Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism
at Brandeis University
i n v e s t i g a t i o n s
About our archival project on the 2017 Women's Marches
From the nation’s capital to small Midwestern towns to cities from coast to coast, more than 4 million people across the country are estimated to have participated in the Jan. 21, 2017 Women’s March on Washington and the hundreds of its sister marches that took place in every state, according to event organizers. Another 300,000 or more people are estimated to have demonstrated in communities around the world—even on the shore of Paradise Bay in Antarctica.
Participants marched to stand up for social justice, equality and women’s rights. Some were there to voice their opposition to President Donald Trump, who had been inaugurated just the day before. Over the course of his campaign, Trump was involved in a number of controversies, including alleged sexual misconduct and harassment of women. Trump denied those charges, but the incidents alienated many.
The day after the marches, front pages across the globe reflected their sheer magnitude—which far exceeded the organizers’ expectations—the wide range of causes being championed and the diversity of the participants: old, young, women, men, children, of all races and ethnicities, sexual orientations and gender identities.
At the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, we report on social justice and human rights issues. We have a dedicated Gender and Justice Project, which we initiated when the institute was founded in 2004. The project reports on issues from teen sexual harassment in the workplace to international adoption corruption to sex trafficking. The spontaneous announcement shortly after the presidential election of the Women’s March on Washington surprised many when it ignited a groundswell of sister marches all over the United States and on every continent. These collective marches on one day, which organized organically, were historic.
The Schuster Institute created an archive of photographs, video, audio and written accounts of the Women’s Marches to mark Women’s History Month (March) and International Women’s Day, March 8. These two events commemorate the economic, social and political achievements of women as well as the ongoing struggle to address systemic inequalities in the United States and around the world. Among those achievements is women’s right to vote, which the U.S. will celebrate in 2020, its 100-year anniversary.
The Boston Women’s March was reported by our staff journalists. Several Schuster Institute senior fellows and visiting research scholars contributed photos of other marches, as did student employees. We thank the volunteers and friends of the Institute who also documented these events in the U.S. and abroad and shared images and writing with us.
The iconic “pussyhat” of the Women’s Marches is the brainchild of Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman. The two came up with the idea at their knitting circle at The Little Knittery yarn shop in Los Angeles as they thought about how they could create a visual statement — a "sea of pink" — at the march in Washington, D.C., which Suh planned to attend (Zweiman planned to go to the Los Angeles march). The design, a hat with cat ears, was in direct response to the 2005 video The Washington Post broke of Trump using crude language to tell Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush that he grabs women’s genitals without their consent. The comment was captured from a hot microphone between takes of the interview.
“It’s reappropriating the word ‘pussy’ in a positive way. It’s a pussyhat—one word. This is a project about women supporting women,” Zweiman told Glamour magazine.
Suh and Zweiman added that “they wanted to celebrate knitting and crochet precisely because they're traditionally women's crafts—and skills passed from generation to generation;” they called knitting circles “powerful gatherings of women, a safe space to talk, a place where women support women."
The pair posted the free knitting pattern online over Thanksgiving weekend — it immediately caught fire and the rest is history.
Origins of the “Pussyhat”
Photo: Breelyn Burns
Protests and demonstrations for women’s rights in the U.S. have a long history, and have often drawn large crowds to their cause. From New York garment workers’ strikes in the early 1900s to the Women’s March in 2017, millions of women over the years have taken to the streets, signs in hand, to demand respect and equal treatment. In this timeline, see the Women’s March and its predecessors in the context of other major U.S. protests such as the Civil Rights Movement and anti- Vietnam War demonstrations, and trace the efforts to celebrate women with a special day, month, year – and even a decade.
Although women gained the right to vote in 1920, the fight for equality is not over. Exclusive interviews with U.S. Congresswomen and a forthcoming book on the unexpected allies of the women’s suffrage movement highlight the achievements of pioneering women and the ongoing struggles women still face.
Schuster Institute Senior Fellow Brooke Kroeger’s forthcoming book, “Suffragents,” tells the story of a powerful group of New York men who joined the women’s suffrage movement in the early 1900s—and together, helped change the course of history.
These front pages of newspapers from some of the cities featured in our archival website were published Jan. 22, 2017, the day after the Women's March. To see more covers, visit the Newseum website.