Ten-year-old Lucia del Pilar interrupted the audiobook she and her mother listened to as they cruised across the country in a hybrid Highlander. The car speakers played Gail Collins’ book, “America’s Women: 400 years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates and Heroines,” which tells the stories of the women who have shaped our nation.
Lucia spoke up when she heard Anne Hutchinson’s name. She had learned about Hutchinson in her fifth-grade classroom.
“When we were talking about the colonies, she was in the workbook,” Lucia said. “She was one of the only women on the list.” Hutchinson was an outspoken leader and midwife who challenged the established New England Puritan patriarchy. She was tried, convicted and banished from the colony for her religious dissent.
It was fitting car talk for a mother and daughter participating in their first march, a female-led protest against the new president of the United States. Jessica del Pilar, 38, of Clayton, Missouri, took her daughter out of school for two days to travel to the nation’s capital for the Women’s March on Washington. Crowd counts estimate 500,000 people marched in D.C. -- more than triple the estimated attendance of the inauguration itself. Nationally, it is said to have been the largest protest in American history, with political scientists estimating between 3.3 to 4.8 million people participating in towns throughout the country.
But del Pilar had no idea how it would turn out when she decided to drive 800 miles to D.C. with her daughter. During the election cycle, she said, every issue felt polarized to such an extreme. After Donald Trump won and del Pilar saw the reports of violence by some of his supporters, she wanted to do something. His cabinet appointments only affirmed her resolve.
“I think it’s very important for people to understand (that) his supporters don’t represent the whole country,” she said. “I don’t want to be complacent in this moment. I don’t want to pull back or hide or just be hopeful that everything will be OK.”
Having grown up in Denver and lived in D.C., she also felt a little isolated, away from family -- a transplant from blue cities to a red Midwestern state. They made plans to meet up for the march with del Pilar’s sister and aunt, along with a friend traveling from California, who was also bringing her young daughter.
Del Pilar wanted to impart a simple message to her daughter: “It’s time when we need to show that we are going to stand up for what we believe in.”
Lucia made her own signs. One said, “I refuse to be silent.”
On the day of the march, they headed to the Metro station at 8 a.m. It was full of people, and their train only became more packed at each stop. They were letting people out in waves. The attendant had a bullhorn and was chanting, as well.
“It was so positive,” del Pilar said. She and her daughter met the rest of their group and found a space near the stage. The crowd around them swelled. Neither had ever been in a crowd so large before. She watched her daughter listen to speakers like Madonna, Ashley Judd and Gloria Steinem talk about women’s rights and equality. There were times the entire crowd was dancing, and times they were pushed together by the crush of people.
A little before 3 p.m., they started marching toward the White House. When some marchers chanted, “What does America look like?” others responded, “This is what America looks like!”
Lucia was taking it all in.
Del Pilar’s husband texted her while they marched, “I’m so glad you are there.”
She said that if she’d been looking for a larger community that shared her values of liberty and justice for all, she rediscovered it that day. That evening, they huddled around the table, amazed at the aerial images of marches from around the country.
On the drive home to Missouri, she and Lucia listened to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me,” a personal and political history of race in this country written as a series of letters to his teenaged son.
They are still processing the events of the weekend.
The march was the beginning of the story for them -- a renewed start of political engagement; a source of inspiration that will continue to push them forward.
Participating in it was like reading the introduction to an epic anthology, del Pilar said. Until you read the entire book, you don’t truly understand it.
“This thing has yet to be written,” she said.