The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The woman who started the Women’s March with a Facebook post reflects: ‘It was mind-boggling’

With Capitol Hill in the background, a crowd fills the streets of Washington during the Women’s March on Jan. 21. (Oliver Contreras for The Washington Post)

Teresa Shook is back home in Hawaii, organizing the women in her state to rally for progressive laws and call their elected officials to speak out against President Trump.

The retired lawyer has had a whirlwind few months, and she’s starting to decompress and reflect on how she, a first-time activist, was able to launch the Women’s March on Washington with a single Facebook post. Now that the main event is over, she wants to ensure that she and people across the Hawaiian Islands remain in the movement to battle White House policies they think will set women and the country back.

“I wasn’t that political. Something happened in me with this administration that woke up my love for people and humanity and what this country stands for,” Shook said. “We’re prepared to just keep letting our voices be heard and not relenting. We have to make it really uncomfortable for the Trump administration.”

When the election results became clear Nov. 8, Shook needed a place to vent. She turned to the pro-Hillary Clinton “Pantsuit Nation” Facebook page and posted that she thought a pro-women march was needed. Others agreed. She hoped someone else would take the lead, but when no one did, she asked about how to make a Facebook group and did it herself.

As she went to bed, a few dozen friends had said they would attend. By the time she woke up, 10,000 people had RSVP’d to what would eventually become the Women’s March on Washington.

It started with a retiree. Now the Women’s March could be the biggest inauguration demonstration.

On Jan. 21, Shook stood on the stage as hundreds of thousands of people in the nation’s capital, and many more around the world, joined her call for women’s rights on the first full day of Donald Trump’s presidency.

“It was an out-of-body experience, to look out and see that sea of pink bodies,” Shook said. “We knew it would be a fairly large turnout, but no one knew for sure that the numbers would be, so to see that in reality was just mind-boggling.”

The idea that one woman could start the Women’s March from her computer has catapulted Shook into a sort of mini-celebrity among those of like-minded ideology. She said on the day of the march, strangers were hugging her and crediting her with making it all happen. The planning of the march was ultimately handed over to veteran activists soon after Shook created the Facebook event, although she remained involved in discussions and planning throughout.

Women’s marches: More than one million protesters vow to resist President Trump

As the march grew in prominence, it drove a broader conversation in liberal circles about race and leadership. Shook said it taught her about activism and feminism in 2017.

“A lot of the women were so inspiring to me. A lot of hard work, a lot of effort went into this,” Shook said.

Shook described the Women’s March as a day she’ll never forget, and said there were too many favorite moments to pick just one. Among them: A few minutes before the rally started, she couldn’t make it to the stage to speak because of the large crowds, so a man helped her push through by yelling that she had started it all. And, of course, she said, there was meeting a feminist icon.

“I met Gloria Steinem and she actually knew who I was, and that was kind of mind-blowing,” Shook said. “I’m still trying to wrap my head around this. I’m still jet-lagged.”

The lasting impact and effectiveness has yet to be determined, but Shook said she is confident that the march will be remembered as a historic event for generations — and the people who participated will continue to fight for women’s rights under the Trump administration.

“I think it will be remembered as the biggest march on Washington ever,” Shook said. “I am hearing from a lot of people that it woke them up, and it woke up their activism and their love of their country. A lot of women said they had been quiet, and they won’t be quiet anymore.”

Hundreds of thousands of activists descended on downtown Washington for a rally and march, the day after President Donald Trump took office. (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post, Photo: Oliver Contreras/The Washington Post)