Thousands of people representing seemingly every gender, age, race, religion and sextual orientation marched down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House during the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., on January 21, 2017. (Photo credit: Peter M. Graham)

What made the Women’s March on Washington so great

By the Rev. Dr. Alice Burnette Greene

My husband and I took our time on our way to the women’s march in our nation’s capital because it was going to be a long day. We had no idea that the Metro would be so packed that the first train would be too full to accept us, and the one we boarded would be filled to capacity after two more stops. After missing our planned departure point because of the crowd in the station, we eventually exited and were directed to join a crowd nine blocks away from the stage. With some maneuvering, we could see, via jumbotron, what was happening on stage but couldn’t hear the audio.

We knew something special was happening — that a statement was being made about the nation we love.

Nevertheless, it was a great experience. No one we met seemed to mind the waiting, squeezing, pushing, bumping and standing — not even those struggling to make their way to the facilities. People helped each other. There was cheering and chanting on the overcrowded Metro. We knew something special was happening — that a statement was being made about the nation we love. We rejoiced in knowing that the 2017 Women’s March on Washington — not unlike the 1963 March on Washington, the 1995 Million Man March or the 2009 inauguration of President Obama — was a significant historical event that demonstrated the power of our democracy.

The women’s march included significant numbers of men as well as entire families, from babies to grandparents. The event reflected the great diversity of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and passions that make our nation great. A sea of pink “cat” hats were visible, in support of various issues related to women’s rights, reflected in hand-made signage with often clever and amusing wording, such as “Hell hath no fury like 157 million women scorned.”

It was clear that this march was not just about women’s rights. Other causes represented by signs and heard in chants related to the new presidency and policies, affirmed basic principles of our nation — such as religious liberty and diversity — supported the rights of marginalized groups and defended the environment. Many placards quoted religious maxims, such as “Love thy neighbor.” Groups of marchers chanted uplifting messages, my favorite being “Love, not hate, makes America great.” A powerful single-word sign summed it up for me: “Decency.”

Leaders offered nearly four hours of messages of truth, courage and power through speeches and song. And then there was the march — not just a march but a happy celebration of friends moving down Independence Avenue for a common cause.

The new president’s campaign promises didn’t match the ideals that we believe make the United States truly wonderful: freedom, inclusion, justice, equality and compassion.

The Women’s March on Washington stood in the legacy of other historically significant gatherings, yet had its own ambience — a unique aroma that attracted more than 1 million participants. Our whole country — not just a segment of it — was facing an unprecedented and frightening challenge. The new president’s campaign promises didn’t match the ideals that we believe make the United States truly wonderful: freedom, inclusion, justice, equality and compassion.

Underpinning this gathering was a resolute mindset that we would stand as one against a serious threat with strength and determination, that we need each other and that our differences only make us stronger. One participant clarified the importance of this event for me. She said that she struggled with claustrophobia and motion sickness, but there she was, sharing space with me and many others in a tightly packed, jerking Metro on her way to join a great crowd of marchers.

The march was a call to arms — a bugle calling every American to stand up and speak out for what is just, right and good. The Women’s March website provides specific follow-up actions that will honor the millions who gathered, not only in our country but around the world, and the millions they represent.


The Rev. Dr. Alice Burnette Greene is a somewhat retired pastor, author, speaker and blogger, devoted to nurturing and inspiring Christian disciples and promoting social justice.

The views expressed are those of the author or authors alone, and not those of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.