It was at first quiet and misty in Lafayette Park across from the White House where several hundred from various groups were gathering – namely Virginia National Organization for Women (NOW), Equal Means Equal, and Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights – but as the raindrops came and a storm brewed so did a clarion call for women’s equal rights and repro rights. Hours later, a stampede of women warriors from all over the country would join our groups, descending onto 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue demanding to be equal in the U.S. Constitution, wanting to remove the restraints of thousands of yearslong second-class citizenship, oppression and worse. With the increase in precipitation, a deafening sound emerged from the women, the marginalized, and our male allies. Of all the protests, rallies, gatherings I have been involved in, I have never heard a sound so concentrated, ear-piercing, and agonizing. 

Being introduced to the movement was Virginia’s six-year-old Korean American, Sophie. She had just learned that her state became the final and requisite thirty-eighth state to make women’s rights equal rights in 2020 through action in the Virginia legislature but could not comprehend why then we still did not have a twenty-eighth amendment published in the U.S. Constitution as our history books instruct. Sophie (her grandmother a NOW leader in Lincoln County, Oregon) was not alone in her confusion, but trying to explain to a first grader why a bunch of mostly conservative, aged, white men were not following the rules, and were in fact, rolling back women’s rights would be too complicated, full of psychoanalysis on power and control and other abusive techniques and of course, lots of legal technicalities akin to walking a tightrope. 

Literally sitting in the gutters at the curbs of the White House in the pouring rain, water rushing over us soaking us to the skin, I wasn’t about to explain to her at such a tender age that women had died, were beaten, starved themselves, were imprisoned, and force-fed fighting for rights we still do not have over a hundred years later. Ignorance is often bliss and the first time one steps out in the movement should be a motivating and memorable one. Sophie stood proudly holding our Equal Rights Amendment banner all morning and, in the afternoon, we found her crouched down under it covering her ears grimacing; the sound emanating from adult women of all ages was painful. Women ARE angry. I am reminded of the saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” The day’s experience was symbolic of so much including news reports on a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim which would be followed by the euphoria of a Kansas win where nearly 60% of voters chose to support abortion rights despite party, and then to the shouts of “murderer” from the floor of Indiana’s statehouse by a supposed minister-turned-legislator levied against his colleague on the other side of the aisle.

The ultimate betrayal is that which is by your own government. And make no mistake, our government is betraying more than half its total population, continually setting us back years while throwing up obstacle courses complete with roadblocks, hurdles, water holes and sand traps, maintaining our purgatory. Women weathered yet another storm at the end of June and continue to take to the streets. On the anniversary of my firing from one of the nation’s biggest federal government consulting firms for telling my story of sexual assault to Yahoo! News – I stood with women (and a few little girls) fighting for agency and for the next generation. High-schooler, Ella Duncan-High, would stand to remind legislators in a townhall meeting, “I am the youngest person in the room and lack of choice is going to impact my generation more than any other.” 

We cannot let up! We will not back down! And we will never ever go back no matter what it takes. Neither sleet nor snow, the threat of arrest, termination, or the drudgery of a stormy day will hold us back. The Mother Lion is loose; hear us ROAR: Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. That’s it, twenty-four words that would begin to make women more equal, would permit us to bring our claims to court under the strictest of scrutiny –  giving everyday laws constitutional teeth –  so we can make decisions about our reproductive health, receive equal pay and benefits, avoid pregnancy and other forms of workplace discrimination and retaliation, be more protected from sexual and domestic violence, and be privy to the whole of the freedoms our counterparts enjoy without the need to ask. Let’s face it, without the need to be beggars without result, for our liberties.

About the Author: Lisa A. Sales is President of the Virginia National Organization for Women (NOW), a member of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance Policy Committee and the national ERA Coalition Advisory Council.