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Pink hats off to the hardworking, dedicated organizers of the 2020 Montana Women’s March in Helena, and its partners, contributors and participants. A special shout out to Ronnie Whitaker, Rebecca Johnson, Clare Kearns, Sharon and Galen McKibben, Karen Lane, Janice Frisch and Andy Shirtliff — our core group that’s been planning since September.

I encourage folks to join them and the hundreds of people from all corners of Montana, this Saturday, Jan. 18, from noon to 2:30 p.m. at Memorial Park. The event begins with an energetic rally of speakers and welcome by Helena City Manager Ana Cortez, inspirational poetry by our state’s Poets Laureate Mandy Smoker Broaddus and Melissa Kwasny, rousing music by Judy Fjell and the Montana Women’s Chorus, followed by an enthusiastic march around nearby Centennial Park.

Ours is among hundreds of “Women Rising” marches in Washington, D.C., and around the country — harnessing the power of diverse women, including transgender women and people who are gender-nonconforming, and all of those who support them to make transformational social change. It’s also to mark the 100-year anniversary of the women’s vote in this country.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” Helena’s theme is “Put a Woman in Charge,” to make room for everyone and level the playing field.

We all have our own reasons for taking part in the Women’s March. At 16, I was prohibited from running for high school student president. “Girls don’t run for president,” I was admonished. It was 1971 and I won the secretary position. At 30, when offered a promotion, it was for less pay than my male predecessor. The news director said, “Mike has a wife and child.” I had my own family financial challenges and I went to work for the competition.

I’ll be wearing an Equal Rights Amendment button on Saturday, remembering back in July 1978 in my early twenties, hoping my old yellow VW Bug would make it from my home in Philadelphia down to D.C. and back. I marched on Washington with thousands of others wearing a sea of white for suffrage to extend the deadline to ratify the ERA, which passed in 1972, but wasn’t yet ratified. Nearly a half century later, we’re still marching for ERA ratification, hoping 2020 is the year.

Since the original Women’s March in 2017, where about 15,000 people descended on the Helena Capitol, and hundreds of thousands to our nation’s capital and other state capitols, it’s been a movement about women’s rights, which are human rights, equal opportunity, and social, economic, environmental and climate justice.

Writer and women’s activist Gloria Steinem said, “A movement is only composed of people moving. To feel its warmth and motion around us is the end as well as the means.” And as the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently put it: “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Hope to see you at the Women’s March.

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Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, represents House District 84 in the Montana Legislature. She is also an organizer for the Montana Women’s March in Helena.

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