Story and Photos by Ty O’Neil
March 8 marked International Women’s Day commemorating the movement for women’s rights and originating from labor movements of the early 20th century. The day was adopted by the United Nations in 1975. Despite the relative age of the observance, this is the first year Reno has recognized the day with a planned event.
A rally to bring together the community and women’s rights advocates kicked off at 5 p.m. at the city plaza in front of the BELIEVE sculpture. Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” played through a speaker as a growing crowd, identifiable by their red clothing, gathered. Wearing red was chosen as a show of support for women’s rights. The now iconic “pussy hats” also adorned the heads of many participants.
More than 100 people attended the event, with the crowd reaching its climax around the halfway point of the agenda. While women made up the bulk of attendees, many men also participated and carried a variety of signs promoting women’s rights. One sign featured a stylized image of a young woman with the words “Women are perfect.”
“Get involved” was the over-arching message of the night, emphasized by all of the speakers. Mike Thornton of ACTIONN called for a show of hands of how many had participated in the Reno Women’s March, and seemingly everyone raised a hand. He continued that the turnout for that event was estimated at 10,000.
“What then,” Thornton asked, “if 25 percent of them applied themselves to civic activity?” He asked the audience to imagine if local politicians received 2,500 phone calls and letters from the community. “They will respond” he assured the audience.
Theresa Navarro, president of Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), called for more women in public office and said, “… get into office and don’t change for the establishment.”
Echoing Navarro’s comments, Sarah Mahler, program coordinator for Progressive Democrats of America the Reno Chapter, called for a new level of civic engagement as corporate powers and the government are poised to crush foundational rights.
Local activist Janette Dean spoke about her efforts towards ratification the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Her excitement built as she announced that Governor Sandoval had expressed his support and Nevada was likely to ratify the amendment, bringing it one step closer to the Constitution. She closed by leading the crowd in chanting “It’s about women! It’s about rights! It’s about time!”
Patricia Gallimore of the NAACP read a speech originally delivered during the 1851 National Women’s Rights Convention. Some in the crowd noted with dismay the similarities between issues addressed in the speech and issues still of concern today.
The rally closed with the announcement of Sabra Newby as the new Reno City Manager. Initial cheers faded as it was noted that Newby may be paid less than her predecessor, a tough pill to swallow after an event promoting equality and celebrating woman.
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Ty O’Neil is a lifelong student of anthropology with two degrees in the arts. He is far more at home in the tear gas filled streets of war torn countries than he is relaxing at home. He has found a place at This Is Reno as a photojournalist. He hopes to someday be a conflict photojournalist covering wars and natural disasters abroad.