Sharon Dohrmann, left, and Samae Chlebowski are organizers with the Women's March Southern Oregon in Ashland on Saturday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch

Sisters in solidarity

Believing their voices matter more than ever, Rogue Valley women will march in Ashland, Portland, La Manzanilla, Mexico, and Washington, D.C. Saturday — the day after the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.

They say standing in solidarity in support of human rights, the environment and marginalized people is appropriate, if not urgent.

According to the website for the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., 616 marches are planned globally, and nearly 1.4 million marchers are expected to participate.

It is predicted that more than 200,000 will converge on the nation’s capital at 10 a.m. Saturday to march down Independence Avenue and Third Street SW.

Megan Janssen, an Ashland native and 2001 graduate of Ashland High School, plans to be among those in D.C.

Though she moved to Colorado only three weeks ago, Janssen felt it her “duty” to head to Washington.

“It's easy to become inspired to activate politically; it's just as easy to let things blur into normalcy and forget that you once wanted to do something about it,” she says. “When Trump became president-elect, I felt a personal duty I hadn't ever felt before to not let his presidency — and the luggage of adolescent behavior he brings with it — become normal.

“It became clear to me that we all have a personal duty to uphold the rights of each other: the rights of minorities, women, the disabled, the media, homosexuals and environmentalists.”

Brandy Westerman grew up in Wimer and Grants Pass. After graduating from Grants Pass High School in 1992 and attending Lewis and Clark College in Portland, she went to work for Mercy Corps in Oregon.

Westerman plans to hop a bus and travel to Washington, D.C., from her current home in Syracuse, New York.

She says her experiences abroad in places such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan “opened my eyes to the destructive power of corruption, nepotism and authoritarian rule.

“I see something familiar and frightening in the incoming administration.”

In an email, Westerman explains that she will march “because I believe in our Constitution. I march in the hopes that I might inspire others to raise their voices and take action for the issues they care about.

“Our system of governance is at a crisis point. I’ve seen what happens when a leader acts out of self interest rather than public service, and I refuse to let that happen in America. The Women’s March is a call to action for full citizen participation, not just on election days, but on every day in between.”

For those who cannot travel to D.C., sister marches are set in 100 other cities in 41 states, including Ashland and Portland in Oregon, and 15 other countries, including La Manzanilla in Mexico.

Trump’s victory and questions about what the future holds is “a wake-up call,” says Samae Chlebowski, one of two young mothers organizing the march through downtown Ashland.

“We’ve been sedentary, asleep,” she says. “Health care, the climate, the environment, education and civil rights are all at stake.”

Chlebowski, however, is quick to point out that the local event is not an anti-Trump rally, but a pro-active, community affair.

“There is the potential for protestors (on either side), but we want to practice peace,” she says. “We are coming together as a community to protect our rights, our safety, our health and our families. We needed to do something for our children.”

“There’s nothing more motivating than motherhood,” says Sharon Dohrmann, a co-organizer of the Ashland event. “If we do nothing, then we appear to be in favor of the changes we fear are coming. Now is the time.”

Chlebowski is hoping that those who are troubled by “the deep feelings of hate, anger, resentment, fear and powerlessness” will leave feeling empowered and “inspired to move forward.”

Mary Korbulic of Rogue River says she was inspired to join the Ashland march after hearing President Barack Obama’s farewell address.

“If we value democracy, we need to participate,” she says. “And believe our involvement matters.”

Jan Janssen of Ashland (Megan’s mother) plans to march alongside Ashland women she’s known most of her life.

“It is a time in history that stirs up fascination, outrage, fear and hope — as a woman these characteristics are heightened,” she says. “It is my belief in the power of peaceful protest.”

Her daughter agrees. The march for her “isn’t about being combative.”

“I think promoting conflict is the last thing we should be doing; lack of compassion and understanding is what got us here,” Megan Janssen says. “It's about voice and maintaining a strong, robust presence that sends the message that we're here, we're active, we're participating in our citizenship, and we'll be paying attention and staying engaged each step of the way during (Trump’s) time at the White House.”

The importance of the Women’s March on Washington and the sister marches is “obvious,” says Dawn Welch, a resident of Josephine County who plans to join those marching in Portland Saturday.

“In light of what our incoming president has said and done, and who he has picked for his cabinet, equality is at stake,” she says. “… Whether it is equality for women, minorities, the poor, immigrants and other populations who are already marginalized and will be facing further discrimination.

“If one positive thing has come out of this deeply contentious political campaign and election, it is that people are again mobilizing and want to take action. I think we've been fairly apolitical in recent years, but we're re-engaging.

“Several women I know are planning to do the march in Eugene,” she adds. “And my daughter-in-law, two friends and I will be marching in Portland. A few of my daughter-in-law's friends will be flying into Portland from the Bay Area to join us.”

Linda Hugle of Wimer (and Westerman’s mother) also plans to be in Portland Saturday. She says she knows of at least 20 other Southern Oregon women who plan to meet at noon at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

“Resistance and unity are our best chances to right the ship,” Hugle says. “It's important that we all stay vigilant and remain outspoken about what is happening to our country.”

Jeanne Crosby, a retired Southern Oregon University professor, has organized a march in La Manzanilla, a village in Mexico the Talent resident calls home six months out of the year. She wants to send a message across the border.

In the tiny pueblo of 2,500, there is no bank, no post office or supermarket. There is, however, a town square.

“If anything happens, it happens there,” she says.

The town square is where Crosby plans to stage a “low-key” rally. For expatriates and part-time residents like her, it is a chance to be part of what is happening at home in the United States and Canada.

“It is powerful to be part of that … for there to be a unity of voices,” she adds.

Crosby feels that there is no foreign country affected more than Mexico by the incoming administration’s anticipated policies regarding trade, immigration rights and human rights.

“There is a fear of the unknown” within the Mexican community, she says. With their own country in the throes of economic and political crises, she says, the fear is heightened.

There is an ongoing struggle for adequate food, shelter and health care. In a country where women “are valued less, and earn less — they want dignity and equality.”

She says she has been “hugely impressed” by the support for Saturday’s event.

“The goal is to end joyfully with more hope than we started.”

Welch doesn’t believe the marches will affect Trump, or that he will even care.

“But I do believe our elected officials will care,” she says. “It’s a start, anyway, and should help create the momentum we need.”

Dohrmann agrees.

“Our values have coalesced. And we have clear action items,” she says. “It will be sad if we walked away from Saturday’s event and nothing changed.”

— Reach Grants Pass freelance writer Tammy Asnicar at

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