By all accounts these communities are considered rural. Clare consists of approximately 3,118 residents, while Copper Harbor consists of only 108 residents. Needless to say, we were surprised to see organized groups in these areas.
Meanwhile, across the country, millions of people were marching for women’s rights and against Trump. Although the largest crowds were reported in Washington, D.C. and other metro areas like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Boston, news outlets also reported on the number of “sister marches” led by groups in small towns and cities in rural America.
Given the contentious nature and geographic divide of this year’s election, one might assume that women would only march in states where Clinton won the vote, or at least in large urban areas that are more likely to represent democratic views. After all, rural America is disproportionately white, and Trump won 62% of the vote among rural white women.
In fact, a Vox headline covering the Women’s March seemed to suggest surprise at the idea that women would organize in traditionally Republican states and communities. The headline read: “Women are marching in cities across the Midwest, the Rust Belt, and the South. They are even marching in states where Donald Trump won the presidency.”
My husband and I also shared that initial sentiment of surprise. We grew up in Michigan and we had some familiarity with the cultural make-up of the Michigan communities listed on the database. But as I reviewed the crowd estimates across the country, I began to feel ashamed that I doubted the ability of these communities to organize or thought that they wouldn’t be interested in showing their support for women’s rights.
Contrary to my initial assumptions, many rural communities across the country banded together in support of women’s rights, regardless of size. Here are just a few stories of those who participated:
- A small group of about 38 people organized in Unalakleet, Alaska – a city with a population of 700 – despite a weather forecast that predicted Saturday afternoon temperatures with a high of -19 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Singer-songwriter Carole King showed her support by protesting in her hometown of Stanley, Idaho, along with half the town, which has a population of approximately 60 people.
- Michelle Barton, a retired librarian, prepared to march in her rural town of Longville, Minnesota (population of less than 200) because she was unable to travel to a larger march in Bemidji or Fargo. Barton had posted a local Facebook event about the march, but she didn’t think anyone would join her and prepared to march solo. To her surprise, 66 people showed up to march with her on Saturday.
Jack’s piece, published in the Des Moines Register a few days before the march, reflected on his first experience with a women’s protest – when he attended the Fourth of July parade at age 12 in his hometown of Cedar Bluff, in rural eastern Iowa. That year, in July of 1986, five women dressed as Lady Liberty and rode topless across a women’s rights float, sending a message against pornography and objectification. And on that day, a crowd of approximately 15,000 people gathered, even though Cedar Bluff had less than 50 residents.
Although some participants used the march to protest against the Trump administration and Trump’s remarks on the campaign trail – donning pink knit “pussy hats” and “nasty woman” tees – to many participants, the march meant more than that. The national mission of the march was to send a message to the new administration that “women’s rights are human rights.” But organizers in Anchorage, Alaska insist that the march was also about issues that have affected their local communities for some time.
To them, it was an opportunity for these communities to “stand up and do something.” The march was a way for their voice to be heard and they did not hesitate to show their support for women's rights. Regardless of their size or cultural backgrounds, some women in rural communities chose to stand together in solidarity.