Yes, I was there, part of history, last Saturday, at the intersection of Independence Ave. and 7th Street, Washington D.C.! With my back leaning against the wall of the Hirshhorn Museum, facing the Federal Aviation Administration Headquarters building, I watched the last “jumbo-tron” on this street with nearly one million of my newest sisters and brothers. It was thrilling, tiring, liberating and brought tears to my eyes. I was representing generations of women in my family who had been discriminated against, due to their gender. I was there for our babies, who hopefully, will reap the benefits. As a visual artist, I will relay my colorful observations of the peaceful proceedings a week ago!
“Women’s rights are human Rights.”- HRC
Nothing was going to stop me and my dear friend Janice from attending the March on Washington last Saturday, 1/21/17. We reserved our bus tickets in November to travel with her colleagues from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. We were up at 4:30 AM, on the bus by 5:30 AM. Took us two 1/2 hours to travel to Franconia/Springfield Metro Station, as the 1200 bus parking spaces were taken at RFK Stadium in DC. The Metro was packed! The security guard who was directing people said, “Wow this is already 10 times more people than yesterday at the Inauguration!” No mater what political party you favor, I firmly stand with my gender and am against discrimination of any kind, especially race, religion, sexual orientation. Artists see beauty in the world often where others miss the details. It is my job to point out these wonders to the socially and politically blind.
No Sketch Zone
My plan was to bring my sketchbook into DC to sketch as we listened to all the speeches and March. But, the rules from the National Women’s March committee, was that we could not carry backpacks. People were to use “clear plastic purses/bags”. One woman used a translucent plastic zippered sheet container and added a srap. I decided that I would leave all my belongings, except for a clear water bottle and a sandwich in a clear baggie, on the bus. By 10:00 AM, we were out on Independence Ave. with a sea of pink “Pussy” Hats! The only pink hat I owned, was my light pink Boston Red Sox Hat. I wore it with pride. Without a sketchbook, I used my phone to capture scenes! FYI, cell phone service was nil where I was standing, too many phones jamming the system!
I Did It For Love
One reason I went to Washington, was for my aunt, Mildred Edith Covell’s memory. A 1937 graduate of the University of Maine, her first job was as a high school home economics teacher in Ashland, Maine. If she had been married she could not have been hired. Her first year she was paid in script. That is, no cash was given for her salary, stores granted her credit to buy items and her room/board was covered by the headmaster, because she lived with him and his wife. Male teachers were paid, and could marry. Aunt Mildred not only had to teach, but she was responsible for cooking hot lunch for the entire school, all grades, on a wood cook-stove!
Always looking for new experiences, she moved from Ashland to Pematic High School in Southwest Harbor in 1939. WWII began and our country was thrown into the war effort. Being close to the sea inspired Aunt Mildred, she wanted to join the Navy. It wasn’t until 1943, when the US military finally allowed women to join as “WAVES”, in the US Naval Reserve. My petite Aunt Mildred, even though she was a college graduate, was not allowed to become an officer. Again she was discriminated against, her height was a problem. Even though Navy women were not permitted combat positions overseas, no officer commission was allowed to short women. And that is only part of the reason I went to Washington.
After Aunt Mildred served this country during WWII, she went back to teaching. She had her Masters Degree in Education. She was denied equal pay with male teachers at Lewiston High School, in the 1950-60’s. She found out that men were paid to chaperone dances. She told me, “the men were outside smoking and we women were in the gym separating kids who were mischievous. I found out the men were getting paid and we weren’t! I went to my principal and he told me: ‘Well the men have families!’ I have a family I am supporting too! ” she told him. He told her to run for teachers’ union president, (even though there had never been a woman in that position). She did and won and fought for equal women teacher’s pay in Augusta.
My Aunt Mildred never married, never had children. But, she was like a mother to my Dad as their mom died of breast cancer right after the war. Her teaching career lasted until the 1980’s. She was more than an aunt to all of us, she was our inspiration. I brought her to Washington when I was working for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association as a lobbyist for the F.A.A.. I took her to the WWII Monument and to the Women’s Military Monument Dedication Ceremony and the Gala Ball with Tipper Gore. She met Congressman Michaud and Senator Snowe. When she passed she was 98. Her spirit lives today in the faces of the women I saw in Washington!
Three more reasons Why I Walked!
These three photos above, starting with, my husband’s sitto, who immigrated from Lebanon and moved to Waterville around 1918. Hers was an arranged marriage between the families, and she never met her husband before coming to the United States through Ellis Island. She had 22 live births and would rise at 2:00 AM to bake and clean. She took in boarders to make ends meet and could not speak English. But, she raised 14 children and some went on to fight for the US in WWII. Our families could not exist if America changes it’s foreign relations policies. Women and children would suffer the most if we build a wall! Look at the facts, 80% of Mexicans trying to come to US to escape violence are women and children!
My Nana, Frances, was athletic in college and got a job as a secretary in Auburn after graduating from Maine School of Commerce in Gardiner. But, when she was pregnant with my mother in 1934, she had only one maternity dress! She told me that as soon as she started to “show” she was forced to leave her job, and could not go out in public until after she delivered. Women still need pre and post natal care from planned parenthood. We cannot lose the Affordable Care Act.
My own mother, Janet for whom I am named, was an early childhood educator. She taught in the Head Start nursery school program in Waterville until she went to work in Augusta for “Childcare Options”, licensing home operated day care businesses. She worked tirelessly for the rights of young children and was on the first board of directors for “Hardy Girls Healthy Women” in Waterville.
I met so many like minded people during this March and plan to do a large painting from my experience on this day. This event was life changing; a peaceful, meaningful charge for me to help others see the true Colors of anti-discrimination and women’s rights!