When we marched in Washington a year ago, we had no idea.

An inkling, certainly. A prescient pit in the stomach. We had, after all, lived through a brutal, brass-knuckles campaign cycle. We had watched the fissures of public debate, opinion and ideology widen to chasms.

We heard newly-elected President Trump, the very day before we took to the streets, describe a dismal place we didn’t recognize as our America. He spoke of crime and gangs and drugs, inner city hopelessness and the insidiousness of outsiders. “American carnage” was the foreboding take-away line from his inauguration speech.

I guess you could say that the writing was on the infamous wall.

What we failed to fully grasp was the depth of divisiveness we faced. We knew that women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ citizens, the poor and the marginalized wouldn’t fare well under a Trump administration. But we had no idea just how bad it was going to get.

Who could have predicted that a president, in 2017, would unabashedly promote bigotry and racism, refer to white supremacists and neo-Nazis as ‘fine people,’ and endorse an alleged child molester?

We expected tough talk and rough times, but not schoolyard bullying, baiting and bold-faced lies. Who knew that he’d mock and taunt the president of an unstable nuclear nation, elbow NATO leaders out of his way, disparage his own appointees and agencies, and turn a deaf ear to both the counsel of those who serve him – and the needs of those he was elected to serve?

Had we known, our heads and our pink pussy hats would have EXPLODED!

Neither were we prepared for the ‘Me Too’ tsunami to come. We knew, of course, that women had been harassed, assaulted, hushed and manhandled for decades. But the vast pervasiveness of abuse … the institutional complicity … the systemic reach and creep throughout government, business, entertainment, media, sports, technology – rattled us all.

Those who planned and pulled off last year’s marches couldn’t have known they were igniting a movement – a movement that would spread like wildfire and spark engagement and activism. It was grassroots activism at its finest – a sweeping crusade born in coffee shops and at kitchen tables around the country.

Because we knew we had to do something. And we did. We organized. We registered voters. We wrote and called and petitioned our elected representatives. We showed up: at city council meetings, school boards, vigils and protests. We volunteered – at shelters, soup kitchens, Planned Parenthood, charities and church missions. We gave of our time, our talent, our pocketbooks and our passion.

No one forecast that record numbers of women would be inspired to run for office – all levels of office, in every city, suburb and country crossroad across the nation.

They couldn’t have foreseen that the momentum would continue – and grow. The 2017 marches were followed by the marches of 2018 – assemblies branded with the charge ‘power to the polls.’ Of all the chants of the day, the clearest and surest was “We will vote!” And you can bet your sweet ass we will.

Because what we do know – and have known all along – is that women get things done. We bake the casseroles when someone’s sick … we raise money for schools and libraries and candidates … we sit at the front of the bus … we bring families and communities together.

We also know our strength – and we’re claiming our power.

So many who spoke at the podium and in the crowd at this year’s march talked about the need to be less polite. Less forgiving. Less accepting of inequity and injustice. Women, and the wonderful men who stand with us, are no longer willing to tolerate the wrongs of sexism, racism, xenophobia and the devaluing of those who look, love, worship and speak differently.

So, patience is a virtue we’re retiring to the abandoned heap of white gloves and pillbox hats. We’re not going to sit on our hands and look to others to effect change. We’re taking matters into our own hands. We’re stepping up and speaking out.

A year ago, we had no idea how greatly needed our presence and protest would be. But we mobilized. Marched. Voted. Served. And we’re going to keep on keeping on. Because you have no idea how powerful women united can be.

Lucinda Trew is an independent writer, lecturer and principal of Trew Words LLC. She gets fired up about issues of equality, peace, justice — and indie films, geeky grammar stuff and ACC basketball.

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