I encourage you to join hundreds of people from all corners of Montana this Saturday, Jan. 18, from noon to 2:30 p.m. at Memorial Park in Helena for the 2020 Montana Women’s March.

Ours is among hundreds of “Women Rising”-themed marches throughout the country that will harness the power of diverse women — including transgender women and people who are gender-nonconforming — and all who support them to make transformational social change. It’s also to mark the 100-year anniversary of the women’s vote in this country (though not for indigenous or women of color).

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” Helena’s theme is “Put a Woman in Charge,” to make room for everyone and level the playing field.

The event begins with an energetic rally of speakers and welcome by Helena City Manager Ana Cortez, inspirational poetry by our state’s Poets Laureates Mandy Smoker Broaddus and Melissa Kwasny and rousing music by Judy Fjell and the Montana Women’s Chorus, followed by an enthusiastic march around nearby Centennial Park.

We all have our own reasons for taking part in the Women’s March. At age 16, in 1971, I was prohibited from running for high school student president. “Girls don’t run for president,” I was admonished. So I ran for and won the secretary position. At age 30, when offered a promotion to investigative reporter, it was for less pay than my male predecessor. “Mike has a wife and child,” the news director explained, not acknowledging that I had my own family financial challenges. I walked out and went to work for the competition.

I’ll be wearing an ERA button Saturday, remembering when, in July 1978 in my early 20s, I marched on Washington with thousands of others wearing a sea of white for suffrage to extend the deadline to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, which had passed in 1972 but wasn’t yet ratified. Nearly 50 years later, we’re still marching for its ratification, hoping 2020 is the year.

Since the first Women’s March in 2017, where 15,000 people descended on the Helena Capitol, and hundreds of thousands to our nation’s capital and other state Capitols, it’s been a movement about women’s rights, which are human rights, equal opportunity, and social, economic, environmental and climate justice. “A movement is only composed of people moving,” writer and women’s activist Gloria Steinem said. “To feel its warmth and motion around us is the end as well as the means.” And as the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently spoke, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

I hope to see you Saturday at the Women’s March.

Mary Ann Dunwell represents Montana House District 84 (Helena/East Helena) and helps organize the Montana Women’s March in Helena.

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