UW-Eau Claire students among protestors at Women’s March in Washington D.C.

Students share their experiences traveling to the nations capital to march alongside 470,000 protestors


Photo by Submitted

Alea Lipinski holds up her sign outside the capital during the march. “Those who can teach, those who can’t make laws about teaching #BetsyDevos,” she wrote.

While millions marched worldwide Saturday, Jan. 21 for the Women’s March, two UW-Eau Claire students were among the estimated 470,000 people marching at the nation’s capital.

Ashlea Orth, senior women’s studies student, traveled from Eau Claire to Washington D.C., spending over 40 hours there and back on a bus. Whereas Alea Lipinski, senior elementary education student, took a five hour bus ride from her hometown in New York to the march.

The students did not march or travel together, but united alongside protesters for the same purpose: Women’s rights.

Orth, who found a bus on Skedaddle, decided to go by herself to District of Columbia after friends and family weren’t interested in spending the money for a short weekend trip. Of the 33 people on the bus, Orth said she was the youngest, most being middle aged and older women, as well as a few men.

She said hearing her fellow travelers talk about viewpoints which paralleled what she believed in was refreshing. Some served on school boards or worked in healthcare, or were retired from similar jobs, Orth said.

“I feel like a lot of times people our age blame a lot of the issues on the older generation,” Orth said. “It was really refreshing to see that there are people from each generation that think this stuff, and just because you’re a certain age doesn’t mean that you have to be a certain way or have these certain ideals.”

After traveling to the District in 2009 with her mother for Obama’s inauguration, Orth said the historic moment opened her eyes up to politics and “the bigger issue.” When she heard about the march, she felt something calling her back to be a part of that history, too, she said.

The bus dropped the group off around 11 a.m. close to the Capitol, where she said her memories of Obama’s inauguration and a field trip to the District a year prior all came rushing back.

“You could see these people walking with their kids and each other, with their signs and all dressed up,” Orth said. “I think getting off the bus and seeing the capitol, it just brought back so many memories … seeing the capitol  as a monument in my own person experience, I almost started bawling.”

She was marching for a lot of reasons — reproductive rights, education, against racism, and Planned Parenthood, to name a few, Orth said. She hopes to someday work for, or with, Planned Parenthood, so she said if they aren’t around it wouldn’t only be bad for her future but for people who need health care.

Though they had never met, Alea Lipinski shared Orth’s excitement for taking part in history being made, she said.

Lipinski arrived at the march around noon and was about three blocks away from the capitol. Despite heavy crowds, she said everyone was calm, peaceful and happy to be there.

Of the signs in the crowd, Lipinski carried a sign that spoke to her future career and her passion for education; “Those who can teach, those who can’t make laws about teaching #BetsyDevos,” she wrote.

After her practicum last semester in a second grade class, Lipinski said she was surprised by all of the diversity in the classroom and said being in such an environment left her even more disappointed hearing the things Trump said about other ethnicities.

“I don’t want my daughters and children and students growing up in that kind of environment,” she said. “These kids are the future and their president is going to be talking crap about them and their parents.”

The march was not only exciting for Lipinski, but also encouraging as she saw many different people come together for the same goal she said.

Though she is from New York and has had the chance to study abroad, she said the march expanded her world view. Coming from Eau Claire where she had seen a lot of Trump signs during the election, to then to be in the District, was a good reminder that there was an overwhelming number of people who didn’t think that way, she said.

Lipinski said that the march motivated her to become more involved and not let the whole political scheme take too much control.

“I’m so used to being around Eau Claire and it’s more republican here, which makes sense it’s rural Wisconsin,” she said. “But it was so cool to see there’s like — so many more fish in the sea, kind of.”