​Locals Join Women’s Marches, Attend Inauguration

by Kevin Cummings, Messenger Staff Writer

A number of people in the area and with Sewanee ties joined women’s marches, which took place in U.S. cities and at least 60 countries on Jan. 21, and attended the inauguration of President Donald Trump the day before.

Sewanee resident Helen Stapleton and three generations of her husband’s family marched in the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., including her mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and her two daughters, Margaret, 20, and Anna, 18.

“It was one of the most powerful experiences in my life,” Stapleton said. “I never really identified with feminism throughout most of my life even though I always believed in equality and was grateful to the women who came before me and gave me the rights I enjoyed. I was very smug, and thought that just because I had rights, everyone else did, too.”

Stapleton credits her daughter Margaret with enlightening her to the need for feminist advocacy and how it is tied to so many issues she already deeply cares about.

“We decided to march simply because we wanted to feel counted and heard in expressing that Trump doesn’t reflect our values,” she said. “I take his scapegoating very seriously, and it really scares me because I’m Jewish. Today the scapegoated people are Mexicans, Muslims and the Chinese. Sixty years ago, Jews were the ones being scapegoated.”

At the march, Stapleton said there were many clever signs and people taking photos of each other’s signs. She also noted that the demonstration wasn’t just about women’s issues. The concerns cited in marches included environmental issues, LGBT rights, scientific integrity, reverence for facts and truth, civil rights, immigration rights, disability rights, a demand for health care, nationalism, and others.

“There was such a feeling of unity, love and peace,” she said. “I feel forever bound to all of the men, women and children who were there. We were surrounded by oceans of people, many in pink. Lynne Vogel knitted a pink hat just for me, so I was proud to be part of that cohesive look and feel. I loved the fact that every one of those silly looking hats were hand knitted in the USA.”

The crowd was massive, and Stapleton’s cell phone didn’t work due to the demand on cell service, she said. But, people got along well despite the tight spaces.

“Everyone was pleasant and agreeable, high fiving and smiling,” she said.

Iris Rudder, who lives in Winchester and like Stapleton is a Franklin County commissioner, attended the president’s inauguration. Rudder was an area coordinator for President Trump during the campaign.

“Because we had worked so hard in the campaign and for Trump and were big supporters, it was just the trip of a lifetime to actually be there and watch him be sworn in,” she said. “The people impressed me. The people that were there were middle America. They were enthusiastic, they were courteous and respectful.”

Her friend Joann Davis, who is also active in the local Republican Party, attended the event with her. They were able to spend time with Congressman Scott DesJarlais, and do some sightseeing, including Arlington National Cemetery. Rudder said they had good seats for the president taking the oath of office.

“It was just a very moving experience because you have so much hope for the country and hope Trump will do the things he said he would do,” she said. “That he will turn our economy around, that he will bring jobs back and that he will renegotiate trade deals. All of those things are very important to me and I hope that President Trump will turn our country around.”

Stephanie Faxon of Sewanee joined the Women’s March in Nashville on Jan. 21 with her two twin 18-year-old daughters, Abbie and Allie. The Faxon women were among an estimated 15,000 people that marched in Nashville.

“We marched for several reasons, the rights of the LGBTQ community, healthcare, women’s and minorities’ rights, and the concern for our environment,” Faxon said. “My daughters are very involved in preserving civil rights. I was proud to share this day with my girls.”

The Faxon women were some of the first at Cumberland Park that morning, with initially only a few hundred people there before the demonstration crowd swelled.

“It was amazing to see all the people come together with their own personal reason for marching,” she said. “The speeches were powerful and the music was encouraging.”

After marching from the park to the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge, Faxon said they were among people of many nationalities, ages, genders and races. They all marched together for about one mile to Public Square.

Another Sewanee resident, who asked to remain anonymous, also marched in Washington, D.C. She arrived early the morning of Jan. 21 and nabbed a prime spot close to the rally stage.

She said she was impressed with how many men were there, estimating about a third of the attendees were men. She added that the ocean of pink clothing was also inspiring.

“The multitude and variety of hats that everyone wore was a testament to American creativity, as were the signs,” she said. “By far, the most amazing aspect was the positivity and willingness to help one another, and the age range of attendees. Despite the dire need many felt to march, the communal spirit of kindness was overwhelming.”

There were human traffic jams at times when marches going east and west would meet up with marchers going north toward the White House, she said. A second march route was established after the original route became clogged, she said, which shifted people to Pennsylvania Avenue.

“I had no idea I would find myself in the middle of 500,000 people lending shouts, chants, raised fists and vocal roar—but once there, it felt like home,” she said.

She added that she felt a responsibility to take part in the demonstration.

“I have deep concerns for the environment under the new administration as well as a fear of nuclear war, and what appears to be the normalization of bigotry, anger and hate; not to mention the apparent repeal of many civil rights,” she said. “I would like to hope that we can come together as a nation under strong leadership, but after seeing the reaction from Washington the past several days, I have concerns.

She carried a Sewanee sign and many people stopped to take photos and share Sewanee stories and the occasional, “Yea, Sewanee’s Right.”

“The depth of love and recognition for our wee spot in the universe was powerful,” she said.