“This is What a Feminist Looks Like”  
–Movement Slogan 


In the new political climate of the 1980s, alongside economic and social changes such as the rise of the dual-income family and women’s increasing participation in the paid labor market, the women’s movement fractured. Even while drawing on hard-won gains, emerging activists pushed for new ideologies and forms of action. More than gender equivalence, advocates emphasized women’s particular needs in tandem with their race, class, and sexual identities. Grassroots collectives in the 1990s employed underground messaging campaigns—not marching—to expose structural sexism. In addition, women of color and trans women have fought to make intersectionality—the recognition of interlocking forms of discrimination—central to modern feminist activism, fostering a different kind of collectivity through diversity. Today, online platforms have altered what it means to come together, enabling participation even without physical presence. Yet the impetus to show up endures, drawing record-breaking crowds in new forums like the 2017 Women’s March. Through the vote and beyond it, women continue mobilizing to make their voices heard.

Dyke March in Washington, DC, 1992. The Lesbian Avengers Eat Fire Too, 1993. Courtesy of the directors, Janet Baus and Su Friedrich

Black Lives Matter Activists Rally for Justice, Washington, DC, 2016. DCnewsfootage/Pond5 

Women’s March, Washington, DC, 2017. Eddie Becker/Pond5

Indigenous People’s March, Washington, DC, 2019. DCnewsfootage/Pond5 

Issue-Driven Marches  

Since the 1980s, grassroots groups have increasingly coalesced around specific issues and identities. In a rapidly changing world, many women looked to marches for moments of solidarity. They have stressed the importance of visibility, recognition, and respect. For example, since 1993, annual Dyke Marches have celebrated lesbian activism as an important facet of gay liberation. In 1997, responding to the ways the Million Man March foregrounded African American men in the struggle for racial justice, the grassroots-organized Million Woman March stressed Black female unity, healing, and empowerment. Meanwhile, movements against abortion and the ERA, and in defense of traditional marriage and families, have also continued to grow. Women have played critical roles in organizing protests for criminal justice reform, indigenous and environmental causes, and trans rights. The 2017 Women’s March united many of these divergent causes into a single protest.

March for Women's Equality, Women's Lives sash, 1989
Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network and the National Domestic Workers Alliance 
Fair Care Pledge mailer, 2019 
Collection of Anna Danziger Halperin 

Based on the credo that “carework makes all work possible,” domestic work organizing has been a growing form of women’s collective action, which in recent years includes marches, legislative lobbying, protests, innovative technologies, and more. This “Fair Care Pledge” represents a cross-class solidarity-building project between domestic workers and their employers. Operating much like a consciousness-raising group of the 1960s, its organizers hope to raise awareness alongside improving working conditions.

Dorothea Jacobson-Wenzel
Women walking in NOW March for Pro-Choice, 1989
Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University

Women Unite, Take Back the Night, 1995
Barnard Archives and Special Collections

Hat from the Million Woman March, 1997
New-York Historical Society

I was there! pin-back button, 1993
Gift of Caroline R. Helmuth, 2011.22.2

Guerrilla Girls 
There’s a Tragedy on Broadway,  ca. 1998 
Courtesy of Donna Kaz, aka Aphra Behn, Guerrilla Girls On Tour   

Founded in 1985 by self-described female activist artists, the Guerrilla Girls choose to remain anonymous. They don gorilla masks and adopt the names of deceased women artists, protecting their own identities as they carry out subversive messaging campaigns in New York City and beyond. Still active today, only a few Guerrilla Girls have chosen to unmask, among them Donna Kaz, whose original mask is displayed here. 

Original Guerrilla Girl mask worn by Guerrilla Girl “Aphra Behn”, 1997-2007
Rubber, fake fur
Courtesy of Donna Kaz, aka Aphra Behn, Guerrilla Girls On Tour

Bikini Kill
Girl Power, vol. 2, 1991
Barnard Zine Library, Barnard College

Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman, creators; Kat Coyle, designer; Aurora Lady, illustrator
Knitting pattern for Pussyhat, 2016
Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, New-York Historical Society

Clothing is frequently used by demonstrators to create a sense of unity or send a particular message.  Many participants in the 2017 Women’s Marches wore home-made “pussy” hats, a gesture reclaiming the term after the airing of Donald Trump’s 2005 remarks that he would “grab [women] by the pussy.” The original knitting pattern, created by the Pussyhat Project, was downloaded 100,000 times, and craft stores ran low on pink yarn.