watch, instead heading to Toronto on Jan. 21 to march with her friend and granddaughter.
She was inspired to march because she believes in equality for all, she said.
Bateman, 79, said this was her first time participating in a large march.
It was through her friend Marilyn Mighton that Bateman decided to partake in a march that began outside Queen’s Park and ended at City Hall.
“The three of us marched together ... we had some bright pink scarves on and our hats,” said Bateman.
The atmosphere at the march was polite and there was no anger of any kind, she said.
“The highlight for me was this little six-year-old behind us marching along with her sign that said ‘I count too,’ it was just adorable,” said Bateman.
The Haliburton resident is concerned about what she’s seeing south of the border, particularly with the issue of immigration. A member of the Haliburton Refugee Sponsorship Committee, Bateman said when Trump raised that issue it set the flag off for her.
Going forward, Bateman is hoping the members of the U.S. government will not vote in favour of what Trump is pushing forward.
“That’s my dream,” she said.
Skinner hopes the march was only the first step and that women will continue to organize themselves by writing letters to politicians in Washington, outlining their concerns.
“But now we have to stand up,” she said. “I hope it’s the first rallying cry for the Democrats ... we have to pull ourselves together and get behind the causes that are most important to us and let our voices be heard.”