At the Bywater home of Tracy Talbot, several women are talking and laughing as they huddle around two tables littered with purple satin, glitter, hot glue guns, Mardi Gras beads, rhinestones, pins and plastic cups of wine. They're decorating sashes modeled on those originally worn by suffragettes for the Jan. 21 Women's March on Washington, where they're headed to protest the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.
"I am emotional about the result of the election," Talbot says, as she steps into the kitchen to stir a pot of vegetarian chili. "[The march] is a way to channel my grief."
According to state organizer Dora Lambert, about 1,000 Louisiana women will travel by bus, car, train and plane to participate in the march. (Politico recently reported as many as 200,000 women from across the country are expected to attend.) Lambert, a geographic information systems analyst who works on coastal restoration projects, says the Louisiana envoy to the national march had fallen behind by the time she joined its organizers in the second week of December. But thanks to tireless work by organizers and participants statewide (some of whom told Gambit they've either never been involved in activism or haven't attended a protest since the 1960s), Louisiana will send a sizable contingent to what may be the largest gathering of women in Washington since 2004's March for Women's Lives.
"We need to show that we don't follow the toxic [and] the unhealthy," Lambert says. "We need to show that this [administration] is not acceptable and we are not going to stand for it."
The national march also struggled with permitting issues, including lags in processing and disputes about the march's location, as well internal strife over leadership that initially was criticized as failing to include the voices of women of color. But permits finally were approved in mid-December, and national women's and left-leaning organizations have pledged their participation. BuzzFeed News recently reported that EMILY's List, which supports women involved in Democratic politics who also support abortion rights, will hold training sessions to coincide with the march in Washington, D.C. for women who want to run for office.
These women's objections to the incoming administration are numerous and include Trump's personal behavior toward women (including several unresolved accusations of sexual assault or misconduct, which he appeared to boast about on a hot mic), his stance on abortion rights and the threat to women's health care posed by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, a noted Planned Parenthood opponent. At Talbot's, women also mention a desire to stand up for LGBT rights and the rights of women of color, and to set an example for their young girls.
"[I'm going because] I have two daughters," says a woman who identified herself only as Michele — out of fear, she says, of being outed as a liberal to her conservative family. "My 12-year-old says, 'I think girls are as good as boys, but not everybody thinks so.'"
"I needed to get out of the house and stop being sad," Nancylee Myatt adds, as she works on her sash. "When you find people that feel like you do, it helps you."
Many of the women at Talbot's mention a need for catharsis to help resolve the deep sense of mourning felt over Hillary Clinton's near-miss at the chance to be America's first woman president. Before the election, Cam Mangham had reserved hotel rooms in Washington to attend what she thought would be the inauguration of a woman to the nation's highest office. In the days following Nov. 8, she thought she would be too distraught to attend — "I will either be hurt or arrested or both," she said — until she was galvanized by news of the women's march hitting social media.
Mangham points out that satellite marches will take place on the same day in several cities, including New Orleans, as part of a nationwide campaign against sexism, misogyny, racism and other forms of prejudice and inequality. She says these satellite protests will be just as important as the one in Washington as they "light up the map" across the country.
"This is getting us up off our butts and getting us involved," she says. "I'm covered in goosebumps already."