Some are going to Washington, others to Seneca Falls, but they're all pressing for women's rights

Melina Carnicelli calls the organization of a women’s march and rally this Saturday in Seneca Falls an “Athenian effort.”

Especially so because many of the organizers first got together in the beginning of December, expecting 500 to 600 people. Now, Carnicelli and other organizers anticipate numbers in the thousands, coming from different areas of New York, Ohio and Canada, to a place Carnicelli considers sacred ground.

“It’s been extraordinary,” said Carnicelli, former mayor of Auburn.

This sister event of the Women’s March on Washington, also planned for Saturday, and other similar events around the world is set to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park.

Marchers will gather at the First Amendment Declaration Park and then walk five blocks to the First Presbyterian Church, where Alice Paul in 1923 introduced the proposed Equal Rights Amendment.

Speakers and musical performances, as well as “Call to Action” information tables by civic groups, also are on the day’s itinerary.

“I think the march was inspired by the response, in part, to the discourse of the social, cultural, political and economic issues that arose during the election,” said Betty Bayer, a co-organizer and professor of women’s studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva.

The intent is to exercise democracy and elevate the discussion — in inclusive, nonpartisan and peaceful fashion — because so much was lost in the rancor of the campaign, said Bayer, who also serves on the board of the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls.

The numbers and interest in talking about the issues facing women and men is heartening.

“This movement is for addressing unfinished business,” Bayer said.

Many are participating to protect rights that are threatened, at the same time as 174 members of Congress are urging President-elect Donald Trump to reconsider opposition to repeal the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, is among them.

The letter said these proposals have a disproportionately negative effect on women and girls across the country.

Canandaigua Mayor Ellen Polimeni said she is planning to participate in the Seneca Falls event to stand up for women’s-rights issues, such as equal pay and the Equal Rights Amendment.

“Women still have a ways to go in order to be considered equal,” Polimeni said. “I think it’s time to join others in that process.”

If Maria Bucci wasn’t going to Washington to participate in the march there, she would be going to Seneca Falls.

Bucci, development specialist at Wood Library and former city councilmember — and the mother of two daughters — said it’s important to help ensure they have the same rights and benefits in the future that she has enjoyed, which she noted are at risk with the incoming presidential administration.

“I think it’s important to protect the rights given to women over decades,” said Bucci. “It’s also important to work for the future.”

Whether in Washington or Seneca Falls, marchers are in solidarity for those marching for women's rights and human rights, Carnicelli said.

"It's a time for recommitment to activism around all social justice issues," Carnicelli said.

Bucci said what is really cool about this event is that many women she knows are participating, whether in Washington or closer to home, had never considered participating in this manner before.

“It’s unbelievable to me how many people are participating throughout the country, for all the same reasons,” Bucci said.


Local suffrage history

The Ontario County Historical Society will host a two-hour meeting with suffrage researchers in the county at 11 a.m. Saturday at the historical museum, 55 N. Main St.

Historians who are undertaking research for the county’s suffrage project will be in attendance, and updates on their research will be presented. Museum Curator Wilma Townsend will bring those present up to date on the progress of the new Suffrage Exhibit that will open Mother’s Day. County Historian and Museum Educator Preston Pierce will summarize his suffrage research and answer questions from the historians in attendance.

The public is invited to attend. Refreshments will be served.