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National NOW Times >> Fall 2004 >> Article

NOW Acts: March for Women's Lives Inspired a Flurry of Activity

by Barbara Hays, Chapter and State Development Director

NOW chapters across the nation report the old adage "when it rains, it pours" as their 2004 action plan. Their outlook calls for a wave of high interest and a flurry of new activism.

Early this spring, chapters began receiving calls and inquiries in torrents as people began planning for the March for Women's Lives, of which NOW was one of six organizers. Areas showing little interest in women's issues for several years responded to the March in large numbers. Activists from northeastern Tennessee filled a bus and a fleet of cars to participate in the March.

"If we aren’t heard loud and clear on Nov. 2, there won’t be much left to discuss," said Connie Moorhead who is re-organizing Jefferson County NOW in Louisville, Ky.

Activists returned from the March exhausted, but with a renewed committment to NOW’s mission of achieving equality for all women. As summer progressed, more and more areas of the country organized in ways unseen for years.

Northeastern Tennessee organizers expected activists to return excited, but quickly settle into the conservative climate of their hometowns. However, more than 30 people attended their first meeting after the March. Light conversation propelled into a serious discussion of starting a new NOW chapter. In just a few months, the group developed a Web site and drafted chapter bylaws. They are also motivating progressives in eastern Tennessee to vote in November to ensure that our voices are heard in the election.

"Women got a real sense of empowerment from the March," said Darcy Martin, Northeast Tennessee NOW’s new chapter president.

"There's a 'we can do it' attitude out there now."

An increase in interest and concern also spread to chapters in larger metropolitan areas. Kimberly Martin, the new president of Arlington, Virginia NOW, near Washington, D.C., jumped into action as scores of women and men contacted the chapter for March information.

"While we were organizing, new and old activists alike came out of the woodwork to join forces with us and stayed on as members," Martin said.

She arranged teams of activists to volunteer at the National Action Center prior to the March, and continues stirring up interest in the community as November elections approach.

"It can be a lonely road for a feminist activist, but there are so many more people out there that share your beliefs," Martin said.

In areas farther from the nation’s capitol, attendance at chapter meetings surged and more people are working to inform the public that the Bush Administration’s policies harm women and prohibit the advancement of our rights.

Scores of individuals in areas without an active NOW chapter requested information about beginning chapters and spurring new activism—in over 30 states. Many individuals who joined NOW during that period also requested referrals to active chapters.

The Action Center’s chapter and state development department staff is working with more than 25 groups that have either chartered a new chapter in the last few months or are very close to doing so.

College students are also joining with NOW to organize groups under the new Campus Action Networking NOW campaign, and more than 25 campuses have contacted NOW for information.

The days between now and the election will take everyone's hard work, and we certainly appreciate yours.

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