In Texas, emails collected by the organizers of the Women’s March in Austin are being repur posed to promote candidates who support abortion rights. In Arkansas, Gwen Combs, the elementary schoolteacher who organized the Little Rock march, is now running for Congress. Thousands of women in October attended a convention in Detroit training them on every thing from lobbying elected officials to white supremacy.
But as the movement evolves, differing priorities and tactics have emerged among the women, nearly all of them unpaid and spread across the country. Now, on the eve of the anniversary, a rift is emerging between two groups: Women’s March Inc., which organized the march on NY and spent much of the year creating more social justice protests, and another organization of activists who planned sister marches last year and believe that winning elections, particularly in red states, should be the primary goal. The split has raised questions about who can claim the mantle of the Women’s March — and the funding and press attention that goes with it.
“We can march and take to the streets and yell about all the stuff we want to change, but unless we’re getting people elected to office who are going to make those changes, we’re not really doing anything,” said Lindsey Kanaly, who organized the women’s march in Oklahoma City and is now a March On board member.
The group is now focused on helping liberal women in Republican-led districts organize ahead of the pivotal midterm elections this year.
Mindful of the optics of dividing the movement, March On founders describe the organization as a complement, not a competitor, to Women’s March Inc. Both groups have refrained from criticizing the other in public. But behind the scenes, there has been some frustration.
The organizers of the march in Washington made a point of picking leaders from communities who have historically been ignored by mainstream feminist groups. Of the four national co chairwomen of the Washington march, three were minorities. But the group’s leadership had very little geographic diversity. Nearly all of the board members of Women’s March Inc. are from New York City.
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“What they are doing is great, but it’s difficult to tap into here,” said Kelly Smith, a librarian