Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington inspired similar rallies from coast to coast, including a march in Hartford that drew several thousand people to the state capitol. In New Haven at 12:15 p.m., the Green was witness to its own rally. Set up by Yale liaisons to the D.C. march, it had begun at 11 a.m. at Beinecke Plaza on Yale’s campus, with chalk drawings and singing by an a cappella group.
By noon the group had made its way to the Green, where it marched the perimeter of its western half for an hour. Hundreds of people were involved in the protest, which at its largest stretched in a line on Church Street from the corner of Elm to the corner of Chapel.
With chants of “Fired up, ready to go,” “Women’s rights, human rights,” “Keep your hands off my sister,” and “Let’s dump Trump,” the march made a few laps around the Green. Bystanders smiled and waved. A city employee on her way to work yelled, “Thank you! We’re with you!” Cars honked as they passed by.
At 12:50, the leaders of the march led the group to the flagpole at the center of the block, where Mary Herron (pictured above) announced that the signage from the protest would be made part of the Institute Library’s Nasty Women New Haven exhibit, slated to have its opening reception March 9. Several people stepped forward to give Herron their signs and to thank her for organizing.
Interesting thing was, Herron hadn’t organized the march — not officially. She arrived at the Green to join it as a participant. The protesters had arrived from Beinecke Plaza. “No one was in charge,” she said, “and I just jumped up.”
She was inspired by an interview she’d seen with former President Obama about his taking charge of a community event in Chicago. She was also thinking of her own family. Herron’s younger daughter is 24 years old and suffers from severe disabilities. Her older daughter, at 28 years old, “is a strong feminist,” Herron said. Mary Herron herself is in education, as were her parents, and she related that she comes from a long line of strong women.
Herron’s grandmother Pauline, born on Jan. 1, 1900, was a Latin teacher who married a man named Jefferson Davis Herron. He turned out to be an abusive father, beating their children. So Pauline kicked him out of the house, went back to school, and became an optometrist. Pauline handed out free glasses during the Depression. She didn’t divorce Jefferson, and eventually hired him as her bookkeeper. But she “never let him lay a hand on the kids” again, Herron said.
When Herron saw that the march on Saturday could use a leader, she stepped up. “I thought, ‘OK, I can do this,’” she said. She got up and started chanting, “Fired up, ready to go.” Others joined her, and they were off, with Herron in the lead.