Committed to a cause: Weather no match for Fox Valley Women's March
Snow and cold Saturday morning thinned the expected turnout but did not deter hundreds of enthusiastic supporters from joining the first Fox Valley Women's March and rally in downtown Geneva.
Organizers had expected as many as 1,000 participants for the event that began with rousing words from several speakers on a stage in the parking lot of the Kane County Courthouse and concluded with a walk of several blocks south on Third Street.
About 500 supporters bundled up for the rally and march co-sponsored by local activist groups the Kane County Coalition and We Can Lead Change-Fox Valley.
"I think it shows how committed these women are," co-organizer Leah Beck said as participants began to arrive. The march coincided with a national event in Washington and others worldwide to mark the third anniversary of the movement for change.
"If they're not here today because of weather, they're here in spirit. I can feel them," state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia of Aurora said before joining other local, state and federal legislators, including three members of Congress, onstage.
In a Facebook message in advance of the Geneva rally, Beck noted that this year was the 100th anniversary of the 1909 ratification of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women's right to vote.
"This only happened because there were decades and generations of women and allies who lectured, wrote, lobbied, practiced civil disobedience and marched," she wrote. "One hundred years later, we pledge that we will always march ahead."
So it was Saturday. Many carried handmade signs with messages including "Resist and Persist," "Young Women Will Save the World" and "Equality has no Gender."
Most marchers were women, but several men joined the rally and marched as well. Bruce Janus of St. Charles was emphatic about his reason for coming.
"For my wife, my daughter, my grandmother -- all the women in the world that need to be treated equally," he said. "A lot of us want to do the right thing."
Weather was no issue for sisters Anna, Laura and Nadya Reusche and mom, Leigh Ann, as well as family friend Allie Bransky, all of St. Charles.
"We were coming no matter what. We kind of decided we were going to do this every year, somewhere in the world," said Leigh Ann.
"It's really cool how many people showed up regardless of the weather. A lot of generations," Bransky said.
That included three generations of the Temple family of Geneva.
"I think it's fabulous," said 82-year-old Nancy Temple as the march began. "We'll see change for my granddaughter."
The movement is meant to engage women and others to participate in local politics and advocate for issues such as equality, economic justice and environmental protection.
"We march for many things," said co-organizer Mary O'Connor. "Women's rights are human rights."
O'Connor said she was inspired to start We Can Lead Change-Fox Valley after attending the first march in Chicago in January 2017.
The Women's March Chicago wasn't held this year, with its organizers citing the energy and money they had expended on a "March to the Polls" in October. Some other sister marches across the country were canceled after accusations of anti-Semitic ties embroiled some national leaders.
Chapa LaVia was joined onstage by state Rep. Karina Villa and three Democratic members of the U.S. House -- Raja Krishnamoorthi, Lauren Underwood and Sean Casten.
"Are you ready for the fight?" boomed Krishnamoorthi to cheers. "Are you ready to win?"
Underwood said the November election, where she scored an upset win, was the first step, but there is more work to do.
"When we fight, we win and we have won this new day in Washington," she said. "Let's keep it going."