Maryland residents plan responses to "Day Without a Woman"

Baltimore plans responses to "Day without a Woman"

For years, Susannah Siger considered her shoe and chocolate business in Hampden a kind of "Switzerland," a neutral place apart from her politics.

But on Wednesday she plans to decorate her Ma Petite Shoe storefront on The Avenue in red and display signs that highlight products by women.

It's her way of marking International Women's Day and responding to the call for a show of solidarity by organizers of January's Women's March on Washington, which drew hundreds of thousands of people to events the day after President Donald Trump's inauguration.

"After this election, things changed for me, and I felt and I continue to feel morally obligated to engage, to have a positive response to a lot of what's going on in the political environment," she said.

Proclaiming Wednesday "A Day Without a Woman," the Women's March organizers have asked women to wear red, take the day off from paid or unpaid labor, and avoid shopping, except at small, woman- and minority-owned businesses.

The measures take up an approach adopted in last month's "A Day Without Immigrants" protests and are meant to demonstrate the importance of women to the economy.

Rallies are expected in a number of cities, and at least one school district in Maryland — Prince George's County — announced that it would be closed Wednesday after approximately 1,700 teachers and 30 percent of its transportation staff requested leave.

Some instructors have also canceled classes for Wednesday at the University of Maryland, College Park, and a rally is scheduled on campus.

But the day has generated less buzz than other recent activist demonstrations, said Nina T. Kasniunas, a political science professor at Goucher College.

She said it's not clear whether word about the effort has spread beyond circles that are already politically engaged. And striking for a day is not an option for many women, especially those who work low-income jobs.

"I think there is an issue of communication about what the desired effect of the day of action is and there seems to be spotty communication about it," said Kasniunas, who plans to teach Wednesday but has planned readings for her students related to women's issues. "We'll see how it plays out."

Maryland women have crafted a range of responses.

Organizers of the Baltimore women's march have organized a rally and walk at Lake Montebello at noon. The goal is to highlight women's rights and resistance to the Trump administration, as well as the budget gap facing the Baltimore's public schools, said organizer Donna Martin.

Del. Aruna Miller, the president of the women's caucus in the Maryland General Assembly, said the caucus will honor one of its longtime members, and she expects many of her colleagues to wear red. But she's not planning to take the day off.

"I think it's critical that legislators, particularly female legislators, be at work ... because we are a voice when it comes to the social, the legal, the economic and the political rights, and the votes that go with it," she said.

Since the election, Mariglynn Edlins of Baltimore has pulled together a group called Charm City Craftivists through social media, with the goal of meeting about once a month to make crafts with a political bent.

They made 75 pink hats for the Women's March in Washington and plan to put the finishing touches on a quilt Wednesday, with the goal of selling it and donating the proceeds to women's causes. Edlins said she's not expecting participation Wednesday to be as significant as it was for January's march.

"I think the point is to stay engaged and to stay hopeful, and to keep contributing your own voice and your own energy to making things better," she said.

Siger is coordinating her red storefront display with other about 20 other Hampden merchants.

NV Salon Collective will offer a discount on certain products as a way to highlight the wage gap for women.

At Sugar, a sex toys shop, customers will be invited to send postcards to politicians on issues that range from supporting Baltimore's proposed move to a $15-an-hour minimum wage to opposing federal moves to punish so-called sanctuary cities that do not coordinate policing with immigration agents.

"What I'd love to see happen is folks ... remember that women are actually a really important and integral part of our economy," said Sugar owner Jacq Jones. "Without women, this country wouldn't run."

nsherman@baltsun.com

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