By Melodie McCullough
The spirit of a mighty sisterhood rose up and soared high Saturday (Jan. 21) as women around the globe gathered and marched against Trumpism and for hope in these troubled times.
Peterborough, Ontario, women were in both Toronto and Washington to participate and embrace the power and energy of the Women’s March. Ten Trent University third-year Social Work students and their professor, Dr. Susan Hillock, drove to the U.S. capital, while three generations of the Karen Hjort-Jensen family shared the day in Toronto.
“There were waves and waves of emotion and sounds and laughter and cheering,” said Hillock, 53, and an associate professor of Social Work, who describes herself as a long-time social activist. “It was so refreshing to be surrounded by feminists who share the same values, and who support what we teach at Trent around social justice.”
“My hope is that this will engage young people in knowing that their rights can be taken away at any time by people in power, ” she said.
She and 10 female students travelled in two vehicles to Washington on Friday, returning Sunday. In between, it was “an incredible experience” as they stood at the rally in their pink pussy hats, jam-packed and unable to move for six to seven hours. They couldn’t get to the main stage to hear the speakers, but were able to listen from one of the many jumbo-trons set up along the march path.
The group did not go intending to engage in anti-Trumpism, but to get involved in social action, Hillock said, and to participate in a “powerful, strong, positive, once-in-a-lifetime learning experience”.
“In the Trent program we talk a lot about not just speaking, but doing social justice. It was an excellent opportunity for the students to work towards that.”
” . . . an incredibly energizing moment
for the women’s movement.”
Karen Hjort-Jensen went with her daughter, who lives Cobourg, to the Toronto march where they met her son and his daughters, aged three and five. She found it a relaxed atmosphere with lots of diversity in the crowd, and described it as an incredibly energizing moment for the women’s movement.
“I went to march because I wanted to support the global community of women and also to share my feelings of outrage,” said Hjort-Jensen. “Women have fought hard over the last 50 years for rights. There’s always been opposition to that, but I think during this election campaign in the U.S., it became legitimized and people were vocal and felt more free to act on that opposition.”
As a mother and grandmother in her 70s, she said it was important to share the day with her family.
“It’s time to encourage and pass on the torch to the next generation. These issues are going to affect them far more than me at this stage in my life. I also think it’s very important for white feminists to recognise our own privilege and look at how the issues that affect us affect others differently and to a greater extent.”
Hjort-Jensen, born in Kenya, is no stranger to social activism, expressed through a pacifist lens. She was arrested in the 1980s for her role in civil disobedience against Litton Systems in Toronto, which manufactured American cruise missile components. She lost her job with the Chamber of Commerce in Bancroft because of that, but went on to co-found Maggie’s, a women’s centre, in the town — considered a “radical and subversive move” at the time, she said.
She came to Peterborough in 1986 and worked for the local YWCA for 19 years helping women who were leaving abusive relationships find housing. She now works part-time teaching pottery at the Art School of Peterborough.
Professsor Hillock hopes to carry forward the enthusiasm of the march by making a documentary film about it to use in future Trent classes. She also plans to develop curriculum based on what happened and what was learned.
“We will encourage students to stay engaged and we will continue to talk and think about the issues in the classroom,” she said.
Hjort-Jensen hopes the experience will show people how to connect social activism with their local community.
“The best thing we can do is to make an on-going personal commitment at a local level and make a difference where we can,”she said.
Left Photo: Mickey Renders of Peterborough
Middle Photo: Janice Keil, left, and Rosemary Ganley, right, of Peterborough with their friend Joy Kennedy in Toronto
Right Photo: Rosemary Ganley of Peterborough with her new-found friend, Jordan, from Hamilton in Toronto
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