womensmarch1It’s been a rough couple of months, but yesterday I felt hope for our country for the first time since November 8. I marched with more than 14,000 others in Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee.

I borrowed an idea from my cousin who attended the Women’s March in Washington. She wore the pink hats and attached hundreds of ribbons to the top of it, each one containing the name of a woman she was representing at the march. My great-grandmother and grandmother were there. I was there, too.


My cousin’s hat

She inspired me to do something as well, including marching where I could in the town where I lived. I took an index card and wrote down the names of all the important women in my life, past and present, who I wanted to come along with me. I taped the card to the back of my sign, so as I marched I looked at their names. It gave me courage and a sense of purpose.

womensmarch3The weather loomed as a threat yesterday morning. Thunderstorms, lightning, hail, tornadoes–scary stuff. I drove to the location in Railroad Square, expecting only a couple of hundred people to come out. Instead, I saw thousands of all ages and colors. My husband didn’t think he’d be welcome at a “women’s march,” so he stayed home despite my cajoling and telling him that we needed men to be there. He wouldn’t have stood out–maybe a third of the crowd were men. Umbrellas clashing, signs soaking, and thunder providing the background drum beat, we began to move slowly. A group of college-aged African-Americans joined and stepped into place in front of me. Both male and female marchers, carrying signs. One of the young men’s sign said, “Stop the Rape Culture.” I smiled broadly at what was happening.

I estimated 10,000 marchers. When I was a reporter, I was trained how to count crowds in meetings halls and auditoriums, but I had no way to estimate these numbers. But I knew it had to be in thousands. The paper reported this morning that the Tallahassee police said more than 14,000 people participated.


The Tallahassee March


I posted my photo on Facebook. After I came home and dried off, I looked at my feed on Facebook and saw my friends’ posts from around Florida and the country: Gainesville, St. Pete, Jacksonville, Tucson, Atlanta, Washington.

We will not be defeated on any of the issues so important to the heart of the United States and its government. Criticisms included the name of the marches. That might be valid–my husband a case in point–but when the organizers began making decisions that seemed to be the best title. I don’t think anyone knew what would happen. People were given a chance to publicly participate in democracy and voice their concerns and fears. No one knew the numbers that would attend. Or the issues it would bring out, which was another criticism I’ve heard in the last twenty-four hours. Disorganized, no core issues to work around, the pundits said. Who cares? People came out. Millions across the world. They did it peacefully. I saw no anger amongst the crowd where I marched. Only anger at what could happen and what did happen on November 8.

As I marched next to a woman perhaps two decades older than me using her cane to walk up the hill, I cried. How far we’ve come in her lifetime, only to be shot back down in the swift and fatal tweets of the man now occupying the Oval Office. I looked at the names of the women on my card and felt a lump in my throat.

I did it for you, Emilene Stephens Hooper, who had two children out of wedlock back in Cornwall in the 1890s, yet went on to marry and became a pillar of her community. She ran a boarding house with her two young sons–one of whom was my grandfather–when she met Fred Hooper, who married her and raised her sons and their other children. My grandfather emigrated to the United States in 1900. So, yes, I’m an immigrant, too, I suppose.

I did it for you, Anna Mary Sweet Camburn, who was in her forties when women gained the right to vote. I did it for you, Ethel DeFord Stephens, who had given birth to seven children by the time women could vote.

And I did it for you, Anna Christina Camburn Behnke, who I brought into this world and raised to be a feminist. You will be a fighter all your life against bigotry, prejudices, and injustice, whether through your actions, words, or paintings.


With Anna at her art show with her spider lady painting


I feel hopeful this morning despite the rain still pounding outside. The heavens are crying as some of us have been doing for the past few months. Those tears will nourish and feed the ground, just as ours inspired and pushed us out the door and into the streets to voice our love of democracy and rights afforded us thus far.

We must keep up the good work.

What happened in your town? I’d love to hear about it!

9/11 – A Time to Try Men’s Souls

Note: I wrote this column in 2001 right after 9/11. I republish it today in honor of all the victims of eleven years ago.


“These are the times that try men’s souls.”

Thomas Paine, 1776, The American Crisis

Thomas Paine

 By Patricia Zick @PCZick

Two centuries later Thomas Paine’s words serve as a guide for our nation’s pain during the past several weeks.

The pain is evident in the voices and faces of those who speak of the events of September 11. Some people constantly read and watch the news. Others turn from it, hoping it will go away. Still others try to stay away from reading and listening, but are inexplicably drawn to the media like the moths come to the candle burning brightly on my porch.

I have a friend who is a state trooper in Michigan. He has been out of uniform for years now, working as a detective. Last week he was ordered to Lansing to be fitted for a uniform. All the state troopers in Michigan received the order.

“. . .lay your shoulders to the wheel; better have too much force than too little, when so great an object is at stake,” Paine wrote.

Someone told me about his sister who runs all the restaurants in the Jacksonville Airport. They have removed steak from the menus. The restaurants all sit inside the security check areas where steak knives were used daily. It’s too easy to walk away with one in a pocket or purse or backpack and board the plane.

“. . .God Almighty will not give up a people to military destruction, or leave them unsupportedly to perish, who have so earnestly and so repeatedly sought to avoid the calamities of war, by every decent method which wisdom could invent,” Paine believed.

I struggle daily with feelings of revenge and hopes for peace. However, I know that we as a nation will not survive in the world if we don’t do something to give meaning to the deaths of so many. From the rubble we have risen strong, and we must show terrorists of destruction that we are a nation of strengths brought together by the beliefs of democracy, and even with the diversity of our cultures, we all love our country.

“ ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death,” Paine predicted.

This morning I walked along the road trying to clear my head and push aside the heaviness of depression, which has threatened to smother me since September 11. I began to look around me and lose myself in nature. Flowers bloomed everywhere along the roadside. Goldenrod, asters in yellow and white, and wild morning glories waved at me as I breathed in the cool air and looked to the sky forgetting for once the fear of seeing planes overhead. Instead two birds flew low perhaps looking for berries among the wildflowers.


For the first time in weeks, I felt hope.

“I love the man that can smile at trouble; that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection,” Paine noted in parentheses as an afterthought to his dissertation on fighting the British.

Towers of Light

And so I gather hope in fleeting moments and hold it close in order to make sense of the chaos of the world. I hope we will forget our petty differences and forget about discriminating against others just because they are different.

I have hope that as a nation we can rise above partisanship and simply work as one to maintain the principles of this country set forth by our forefathers. And I hope the closeness established between families and friends who have taken the time to reach out to one another does not leave when the threats and insecurities of the past few weeks no longer lay like a cloud above our heads. I still have hope we can love one another through all this mess and remain loyal to our principles.

“These are the time that try men’s souls,” but once those souls have been tried, it is the valiant and strong and fair whose souls remain intact and continue to hope for a better world.