Annual women’s march takes place in Seneca Falls

Annual Women's March takes place in Seneca Falls

Nearly a thousand participants convene in historic upstate town to celebrate the legacy of the women who came before them.
Published: January 20, 2019
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The crowd of marchers listened to several speakers, including suffragist descendants Coline Jenkins and Elisa Kellogg Shaffer as well as Gwen Webber-McLeod, CEO of Gwen, Inc, before marching.

Snow, extreme cold and a government shutdown did not stop about a thousand people from showing up to the Women’s March in Seneca Falls this weekend. Gathered at the end of Fall Street beside Van Cleef Lake and Trinity Church, marchers gathered for the 10 a.m. rally before the march.

Maureen Quigley, an organizer for the march and leader of the rally opened up the event by encouraging the crowd to chant: “They can’t shut us down!”

Quigley began the rally with some opening remarks about the location and the importance of the women’s march. “You are standing in Seneca Falls, the birthplace of women’s rights in America and soon you will be marching on the very streets that our foremothers walked, standing tall and marching strong to say we are not satisfied, we are not finished,” she said.

Colleen Kattau, a central New York folk singer and songwriter, sang her original song “Her Voice is a River” and taught the crowd the chorus to sing along: “her voice is a river / her song is a sound / flowing daughter to daughter / on hollowed ground.”

A few speakers were unable to attend because of the weather, including Loise Herne, representative for the Mohawk Nation, and Kathy Hochul, Lieutenant Governor of New York.

Shauna Marie O’Toole, a transgender woman part of the We Exist Coalition of the Finger Lakes, spoke about the gender expression non-discrimination act recently passed in New York state, a step in the direction toward gender equality.

Other elected officials also spoke, including Diana Smith, former mayor of Seneca Falls, and Joe Morelle, the Democratic senator for New York’s 25th congressional district.

“Those who would say it’s snowy and cold – it may be,” Morelle said. “But if it was warm and sunny, everyone could do it. You demonstrate your commitment, strength, concern for your cause.”

Gwen Webber-McLeod, CEO of Gwen, Inc., a leadership development company, spoke about her journey to feminism and why she came to the women’s march. “I woke up this morning and I was thinking to myself, it is so cold outside,” Webber-McLeod said. “I kind of felt Harriet Tubman on my shoulder, saying get up and get going.”

The rally closed with a final song, performed by Mimi McHale and inspired by Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.”
Melina Carnicelli, lead organizer for the women’s march of Seneca Falls, is one of 15 people who helped plan the first women’s march Seneca Falls in January 2017 in partnership with about 700 marches around the world.

“We’re going on undaunted by the weather, and undaunted by the shutdown,” Carnicelli said. She explained that the location of the rally had to be changed due to the government shutdown. The rally was previously held at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, but was moved to the Fall Street location this year.

According to Carnicelli, about 10,000 people came to the first march in 2017 and 15,000 came in 2018. There were only about a thousand marchers this year. Carnicelli was the first and only woman to serve as mayor of Auburn in 1999 and is a native of the Finger Lakes region. She says she has a special connection with Seneca Falls. “I find the area sacred ground, devoted to social justice and equality for many decades.”

She explained that the theme of this year’s march, Redefining Resistance: Women in the Lead is about showing women in leadership roles. “We have a predominance of males in leadership positions in all levels, especially in political elected office,” Carnicelli said. “We are highlighting women in leadership roles and we continue to highlight equality under the law for women in any regard.”

The march began shortly after the rally ended, as the snow and wind started to pick up.

Ellie Aliperti, Morgan Wright and Kate Equinozzi, all seniors at Geneva High School, said they marched for young people.

“We’re the upcoming generation that is going to change the future,” Aliperti said. “I think it’s important for us to get out and voice our opinions.”

The young women were inspired by women in power in New York state. “I think that’s even more of an inspiration because a lot of us want to go into politics and government and be involved,” Equinozzi said. “This snow didn’t stop us, and neither will inequality!”

Two seniors from Skaneateles High School, Jessica Patalino and Sarah Bailey started a women’s rights club and marched with their fellow members. “I’m just here to support women,” Patalino said.

Other marchers participated to protest against the country’s current administration. Ed Meyer, a self-described Democrat, vegan, hunter and advocate for gun control, held a sign that said, “Impeach traitor Trump Putin.” He added,“I’m here to support the march and try to affect change to try and get rid of the orange menace in the White House.”

Jungmin Kim, a marcher from Buffalo, said that she was at the women’s march to fight for democracy. “I’m very concerned about the direction this country is headed in with disrespect for women, racial minorities, LGBTQ minorities, and also immigrants, Muslims and DREAMers,” Kim said. “I’d like to help push this country in the direction in which its true values are aligned with.”

Some participants didn’t see the march as a protest, but as a gathering for a cause. Julie Legg from Skaneateles was marching with her family. Her sign read, “Love not hate makes America great.”

“I look as it more of an enlightenment and a coming together and working together. If we all work together for a common good, that’s the way to do it,” Legg said.

Holly Corcoran from Rochester marched for the minorities she sees on a daily basis as a mental health therapist.
“I deal with a lot of transgender youth, marginalized families, a lot of people in poverty. I see their fear every day over the situation in our government,” Corcoran said.

“There’s not a ton I can do, but I can do this and encourage people to do the same, to not be silent.”