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Activists organize women's march in Geneva

'We can’t change history, but we can change the future'

Leah Beck (left) and Mary O'Connor of We Can Lead Change - Fox Valley, along with the Kane County Coalition, are organizing a Fox Valley Women's March on Jan. 19 on Third Street in Geneva.
Leah Beck (left) and Mary O'Connor of We Can Lead Change - Fox Valley, along with the Kane County Coalition, are organizing a Fox Valley Women's March on Jan. 19 on Third Street in Geneva.

GENEVA – Geneva’s Third Street will be host to the Women’s March Fox Valley, where as many as 3,000 participants are expected, organizers said.

The event starts with a rally at 10 a.m. Jan. 19 at the Kane County Courthouse, 100 S. Third St., Geneva, followed by a march at 10:30 a.m. on Third Street as We Can Lead Change and the Kane County Coalition join forces to promote women’s rights and inspire change.

U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville, and state Rep. Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, will speak at the rally in the parking lot in back of the courthouse, then participants will walk down James Street to Third Street.

Organizer Mary O’Connor of St. Charles said it is hard to tell in the first year of an event how many will attend.

“We are optimistic that we can get 3,000,” O’Connor said. “We ultimately identify as preserving and protecting democracy. Over the summer and fall, we held an educational series once a month. We taught Civics 101. … We believe the best voter is an educated voter. We have anchored ourselves around education. … Our mission is to march local and vote local.”

The group identifies itself with the Democratic candidates who were elected in November.

“Let’s remember and celebrate what was accomplished in November, which was the blue wave of 100 women seated in Congress,” O’Connor said. “We took control of the [U.S.] House. We made changes in our state government officials. It was a very successful November and women had a huge role in the success.”

As to how this is occurring in a conservative Republican area, O’Connor said she thinks there is a “substantial shift going on.”

“What we do best is, every day, continue to work, to hear all the voices, and I think that is the key success of the grassroots movement,” O’Connor said.

The effort to have a Women’s March Fox Valley follows a decision not to hold a women’s march in January in Chicago.

“We are very respectful of what they did in October, having 100,000 people march with the focus on get out the vote,” O’Connor said. “We can’t change history, but we can change the future with a forward focus. And I believe we are doing it.”

O’Connor said Leah Beck, also of St. Charles, is helping manage the march, getting media alerts out and checking email every day.

We Can Lead Change – Fox Valley has a core of 250 to 300 members. The group is working with the Kane County Coalition on the march.

“We are very appreciative of their help … and from the Women’s March Chicago,” O’Connor said. “We are sisters together.”

They also benefited from the city of Geneva being supportive in closing down Third Street for the rally and the march, O’Connor said.

Even Geneva’s train schedule is working in the groups’ favor. The last train before the rally arrives at 9:50 a.m.

“It’s a 10-minute walk to the courthouse,” O’Connor said.

Local businesses have been supportive in putting up march posters, she said.

“Their support has been incredible,” O’Connor said. “We hope the very gracious shopkeepers in town benefit economically from this.”

The Women’s March Fox Valley has a GoFundMe page to aid with expenses. O’Connor said it will cost about $11,000 to $12,000 for insurance, portable toilets and the cost of street closure. They hope to raise $20,000, with overage going to support Mutual Ground, a women’s shelter in Aurora.

Participants are asked to register for the event on Facebook.

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