The History of Marching Women

The recent Women’s March on Washington pushed the issue of gender equality and women’s rights to the forefront of the American and international mind. Women have been marching to the beat of their own drum and the pavements of metropolitan cities for over a century, fighting the issue of female oppression. Over the years, women have become more and more bold in their quest for their goals, with the added benefit of having men enter the conversation and speak with women and for women on the issues facing them today.

The rise of feminism brought with it loud and resonating marches; we can see as much with the first march occurring during the first wave of feminism in the 1910s, the second major march in the 1970s with the second wave, and the latest one during what we call the post-third wave of feminism. Women are no longer holding on to the gender roles dictated to them, they no longer (and haven’t for a very long time) see things through a narrow scope, and, if you look at the numbers, are growing in ranks at a staggering rate.


The three marches listed below are historically marked by their ever-growing influence on the conversation of women and their voices. If we are looking at the glass half full, we will see a very distinct advance in women’s rights and positions in society – the ruling of Roe vs. Wade and the legalization of abortion, the introduction of paternal leave in addition to maternal, and women’s roles in politics and business, to name a few; but if we look at the glass half empty, we will still see the battle ahead, as men are still in control over women’s rights as they hold positions of power and use such power to threaten to revoke rights given in the past. The fight is ongoing, and will continue, until women are the only ones responsible for their own bodies and goals, in addition to an open conversation with the opposite sex whose views on the female agenda need to be more in line with equality.

1913 Suffrage Parade

The 1913 Suffrage Parade consisted of 5,000 women marching on the eve of President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration (sound familiar anyone?). The women marched up Washington D.C,’s Pennsylvania Avenue, wearing all white, a symbol of their position against bias and the social norms at the time. President Wilson was reserved in his reaction to the women’s movement, which is what brought on the march in the first place – a march intended to further women’s right to vote.

Needless to say men at the time were not happy about women coming out, of their own volition and with a very stubborn (so they saw) agenda, to march up and raise their voices that would otherwise be silent. During the march many opposing parties would break up the lines of the women, breaking them up to smaller groups. Alice Paul, founder of the National Women’s Party, was just 28 years old when she marched in 1913, she stated in a New York Times interview, “We…[made] speeches, beautiful speeches, but we never got to finish them because soon as a person opened her mouth she got arrested.”


In 1917, President Wilson officially supported women’s right to vote. It was not until August 18th, 1920 that the 19th amendment of the United States Constitution conceded to women’s right to vote. It was the suffragette movement that made this historic alteration in the Constitution happen, a right that was known as woman suffrage. This was the movement that launched all movements for women, they fought and won, giving hope and determination to women nationwide.

1970 National Organization for Women Marches

On August 26th, 1970, 10,000 women marched up Fifth Avenue in New York City, and later rallied in Bryant Park, in their continued fight for control over their own bodies and equal rights. The march was also known as Women’s Strike for Equality, launched by Betty Friedan, President of the National Organization for Women, stating that “This is not a bedroom war; this is a political movement.”. The timing of this was intentional, as it was the 50th anniversary of the 19th amendment. This was the first time men were introduced into the conversation of women’s rights, with an increasing number of ‘men for women’ walking alongside them in their march.


This was the time in history where women were fighting for free and safe abortions, should they need it, free childcare so women could go back to work and pursue careers of their own without the gender role setback of staying at home with the children at the cost of their own ambition; as well as equal rights for higher education and career goals. Their fight would soon pay off as the Supreme Court decision of Roe vs. Wade was made on January, 22nd, 1973, legalizing abortion due to the right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

2017 Women’s March on Washington

Everything in history has led to the January 21st Women’s March on Washington. Although this march was initially focused on the capital on the eve of the president-elect’s inauguration, the march became a movement and spread across the nation. There were 3.3 million people across the United States and between 500,000 and 1 million in Washington D.C. alone. This march consisted of women, men, and children; whole families came out in support of women’s rights.


The issue on question for this march was not only further improving women’s rights, but making sure that the ones already given were not taken away by the new administration. There is a lot of ultra-conservative and negative rhetoric coming from the newly appointed White House, and the issue of women is within that capacity. The intention of this march was a call to action for the individuality of women, their status in society and reminding the world as a whole, and the new administration specifically, that women are prepared to fight for their rights, and the rights of their daughters.