In winter coats and holding cardboard signs, hundreds came to the Women’s March Saturday in Lansing, despite the rain and snow.
Speakers on the Capitol steps talked about changes they hoped to come from the 2020 presidential election, and the courage it takes from everyone to demand better from those in power.
Several state advocacy and political leaders addressed the crowd, thanking them for coming out to support women’s issues.
State Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp.) gave a shoutout to Michigan Advance reporter Allison Donahue, who wrote a first-person story this week about the sexist comments state Sen. Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.) made to her at the Capitol. On Friday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called Donahue “incredibly brave” while speaking to reporters in Saginaw.
The progress in women’s health care and getting more women elected to office has been hard-fought, Whitmer told the crowd. The former state Senate minority leader said three years ago, only a few people in the Capitol knew her name, but with the help of people like those present at the Women’s March, women have been elected to every top constitutional office in the state.
“People called me nuts. Some of them even called me ‘Jennifer,’” Whitmer said, referring to her 2018 GOP opponent, former Attorney General Bill Schuette, using that name in reference to former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. “Well, you know what they call me now.”
In a communal laugh, the crowd yelled, “Governor.”
“That’s right,” Whitmer said.
Attorney General Dana Nessel, the first openly gay person elected to a statewide office, said coming to the first Women’s March in 2017 before she ran for office in 2018 gave her hope that other people were willing to fight for equal rights for everyone.
Filling her office with women, Nessel has appointed women like Fadwa Hammoud, who serves as the first Muslim Arab-American solicitor general in the country.
Nessel told attendees having a large number of women in the Capitol came in handy when she had her first major meeting as attorney general with the governor and she asked Whitmer if she had a tampon.
“Madam Attorney General, everyone here has a tampon,” Nessel said Whitmer told her.
Amid all the women winning new offices in 2018, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) was re-elected to her fourth term. She applauded attendees for showing how tough Michiganders are in the face of harsh weather, but reminded the crowd that there is so much more work to be done to change things in 2020.
Stabenow said she looks forward to electing a new president to replace President Donald Trump and to no longer have U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stopping health care protections and climate change solutions.
“I believe that the very heart and soul of America are on the ballot this year, our safety at home and abroad are on the ballot. Justice is the ballot; human rights are on the ballot,” Stabenow said. “Our basic freedom of religion and speech and free press and all that we take for granted as American is on the ballot. The rule of law is on the ballot and rejection of corruption and racism and bigotry are on the ballot in 2020.”
As the first female U.S. senator in Michigan, Stabenow recognized the importance of not only increasing the presence of women in politics, but “picking up the torch from the suffragettes and running with it”. This year marks the 100th year since women won the right to vote in the United States.
“I hate the word ‘given,’ because nobody gave it to us,” Stabenow said of suffrage. “Because for 100 years before that, women fought like hell to get the right to vote, our grandmothers, our great-grandmothers marched in the streets, raise their voices and literally put their lives on the line to gain the most basic right that we now have.”