On the cold morning of January 19, 2019, Meaghan Falby, a local high school teacher, was among the thousands of women who flooded Montpelier’s State Street pink with signs raised above their heads.
Vermont Women’s March 2019
Photo: Meaghan Falby
Falby says she has been treated with equality and respect as a female teacher at U-32, but this was not always the case. In college, she worked part-time as a waitress and bartender and remembers men making rude comments towards her. As a college student, those comments did not feel the way they do today.
“Just because I am your server,” she says, “does not mean I am your servant.”
Meagan attended the march carrying her baby daughter on her back. For Falby, the energy of empowerment radiated. Women, men, and all, side by side, were supporting everything from race to sex to access to health care. “It brought to light a variety of different social justice issues,” Meaghan said. “It felt really good to be a part of that.”
Meaghan Falby with her daughter on their way to the Women’s March
Photo: Meaghan Falby
That same morning, Pat McDonald traveled through Montpelier, only to be caught in the thousands of cars, blocking the street. Although the march was widely supported throughout Vermont, Pat represents a minority of women who question its message.
Pat agrees with the idea of empowering women’s rights but is turned away by the way they went about it. “The vagina suits, the pussy hats and the women naked, asking you to vote…. If there is a message, it’s lost on me.”
Pat is an example of a powerful woman who has gained the respect of many men in a male-dominated government. She entered State Government, beginning her 25 years in the public sector, under former Governor Jim Douglas. He recounted her “bundle of energy” and her “talents”, which were “recognized across the board.” She would later enter the state legislature as a Representative for the 2006-2010 sessions.
Mark Higley entered the legislature in 2009, representing Orleans-Lamoille county. He worked on the Government Operations Committee alongside Pat. “I appreciated her ability to explain things,” he said, “and help me out in the beginning.”
Pat holding her campaign sign
Photo: VT Digger
Pat grew up in a different generation. As a Baby Boomer in the 60’s, Pat grew up during the time of the Anti-War marches. “Those marches were easier to resonate with,” she said. “People would rally in a respectful and calm manner.”
Like most powerful women, Pat had a mentor. While working at the Merchants Bank, she worked under Dudley Davis. Working for a strong, independent woman, Pat quickly learned to come prepared and do her homework when a meeting or project arose.
“She was just fearless,” Pat recounted. “I wanted to be just like her.”
For Meaghan Falby, the march represents our society moving forward from the sexism and oppression women have faced in their daily lives. “We are here,” she says. “We are strong. We are moving forward.”
But, for some women, like Pat McDonald, the march does not symbolize this. She believes the vagina suits and pussy hats have no place in moving forward from the sexism.
“If you want us to learn and understand,” she said, “teach us, educate us. Walk a mile in our shoes and culture.”