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Offering passion, logic and diversity, Philly-area women prepare to march

In November

In November

A Republican, a women’s rights lawyer and a pastor.

These are just three of the more than 20,000 area residents who’ve expressed an interest in participating in simultaneous women’s marches in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

The organizer

Tam Williams probably isn’t the first person you’d picture at the Women’s March on Washington. For one thing, she’s a committeewoman in the Chester County Republican Party.

“What I’m hoping is that, after this march … I’m able to bring some information back to the Republican Party,” she said Friday. “To say, this wasn’t totally about Donald Trump. This is about issues that impact women and families.”

As one of three main organizers for the Pennsylvania branch of the Women’s March on Washington, which will bring an estimated 200,000 women from all corners of the country to D.C. on Saturday, Williams has been front and center.

In Pennsylvania, she helped create a diversity and inclusion outreach group — which has now drawn members from other states — for the march.

“I kept hearing and reading these articles that women felt like, ‘Is this a march that’s really for everybody? Am I welcome?'” said Williams. On Friday, members of that group, approaching 3,500 members on Facebook, took part in a conference call exploring the dynamics of race and background in the march and what that means.

For Williams, who said access to health care is the policy issue most important to her, the goal is to get marchers of different backgrounds to focus on issues that motivate them.

To march, “you’ve got to understand your why,” she said.

Williams also organized several buses, departing early from West Chester, Chester County, on which women who would not otherwise be able to afford to go the March on Washington are sponsored to attend.

The first-time activist

Pastor and certified public accountant Tammie Wisniewski from Leesport, Berks County, is turning over a new leaf.

“It’s been 54 years, I haven’t felt the urge to really step up and protest or rally,” she said.

Wisniewski, who’s registered as an independent, said President Trump’s comments about women, immigrants and people with disabilities spurred her to become more politically engaged.

“I’ve never mistrusted a group of people like I do with this election,” she said.

Wisniewski signed up to ride a bus from Reading to D.C., and was tapped to be a bus captain, helping to manage logistics for her riders. For the next four years, she said she’ll be watching the president with her two 10-year-old granddaughters in mind.

Since the presidential campaign started, she said, “some men feel empowered now to start treating women with more disrespect than they have in the past, and that’s not acceptable.”

As for the march, “I just want to make a stand and say, ‘We’re going to be watching.’ We’re going to try to stay vigilant,” she said.

The speaker

For Carol Tracy, the executive director of the Women’s Law Project, marching for women’s rights is nothing new.

“I’ve been to every major women’s march, from the ERA [Equal Rights Amendment] marches in the ’70s” on, she said.

Tracy, who will speak at the “sister” march in Philadelphia on Saturday, said this time feels different.

“I’ve been doing this work for over 40 years, and I have never in my life seen something that was as organic or spontaneous as the women’s marches,” she said.

Tracy’s career in legal advocacy has focused on shoring up reproductive rights and preventing violence again women. Her speech at the Philadelphia march will focus on refuting the sentiment behind Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

“I’m a baby boomer, and much of the world that Trump voters want to take us back to is a world we lived in,” she said. “Almost total segregation, strict roles for women, and women dying in back-alley abortions. And we’re not going to go back to that world.”

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