Documents from the Women's Liberation Movement
An On-line Archival Collection

Special Collections Library, Duke University

Anne and Heidi. "Women's March on D.C."

newsclipping hand-dated 11/29/71 [from off our backs?]


2,000 women and men (about 25% were men) marched through Washington, DC, Saturday, November 20, demanding the repeal of abortion laws, repeal of contraception laws and an end to forced sterilization.

There were lots of police along the line of march and at the rally site but there was no uptightness.  They had barricaes clearly delineating the route and the space at the Capitol.  They were kind of protecting the marchers, kind of keeping an eye on them.  There was a feeling that people could ask the police where the bathroom was; that the billy clubs were just decoration.  Why was the mood like this?  Partly, everything was well organized.  Partly, the demonstration was not militant.  People did what they were supposed to; did not challenge the government authority beyond what the government allowed.  When people don't see any changes in the laws as a result of this demonstration, perhaps they will come back with more militance.

As the marchers arrived at the Capitol for the rally, the Women's Liberation Rock Band from Connecticut was playing.  It was a really good beginning for the rally  people started getting into the music right away.  There were several speakers: Barbara Roberts, a lawyer, spoke of how women are second class citizens; how we don't have control over our own bodies.  She said that the Supreme Court cannot have control over our bodies!  Linda Jenness, the Socialist Workers' Party candidate for president spoke to the government's claim that abortion is murder.  How can Nixon talk about murder when he is responsible for the murder of thousands and thousands of Americans and Vietnamese in Vietnam?

The audience, which had grown to about 2,500, responded most strongly to a Black woman from Chicago who explained that she is gay and Saturday's rally was her coming out party.  She asked all the lesbians to stand up.  When only 20-30 women stood up, she commented that there were more there who hadn't come out yet.

The Rock Band played between speakers to help break the monotony of the speeches.  But unfortunately this did not allow the Band or the audience to really get into the music.  This is the fault of the organizers.  Their attempt to use the Band in this way was based on a lack of understanding of how a band builds a rapport with an audience.  It needs time to play several numbers for the audience to get into what it is doing.  Playing one or two numbers then breaking for a speaker totally breaks up what the band and the audience are building together.

There was a lot of good feeling in the march although it should have been more militant.  But the spirit that could have been built at the rally, especially with the Women's Liberation Rock Band, was sabotaged by the attempt of the organizers to use the band to prevent boredom.  Had the speakers spoken and then the band played on, people could have left the rally with really high spirits instead of slight dissatisfaction and slight frustration.

Women came to Washington from the South, Midwest and Northeast.  (Another march was held in San Francisco for people further west.)  About 70 people went from Atlanta in one bus and several cars.  The marchers were predominantly white with some Blacks, and Asian-Americans.  There were a lot of young college women.  Also a significant number of women who are active in the ecology movement marched.  They make the connection between ecology and abortion, which is a sure way for women to end pregnancy and not contribute to the population problem.  These women tended to have little or no experience with the women's movement.

There were also women who have worked in the women's movement for some time.  Some of them told us that while they had political disagreements with the Women's National Abortion Action Coalition which sponsored the march (See last week's Bird), they felt very strongly the need for women to have control over their own bodies, to have the right to abortion on demand.  It is therefore necessary for the repeal of abortion laws so that a woman can go to a doctor or clinic, ask for and get an abortion immediately, so that it is done early with little chance of complications and without all the hassles that currently accompany abortions.  Now, men doctors, men legislators, men judges, etc., have the power over who gets an abortion, when and where.  This must change!

-- anne and heidi

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