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2017 Women's Marches Inspired A Movement In Charlotte

One year ago, hundreds of thousands of women marched - in Washington, Charlotte and other cities around the country. Their goal was a louder voice for women as President Donald Trump started his presidency.  In Charlotte, those 2017 marches spurred formation of a new women's group. It meets regularly and has organized an anniversary march this Saturday uptown.

Last January, retired engineer Jan Anderson led a group of Charlotte women to the Inauguration Day march in Washington. Anderson said they were worried about what seemed like a chillier social and political climate for women after the 2016 election.  

“We saw this as an affront on women and we were not going to give up our hard-earned progress.  So we rented a bus, 45 of us went to Washington, and on the way back ... We are doers, we're not just marchers, so we decided to form a group,” Anderson said.

A sign Laura Meier of Charlotte spotted at last year's Washington march.
Credit Laura Meier
A sign Laura Meier of Charlotte spotted at last year's Washington march.

While Anderson and her friends were in Washington, more than 10,000 were marching in uptown Charlotte that day.  When she returned, Anderson got in touch with organizers of the Charlotte march, and they joined forces to form the group they now call Charlotte Women's March.

“The march energized us to act,” she said. “It's a beginning. It's not a be all-end all. It was fun.

“And when we got back, well what happened was, we scheduled a meeting.”

Two hundred fifty women showed up, Anderson said, and they’ve been meeting ever since.

Now, Charlotte Women's March holds quarterly general meetings that she said draw 150 people or so. Twenty to 30 people attend regular meetings of committees on social justice, women's health, LGBTQ issues, immigration and voting.

"We're doing everything we can to include a variety of diversity, in the actual march and in our group, and trying to educate,” said Laura Meier, co-chair of the group's social justice committee.

Much of the group's focus is political, and Anderson said the membership leans left. But she said the issues they work on - like health care, arts fund or the treatment of immigrants - can cross political lines.

The group doesn't raise campaign funds or endorse candidates. They sponsored a local candidate forum before last November's election and ran voter registration drives. Members regularly call and write lawmakers about legislation. And they say they'll make a big push again this fall to elect women.

Their biggest event was a reception for women elected officials in December co-hosted with the Black Women's Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg.  Anderson says more than 250 women showed up to hear a speech from Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and to meet other women leaders - both Democrats and Republicans.

Carolyn Logan leads the Black Women's Caucus and is now a Charlotte Women's March member. For her, the big issue is workplace discrimination - something she saw as North Carolina's first black woman state trooper in the 1980s. She said the group is trying to be as inclusive as possible - and expects it to keep growing.  

“More women are going say hey this is not a racial thing, this is a female thing. And we can all march together and achieve the same goal,” Logan said.

Logan will be among about a dozen speakers at Saturday's Charlotte March. Others include Mayor Lyles, City Council members LaWana Mayfield and Julie Eiselt, and representatives from Latino and Muslim groups.  

Organizers aren't sure they'll be able to top last year's Charlotte crowd.  But many women who went to Washington last year will be marching in Charlotte this time. And, like Laura Meier, they've been inspired to lead.

“I think the march galvanized women into those roles that they didn't even know that they were able to do,” Meier said.

Saturday's march runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at First Ward Park.  Carolyn Logan says it has to go beyond that if the movement is going to make a difference.  



David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.