Done. We made history

Millions of people around the world took part in the Women’s March on January 21, 2017. With an estimated three million participants in the United States, the March wrote a chapter in American history. Christine Loriol travelled from Zurich to Washington to participate: “because I just had to be there.” A personal report.

The next day, the “pussy hat” was already an icon. Ever­yone I met as I left my hotel room that morning gave me a smile, and within minutes we were engaged in conver­sa­tion. Mabel and Bert from Miami said goodbye with a long, emotional embrace, as if we had been old friends. Amy, Kristen, and Ian from Port­land (whom I had met on the street the day before the March ) did the same, as did Melissa from Wisconsin, who stood by me for a while in the crowd of huma­nity. And then there was the little old lady who simply put her arm around my waist and steadied me (or herself ) after I said that I had come from Zurich, Switz­er­land. Abso­lutely ever­yone I met said: “Thank you for coming. Thank you for being with us.” We had touched each other. I had to think about the line from the National Anthem of Europe (and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”): “All people will become brothers” – and sisters.

Born in 1960, I was too young to have perso­nally expe­ri­enced Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. My know­ledge of the huge Vietnam anti-war protests came only from films I’d seen. And as a news­writer at Radio Zürisee in November 1989, I knew that history was being made in Berlin, but I didn’t think of going there myself to parti­ci­pate. I still reget that today.

Donald, that’s enough. Stop it, sit down!

Clinton vs. Trump. second dabate; source:

I followed the American elec­tion with great inte­rest from the moment Donald Trump became an offi­cial candi­date. The further he progressed, the more inten­sely I followed the procee­dings. My personal low came with the second TV debate against Hillary Clinton. Watching him stalk her, sniff­ling and scuf­fling uncom­for­tably close behind her back, I wanted to protect her. Ha! And the way he stood humping an empty chair obli­viously as Hillary spoke about poli­tics: this was someone who simply took whatever he thought was his. It was unbe­arable. And nobody said anything, not even Hillary Clinton. She should have treated him like a spoiled child or a small dog and said: “Donald, that’s enough. Stop it, sit down!” But who could have actually done that in such a situation?

Michelle Obama, 13.10.2016; source:

A tran­script of this debate became avail­able later on the internet. This was a tragic docu­ment full of inter­rup­tions, asser­tions, mans­p­lai­ning and manter­rup­ting, contempt and inde­cency. I felt sick reading it. Much more of the same was to follow, on a nearly daily basis, leading to the infa­mous  “grab them by the pussy” scandal. Michelle Obama’s speech in response to that news thrilled me, moved me to tears, and made me thankful that some­body finally spoke for me too.

I had been invited to an election-night party at the home of the then-U.S. Ambassador to Switz­er­land, Suzi LeVine. I brought a female friend with me, as a gesture of female empower­ment at what we expected to be a histo­rical moment. But rather than rejoi­cing toge­ther as part­ners in crime, we became part­ners in tears.


Four days later, on the after­noon of Sunday, November 13, I bought my plane ticket. The idea of the Women’s March had surfaced on Face­book after the elec­tion. It was exactly what I needed to help heal my soul. No one expected it to grow to such dimen­sions. Throughout the elec­tion period and after the elec­tion I asked myself why I was so perso­nally affected by Trump’s sexism and mistre­at­ment of women. After all, I am not and have never been an American citizen. Now I know why. And I know I am not the only one.

Switz­er­land, 1971

Women’s Vote: No! Switz­er­land, 1971; source:

I was already born when women were granted the right to vote in Switz­er­land in 1971. In February 2016, shortly before Switz­er­land held a refe­rendum on the enforced depor­ta­tion of foreign law-breakers, I watched the movie “Suffra­gette.” The story pulled me in within the first 40 minutes, as I saw how the female figh­ters for women’s suffrage were mistreated and humi­liated. At some point during the movie it occurred to me that in Switz­er­land a similar struggle had taken place not that long ago. If it were 45 years earlier, I myself would not be allowed to cast my ballot in the upco­ming refe­rendum, while all my male colleagues, friends and rela­tives exer­cised their right to vote. I cried tears of anger, because there had been a time when women were offi­cially less valued than men, and because I had perso­nally lived though that time as a young girl. I left the movie theater without watching the end of the film. But the idea of “only a girl” stayed on my mind. My paternal grand­mo­ther had expressed her disap­point­ment when I, the first grand­child, was born a girl. My father (thank you Jules!) had always fought for me. Luckily I was brought up with the phrase “You can do it too”: my own personal “Yes we can!”

This personal expe­ri­ence reso­nated within me during the US elec­tion season. Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton. What did people accuse her of and attack her with? Likea­bi­lity! Stamina! Her husband, because she’d stayed with him. Her voice. Her ambi­tion. And not least, her compe­tence. Throughout the campaign and after the elec­tion, all of these were trig­gers remin­ding me of my own so-called “birth defect,” the short­co­ming I had not chosen, my gender as female.

