'A Day Without a Woman': Millions demonstrate U.S., global economic reach

By Doug G. Ware and Andrew V. Pestano   |   Updated March 9, 2017 at 6:22 AM
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March 8 (UPI) -- Millions of women and girls marked International Women's Day on Wednesday with expressions of progress, independence and political dissent across the United States -- some pointedly aimed at President Donald Trump's administration.

In cities including New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Philadelphia, women and men celebrated the observation.

"We join together in making March 8 'A Day Without a Woman,' recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socioeconomic system -- while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment and job insecurity," the Women's March on Washington said in a statement.

In Manhattan, hundreds crowded a Midtown block for a demonstration, which resulted in several arrests. Schools in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Alexandria, Va., closed for the day because so many teachers opted to stay home. In Rhode Island, a municipal court was forced to close because several clerks and an administrator took the day off.

In Los Angeles, United Talent Agency organized a full slate of events to mark the impact of women around the world.

"We consider it vital for UTA to be a part of the global dialogue about gender equity and underscore its importance," agency CEO Jeremy Zimmer said. "Women play a critical role in the workforce ... and we fully support this event and encourage women across the agency to mark the day."

Actress and United Nations Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Anne Hathaway applauds with husband Adam Shulman before she speaks at an event in observance of International Women's Day 2017 at United Nations Headquarters in New York City on Wednesday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

Wednesday's collective events observed three rules -- taking the day off from paid and unpaid labor; avoiding shopping at large commercial businesses for one day to highlight women's economic impact; and wearing red in solidarity.

Actress and U.N. Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Anne Hathaway spoke at the United Nations to commemorate the day.

"On International Women's Day, I would like to thank all those who went before in creating our current policies," she said in her speech, her first to the United Nations since she became a goodwill ambassador in June. "Let us honor them and build upon what they started by shifting our language, and therefore our consciousness, away from gender and towards opportunity."

Other organizations that supported Wednesday's national event included Amnesty International, the Sierra Club, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, MoveOn.org and Planned Parenthood.

In Washington, women rallied near the White House to protest the "global gag rule" that bans federal funding for foreign organizations that provide abortion services or information about abortion.

"I used to list so many things on a sign. Now I have so many concerns, I just have a sign that says 'RESIST,'" Rebecca Wood, accompanied by her 4-year-old daughter Wednesday, said.

It wasn't immediately known what statistical impact the events had on Wednesday. Some questioned the strength of a message sent by causing a potential hiccup in the U.S. economy.

"The object for us isn't that we hope to shut the whole economy down," Linda Sarsour, a co-chairwoman of the event, said. "We see this as an opportunity to introduce women to different tactics of activism. Our goal is not to have the same numbers as the march."

One of the most popular spots in New York City on Wednesday was a bronze statue in the Financial District depicting a young girl -- hands on her hips and a determined expression on her face -- standing in the way of the iconic Charging Bull sculpture near the New York Stock Exchange.

People gather and take photos of a bronze statue of a defiant girl in front of Wall Street's iconic Charging Bull statue on International Women's Day in New York City on Wednesday. The "Fearless Girl" statue was placed in the city's Financial District, near the New York Stock Exchange, earlier this week as a call for more women to serve on corporate boards. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI

A plaque in front of the girl says, "SHE makes a difference."

A stream of advocates and visitors posed for photographs with the sculpture, which was placed opposite the bull overnight Monday by ad agency McCann New York and client State Street Global Advisors, of Boston -- part of the firm's aim to attract more women into top roles on Wall Street and track stock performances of companies with greater gender diversity in their leadership.

"This is the first time we're really putting a stake in the ground to say this is an issue that's meaningful to us," Lori Heinel, SSGA's deputy global chief investment officer, told the Los Angeles Times.

The statue, created by artist Kristen Visbal, has been approved to remain near the NYSE for a week, but SSGA said it wants to keep it there for a month.

"I remember [once] driving by the bull and thinking, 'I wish I had made it.'" Visbal told The Wall Street Journal. "Wall Street is a traditionally male environment and it says, 'Hey we're here.'

"To me it says a woman can be delicate and petite, but strong."

Wednesday's national observations follow the 2017 Women's March, a global protest that opposed Trump's administration the day after he was inaugurated.

"When millions of us stood together in January, we saw clearly that our army of love greatly outnumbers that of fear, greed and hatred," event organizers said. "Let's raise our voices together again, to say that women's rights are human rights."

Trump, who has been soundly criticized for various remarks and actions opponents say marginalize women, tweeted support Wednesday for the cause.

"On International Women's Day, join me in honoring the critical role of women here in America & around the world," the president tweeted.

Event organizers said "A Day Without a Woman" was modeled on New York City's bodega strike on Feb. 15, in which immigrant store owners closed stores and held "A Day Without Immigrants," also to highlight their impact on the U.S. economy.

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