The Legacy of the Women’s March: A New Age of Citizen Activism

Two years ago, after the most divisive election in recent times, a movement surged to life online and took to the streets. The Women’s March of January 2017 was the largest public protests in the history of the U.S.

As we watched the Women’s March spread out across the nation, the Betterplace took a decision to bring our platform to our neighbours to the south. We are a Canadian company based in Toronto, but we could see that the U.S. was experiencing a surge in civic activism to levels not seen since the 1960s.

Cynthia Hamilton, leader of the 2018 Women’s March in Spokane, Washington

In November we saw concrete evidence of that surge in the first major elections since that fateful day in 2016. The joy of the winners and the despair of the defeated may dominate the news but shouldn’t distract us from the most significant development of November 6. That development is the unprecedented numbers of women candidates and voters.

As the venerable Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University put it, “Women Voters Propelled the Democratic Takeover of U.S. House of Representatives.” Women came out in droves, and the swing to the Democrats was 50% higher than the last midterms.

Lead researcher Susan Carroll explained that “women voters are … in large part responsible for the shift in control of the U.S. House, and women voters have joined participants in the Women’s March, Me Too activists, and this year’s record number of women candidates in helping reshape the contours of the current political landscape.”

This is what Betterplace was built to support — the mobilization of citizens to take action on the challenge shaking our societies. As populist leaders try to leverage the anger and fear of citizens to monopolize power for themselves, citizen activists are building their own power.

We sure felt that energy in our work in Washington state this past year. After the Parkland school shooting, Betterplace was embraced by high school students organizing the March for our Lives in deep-red Spokane. Even in one of the most pro-gun areas of the U.S. they took their destiny in their own hands and demanded change.

We saw it in the energy and passion of the Black Lives Matter movement of King County. We saw it in the diligent work of housing rights activists like Violet Lavatai of the Washington Tenants Union. And everywhere that American citizens used Betterplace to mobilize their friends and neighbours for change, we saw the networks birthed by the Women’s March at work.

Betterplace will be shifting its focus to Canada now, as disruption comes to Canadian society and as citizens north of the border search for meaningful ways to get involved in finding solutions. But we will always be grateful for the tremendous energy that American women brought to our platform as they fight for a better United States.