On January 19 – one day before the 45th Presidential Inauguration – a crowd of roughly 150 people congregated along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Meanwhile, Anna Holemans, 16, and her eight friends gathered in a room for a moment of silence before marching through Philadelphia in support of the Equal Rights Amendment.
“It was then that I thought, ‘Wow. This is happening. I put this together.’ It was pretty overwhelming,” Holemans says.
Holemans became an activist for the Equal Rights Amendment after completing a biography about suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton for a class project in third grade. Ever since, she’s been carving her own way through history by fighting for social justice.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was written in 1923 by Alice Paul in support of equality for men and women. Before writing the amendment, Paul planned her own march in support of the 19th Amendment on the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration in 1913.
“I think that half of the population not being equal to the other half is a violation against basic human rights,” Holemans says. “Women should be considered equal because we are the majority of the population. That percentage of the population not being equal is upsetting.”
Holemans began planning her own march in August of 2015, before the presidential election. The planning process included networking with members of local establishments, including the Alice Paul Institute, Friends’ Council of Education and Girl Scouts of Central & Southern New Jersey.
“This march was not planned because of who got elected,” she says. “It was planned because I think that women should be equal no matter who our president is.”
Holemans’ march began at Philadelphia’s City Hall, traveled down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and ended at Eakins Oval, where a rally took place.
At the rally, professionals including Girl Scouts of Central & Southern New Jersey CEO Ginny Marino and Arcadia University’s School of Education Dean Graciela Slesaransky-Poe spoke in support of women’s rights.
Holemans also delivered a speech, which she says is one of her favorite things to do.
“It’s the only way to convince someone to agree with your point or listen to you,” Holemans says of public speaking. “Because I’m a girl, people don’t tend to take me as seriously, so public speaking is one of the ways that people can take me seriously.”
Getting her point across is exactly what Holemans wanted to do, and she is confident she did just that.
“A lot of the people attending the march were attending the march for the first time,” she says. “It was just a group of people who had never gone to a protest were going to this protest, which was really exciting for me. And I don’t think it’s going to be their last political event.”