ST. PAUL — It wasn’t quite an Arctic expedition, but the Women’s March held in St. Paul on Jan. 21 was certainly a journey unlike any other. The march was one of hundreds across the nation, held in solidarity with a march on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The march was organized shortly after the 2016 election, as an oppositional response to rhetoric used during the campaign, which march organizers perceived as negative, insulting and threatening. 

Among a slew of notable speakers at the Women’s March rally in St. Paul Jan. 21 was Scandia resident, educator and world explorer Ann Bancroft. Bancroft, who was the first woman to venture to the North Pole with a dogsled expedition team in 1986, originally planned to attend the march in Washington, D.C., but soon changed her mind.

“My original plan was indeed to travel to D.C. when the march was first announced,” she said. “But as the movement spread around the country and the world with sister marches, I decided to stay closer to home. When I was asked to speak at the Minnesota march, the decision was sealed.”

There were more than 100,000 in attendance at the St. Paul March. The Women’s March MN website describes its mission: 

“In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. 

The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”

The site also includes a list of “unity principles,” or areas of concern where marchers want to see progress. The principles are: ending violence, reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, rights of workers, civil rights, rights for people with disabilities, immigrant rights and environmental justice. 

“For me, the march is an opportunity to promote equal rights for women and to defend marginalized groups in a charged atmosphere both in the U.S. and abroad,” Bancroft said. “It is important to show the diverse voices of men and women around the world who believe that women’s rights are indeed human rights. When we slight one group, we actually weaken our own rights. It’s important to participate to add my voice to the mix. Silence does not make change.”

In the Twin Cities, march participants walked from the St. Paul College campus to the stairs of the State Capitol, where the event ended with a rally. Many guest speakers were present, including Lt. Governor Tina Smith, U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, former Minnesota NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds and more.

Bancroft said she was also compelled to speak at the event by her lifelong commitment to education. A former elementary school teacher, and now an educator at the Ann Bancroft Foundation, she places a high value on learning opportunities for children and youth across the world. 

“As an educator, my drive is to empower every student, boys and girls, to live their full potential,” Bancroft said. “This can only be done with equal opportunity. As an explorer I too often felt the attitudinal barriers of what others thought I could or could not do—should or should not do. I want to continue to break these barriers down—(in ways) both subtle and overt.”

 

Jackie Bussjaeger can be reached at 651-407-1229 or lowdownnews@presspubs.com

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