That’s why I wanted to be there. This was my subject. It was the theme of my era. I espe­cially did not want to look back in old age and say: “I saw it coming, but I missed the chance to react.” I grew up in the know­ledge that our demo­cracy is as self-evident and as inde­st­ruc­tible as the Matter­horn. A given. Or, if you prefer, God-given. But I had seen recently that, even in Switz­er­land, we need to keep an eye on our demo­cracy (with a nod to the histo­rian Jakob Tanner). And that “we” also means “me.”

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Among hund­reds of thousands

Women’s March, Washington, January 21, 2017

Women’s March, Washington, 21.1.2017; Photo: Chris­tine Loriol

Between elec­tion night and Inau­gu­ra­tion day, Trump conti­nued to cross the line. As the Women’s March approa­ched, more and more people, and espe­cially more and more women, must have decided: “Enough is enough.” I followed the news on Face­book. The Women’s March had quickly became a professionally-organized event. It got bigger and bigger. Then I disco­vered the “pussy hat” project. I found it clever and conspi­ra­to­rial: poli­tical knit­ting! And it began exactly as the March itself had begun, as an idea by two women which quickly spread through social media. A sea of pink pussy hats was their dream, and it caught hold of me too. For the first time in about 30 years, I bought wool and knit­ting needles. The result was as stupen­dous as the March itself; pictures of “a sea of pink hats” were beamed around the world.

Women’s March, Washington, 21.1.2016; source:

Hund­reds of thousands, perhaps up to a half a million women toge­ther with their male comrades surged in the direc­tion of the National Mall. Diffe­rent genera­tions, genders, ethnic back­grounds, natio­na­li­ties, reli­gions. They were worried, angry, and all very deter­mined. And yet: they were all peaceful and friendly to each other. And funny! They were angry at the subjects that they were addres­sing, but they were always consi­de­rate and atten­tive. They excused them­selves when they collided with someone in the crush, and lent a hand when someone wanted to step up onto the curb. The police offi­cers moving through the crowd were applauded and told: “Thank you for your service!” The crowd whistled and booed when a speaker mentioned Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Cabinet pick for the Depart­ment of Educa­tion. It was stirred up and inspired by America Ferrara and Ashley Judd. But the marchers looked out for the people that stood next to them. The list of spea­kers was very long, and the rally lasted more than four hours. The spee­ches were emotional, angry, intel­lec­tual, poli­tical, biting, moving. A 12-year-old Mexican girl spoke more eloquently than Trump; the promi­nent femi­nist Gloria Steinem and the bril­liant acti­vist Angela Davis deli­vered high-quality food for thought. Docu­men­tary filmmaker Michael Moore presented his “resis­tance plan” for conti­nuing to the oppo­si­tion move­ment after the March was over. The lineup on stage was impressive:

In Los Angeles 750,000 people were esti­mated to have demons­trated, and not one person was arrested. It was the same in Washington. The only aggres­sion that I perso­nally exeri­enced was on the internet, in the user comments on the media coverage of the March – written by people who had not been there. From people who found the pussy hats “pathetic” or dismissed the March as an unde­mo­cratic temper tantrum. “Get over it,” was their message. “Trump was demo­cra­ti­cally elected.”  “Get over us” was the impres­sive response in Washington. “This is what demo­cracy looks like,” chanted the crowd, along with shouts of “Yes we can!”

pussy hat; Photo: Chris­tine Loriol

At the end, I joyfully wore my pink pusssy hat to the Capitol Buil­ding for one last photo oppor­tu­nity, happy that I came here, and thankful as well. The most beau­tiful thing was probably the sense of belon­ging. To be shown that I am not alone in the world and not a member of a mere fringe group – and to docu­ment this expe­ri­ence in unfor­gett­able photos. To have the feeling of being right, and at the right place. In Washington I expe­ri­enced and learned a lot, and was given many gifts. And I may have been able to give some­thing back, because I went there. I had personal reasons for doing so, but it went far beyond my own indi­vi­dual moti­va­tion. I know that I am a privi­leged woman: it was important for me to support a move­ment that supports all women. Who will do this, if not us? When, if not now? Sister­hood. We women have written history. And we made a good start. “And now, let’s get shit done!” as one of my friends likes to say. Not only in Washington.

When I am back home, I will knit pussy hats for Claudia, Marcy, and Fran­ziska. Now I remember how.

Trans­la­tion: Chris­to­pher Hux, Editing: Marcy Goldberg

About the author: Chris­tine Loriol was a radio jour­na­list in Zurich, Switz­er­land when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. She has worked as a free­lance jour­na­list for nume­rous maga­zines and news­pa­pers, and for the past 20 years has been a copy­writer, commu­ni­ca­tions consul­tant, and coach.