Mills Women March in D.C.

By
May 6, 2004

Mills College Weekly

Thirty-seven Mills women, including these two reporters,
gathered last week in the nation’s capital to protest the Bush
administration’s policies on abortion and to stand up for the
equality of women.

Pushing the public to fight back in the November elections,
Mills students marched down the Mall and through the streets of
Washington D.C., among the estimated 1.15 million people who
gathered.

The March for Women’s Lives, organized by women’s rights groups
such as the National Organization For Women, Choice USA and Planned
Parenthood, drew supporters from 57 countries around the world to
walk on Pennsylvania Ave. on April 24.

Funding to send the 37 students was compiled from a variety of
sources. President Janet Holmgren, the Trustees, and the Office of
Student Life contributed $7500. ASMC contributed a large portion of
the funds, totaling $1500. Other donations came from the Forority
club, which gave $200, and the women’s studies program, contributed
$500. Some proceeds from the Fetish Ball also provided funds for
the trip.

Plane tickets and lodging were covered for all who attended.
Small stipends were also given to students to cover other
incidental travel expenses and transportation through D.C.

Students were assigned to a minimum ten hours of fundraising in
addition to the other contributions. Several bake sales, a car
wash, and other separate fundraising events took place on campus
and in surrounding communities.

The Mills contingent walked in the California section, as the
march was organized by states. Students were provided with free
t-shirts made specifically for the march, which read, ‘choice,
justice, access, health, abortion, global, family planning.’ The
t-shirts along with the banner that read ‘Mills College’ were
donated by President Holmgren.

Holmgren also attended the march. She said, “We [Mills] provide
an opportunity for women to engage in social activism. I don’t want
to imply that every woman at Mills is pro-choice, but that every
woman is in support of women’s rights. I spoke to Hillary Clinton
and she said ‘of course Mills would show up’. Nationally, Mills has
a sense of standing for women.”

Kim Gandy, NOW president, said it was “the largest abortion
rights gathering in history.” This was based on the highest
estimate of 1.15 million in attendance, however other estimates,
including those made by the Washington D.C. police department cite,
750,000 people.

Gloria Espinosa, a sophomore who worked as treasurer for the
event by organizing the funds, reflected on the march. “It was a
once in a lifetime opportunity that united a diverse range of
people, bringing us all to solidarity.”

Many other women’s colleges were present at the march, including
Wellesley, Vassar, and Barnard. Vassar was able to send a group of
24 women through fundraising similar to that of Mills, students
said.

Jane Hewitt, a woman present at the march, commented on the
attendance of the Mills women, “I think it’s amazing that young
women like yourselves care enough about this issue to actually be
here today. It’s wonderful to start seeing young women’s support
rather than just hearing it.”

After the march ended, Mills students continued to show their
support for the cause by attending workshops and different
discussion groups throughout the day.

Rep. Barbara Lee held an informal discussion luncheon in the
afternoon.

“Lee discussed a new bill that she is introducing that would
allow states to accept federal funds if they are teaching
comprehensive sexual education, as opposed to abstinence only
education that current legislation requires,” said senior Sara Dawn
Patt, one of the main organizers of the trip.

Speakers present at the march included Sen. Hillary Clinton,
Julianne Moore, Ani DiFranco, Whoopie Goldberg, Patricia Ireland,
and Gloria Steinem.

Clinton said the march would be useless without further
attention to the issue of women’s rights. She said, “If all we do
is march today, it won’t change the direction that this country is
headed under the leadership of this administration.”

Moore spoke just after the march began, coining the logo on many
women’s t-shirts that day saying, “I am what a feminist looks
like.”

Marchers from Mills organized chants and vocal messages that
were repeated as they walked through downtown D.C. “Keep YOUR
rosaries OFF my ovaries!” they said to anti-abortion protesters
gathered on the sides of the streets.

Commonplace pro-choice slogans seen at the event included: “The
only Bush I trust is my own,” and “Barbara Bush should have chosen
abstinence.”

Along side the marchers, there was an estimated 200
anti-abortion protesters present on the streets of downtown D.C.,
said police. The only arrests made at the march consisted of
anti-abortion protesters, totaling 16. Washington police said they
were taken in for demonstrating without a permit and throwing
ink-filled plastic eggs at rally signs.

Freshwoman Alexi Ueltzen commented on how events like this help
us realize just how special a school like Mills really is. “Go
anywhere else and you’d be hard pressed to find a group of girls as
enthusiastic and dedicated to their cause as we are.”

Patt also spoke in reflection about the event. “It’s pretty
impossible to get thirty-seven Mills women to do something together
on campus, let alone on the other side of the country. We marched,
and stood up for something that we really believed in.”


Mills Women March in D.C. was published on May 6, 2004 in News

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