The day after Donald Trump won the presidential election, Carmichael’s Patti Gale told her husband their planned trip to Cape Cod was off.
Instead, she spent $5,000 renting a house in Bethesda, Md., just outside Washington, D.C. There, she and about 22 family members and friends will gather for Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington, a grass-roots effort that began on Facebook and has morphed into an international phenomenon.
“It was kind of a turning point for me,” Gale, a 50-year-old nurse manager at Mercy San Juan Hospital, said of the election. “I’m a middle-aged mother of six, and I’ve always been a kind of middle-of-the-road political person.”
But, after voting for Hillary Clinton and seeing Trump win, Gale, a Democrat, said, “It broke my heart. I’ve never been so devastated by an election.”
The trip to Washington, which entails most of her group flying and one daughter driving up from Tennessee, is not so much an anti-Trump statement as an effort to make a statement about the need to protect the rights of women, immigrants and others after an extraordinarily divisive campaign.
“What I hope comes out of it is people paying attention to the need for change, for people who are committed to pushing for social change,” Gale said. “It’s all different things. It’s human issues.”
Organizers have been careful to say the event is not a protest against Trump, who will be inaugurated as the nation’s 45th president the day before the march, and that it is open to everyone, regardless of gender, race or citizenship. As of Sunday, 194,000 people had indicated on the group’s Facebook page that they were going, and another 255,000 said they were interested in doing so.
“The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights,” the group’s website says. “We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”
Since the march was first conceived, at least 273 “sister marches” in all 50 states and 55 foreign cities have been announced for the same date, including one in Sacramento that will begin at Southside Park and proceed to the west steps of the Capitol.
Participants and organizers say the growth of the movement has been fueled by social media and a desire among people who want their voices heard.
“We need to go,” said Sherry Caruso, an Elk Grove lactation coordinator who is going to Washington with a group of six people. “I think, given the tone and rhetoric of the election, I just think it’s an important time right now to have a voice for women’s rights, human rights, to stand together shoulder to shoulder with other women and citizens to be heard, to send a message to the new administration.”
Some hope that the marches will show the new administration and the Congress that there are people nationwide who want to protect health care, immigrant rights and other causes that became so contentious during the campaign.
“It’s not an anti-Trump thing, it’s a ‘here we are, we’ve worked so hard to get these rights’ thing,” said Brenda Brozek, a Sacramento nursing consultant who is going to Washington with her daughter. “We don’t want to lose them.”
Despite the insistence that the marches are not aimed specifically at protesting Trump’s victory, the president-elect remains a powerful source of motivation for many.
Some participants are planning to wear knitted pink caps specially created for the march and organized by a group calling itself the “Pussyhat Project,” a term the group said it chose “because we want to reclaim the word as a means of empowerment.”
The fact that the term became part of the election when Trump was heard using it on a tape-recorded conversation is hard to miss.
“The hats are bright pink, kind of neon pink, and they look like they have little cat ears,” said Linda Clark Johnson, a retired Sacramento teacher and artist who is knitting them to give to marchers. “The idea is to have knitters all over the country knit hats so when you look out onto the mall there will be a sea of pink.”
Johnson said she voted for Clinton and was disappointed at Trump’s victory. But she agreed with others that her work is “not necessarily anti-Trump.”
“I just don’t want all the work that’s been done to create a better country for women here, I don’t want that to be erased,” said Johnson, 61.
Still, participants say they fully expect Trump to take note of the march, even if only on Twitter.
“Well, he tweets about everything else,” Gale said, adding that she politely declined an offer of tickets to the inauguration by her Bethesda landlord.
“The person I rented the house from asked me if I needed tickets and I kept my mouth shut,” she said. “It will be historic, but I don’t know that I want to go there and do that.”
Annie Adams, a San Jose social worker who is helping coordinate the Sacramento march, said “the main focus of this is inclusivity and getting the most united voices possible.”
Having “sister marches” in as many places as possible allows for many more people to participate, she said, giving them a choice of whether to take a long bus ride to one or attend one closer to home.
The Sacramento march is expected to draw people from around the state, with buses scheduled to come in from Redding, Chico and elsewhere for what is estimated to be a turnout of 10,000 people.
The Sacramento march is expected to cost organizers $60,000 to $80,000 for security, permitting, portable toilets and other required amenities, she said, and the group’s website – www.womensmarchsac.com – includes information on how to donate.
Adams, a 38-year-old mother of two, said she is a Democrat who voted originally for Democratic Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and then for Clinton in November, but she added that she does not see that as relevant.“This is not anti-anything,” she said. “It is a unity march.”