Turn -- Reader Contribution
Lammas 2004, Vol 3-4
MatriFocus, a Cross-Quarterly Web Magazine for Goddess Women Near & Far
April 25, 2004
YAYA always wanted to march. I participated in 60s protests a bit but wasn't able to join a large march. When this year's event finally got my attention, I knew I had to be there, and I invited my family to join me. Ten of us showed up!
I marched in Washington DC, our nation's capitol, in honor of my mother and all her descendants. Lydia Alles Miller, 1908-1992, also known as Mutti, was a strong matriarch feminist who believed in women's rights and choices. She ran as a Democrat for the state legislature in Colorado in 1944 and was active in politics and many other venues until her death.
What better way to teach and learn about women's history, American history and political activism than by doing it!
Three generations of Mutti's offspring marched with me; two of her daughters, Lydia Miller Ruyle and my sister, Mary Margaret Miller MD. Three granddaughters marched; my niece, Katie Hoffner, my daughters, Robin Ruyle Struve, JD and Margaret Ruyle Rukstalis MD, and a grandson-in-law, Daniel B. Rukstalis MD. Four of Mutti's twelve great granddaughters (four of my granddaughters) marched: Mae Elizabeth Rukstalis, 10, Katherine Alice Struve, 10, Alexandra Lee Struve, 7 and Leeden Marie Rukstalis, 6. The rest of the family supported our march. All of us are strong feminists in support of women's reproductive rights.
What a thrill for this YAYA grandmother to have her daughters and granddaughters choose to come to Washington and be part of a remarkable event, women, men and children freely voicing their concerns about choice in women's lives! I'm proud of my tribe, ranging in age from Leeden Marie's 6 years to my 68.
I designed and carried Mutti's Matrioshka Goddess Icon Banner with images of Russian nesting dolls, representing the continuing cycle of life through generations of German-Russian women, our ethnic heritage. All ten of us wore T-shirts with the Matrioshkas on them.
Logistics were a community effort. Daughter Robin and niece Katie found us places to stay. We got around DC on the Metro. On Saturday, Robin, Katie & Allee arrived by 9:00am from Chicago. They got up at 4:15am to make their 6:00am flight. My sister Mary flew in from Louisville, Kentucky and Margaret's family drove from Philly and met us at Union Station. Katie and I had been in New York City and flew into Baltimore Friday night. Sadly, my digital camera was stolen from my checked bag at La Guardia. Others filled in taking photos.
The enormous event was well planned and executed with thousands of volunteers. My compliments to all the organizers and sponsors. Good Job! Well Done! The DC people, the police, the metro attendants were pleasant, peaceful and helpful.
Marchers came from all directions on planes, buses (over 800 we were told), trains (12 complete cars from New York City alone), and automobiles. Anticipation and excitement was high. Smiles of recognition, bright eyes, backpacks, and a certain air of confidence identified the marchers. Conversations sparked about where each was coming from and why they were marching.
As Katie and Allee Struve had never been to Washington before, we decided to do a DC Ducks Tour in an amphibious vehicle departing from Union Station. The Duck open air vehicle drove us around the sites where we would march the next day: to the Capitol, down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, around the Washington monument to the Lincoln Memorial, across the bridge to Arlington and a park where the Duck went into the Potomac for a spin! It was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day. The tour bonus for each of us was a pair of yellow plastic duck bills that quacked. Our four granddaughters loved them!
After the tour, we took the Metro to the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum to visit the Mammals and the Rocks, a family ritual from our first visits to DC with son Steve, Bob and the Army Corp of Engineers in the 70s.
Saturday evening we had dinner at our hotel, the Key Bridge Hyatt, with four tired girls and four tired adults. Niece Katie and my sister Mary went to an exciting performance with Gloria Steinem, Sybil Shepherd and many others at the Warner Theater. There were hundreds of events going on all weekend. For us, the march was where we focused our energies -- after all, four girls under ten can't do it all.
Sunday morning, our group was slow moving but we were on the Metro by 10:00am and met Katie and Mary at Metro Square. Coming up on the escalator, the little girls were first and the bigger people last, just like the Matrioshka shirts we were wearing. Needless to say, we attracted lots of attention.
We walked over to the Mall. The crowd was enormous, the energy pulsating! Depending on who is reporting the story, over a million people marched. A huge surprise to me was the average age of the marchers. At least half of them were under 30. WOW! That gives me hope.
We decided to hang out on the edge of the masses by the trees, as the little ones couldn't see anything in the middle. Huge screens had been set up. Speeches, songs, chants kept the crowd psyched for hours. The Mall was divided up into hundreds of groups with each one having a gathering place. We found Emily's List, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania & California. Robin & Katie Struve found several of Katie's classmates and their moms who had ridden the bus from Chicago for 30 hours arriving that morning. They would get on the buses after the march and return for another 30 hours -- strong patient women. Several women who have traveled with me spotted the Matrioshka banner and found us. Cell phones were essential.
At noon, the crowd began to march to the Washington Monument. Chanting and singing, it turned to go by the White House, which is well barricaded off now, then up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol. We took time out and found a street of hotdog vendors to feed our troops, then we marched on.
What a thrill to walk down the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue with my family. Marg and YAYA had tears in their eyes. Dan loved every minute of the event and said so many times. When we asked him if he had ever marched before, he answered no and added that he had become used to YAYA's invitations to do something he'd never done before.
Along Pennsylvania Avenue, anti-abortion protestors with bull horns loudly called us murderers, baby killers and many other nasty names. The March crowd chanted and drowned out most of them. Large graphic photos of bloody fetuses lined the way. It upset the little girls. We had talked with them about what to expect before the march and answered their questions and concerns after the experience. We read later that sixteen anti-choice protestors were arrested for crossing the fence.
At the National Gallery of Art we turned back to the Mall. My sister Mary was on the steps with a woman physician friend from Baltimore, Dr. Elizabeth, who was arthritic and couldn't do the whole march. We climbed the steps to the National Gallery and ran in to use their rest rooms as the lines at the port-a-potties were too long. Walking past some of my favorite art was tempting and hard to pass up. It was after 4:00pm. The girls were tired. The Philly family was driving back that night and decided to get on the road. It would take them five hours due to the traffic. Robin and crew and YAYA headed back to our hotel. We found a wonderful Chinese restaurant, then got ready for bed as Monday morning we were all flying home. Allee reminded her mother she had promised her a room service cheese cake after the March. She relished every bite and even gave YAYA a taste!
The March and weekend were very special. It is a privilege to express your views and heartwarming to gather with people who speak the same language -- feminism. It's also a responsibility to make the views a reality at the voting booths in November. ll be working at it until then. It's time women's voices are heard, their concerns addressed, and the government held responsible for its actions. How I see it? VOTE JFK! JOHN KERRY! The only choice FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS!
So many slogans, chants, banners, T-shirts, sounds, smells and sights. Here are a few!