‘We’ve Come Too Far To Go Back’ Say Elderly Activists Protesting Trump Administration
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Credit: Connie Kelley
A group of 50 women in their 80s, 90s and 100s marched last month with walkers and canes through their Seacrest Village retirement home in Encinitas in solidarity with the nationwide Women’s Marches. Now, the seniors have put down their handmade signs and picked up pens and paper.
A group of 50 women in their 80s, 90s and 100s marched in January with walkers and canes through their Seacrest Village retirement home in Encinitas in solidarity with the nationwide Women’s Marches. Now, they’ve put down their handmade signs and picked up pens and paper — determined to protect the rights they feel are threatened under the Trump Administration.
“You can’t leave it up to someone else,” said Bertha Fox, 91, who raised four sons in Los Angeles and dedicated much of her life to volunteering. “If something is important, you have to do it.”
Fox and the other senior marchers joined together recently for a letter-writing campaign to their local lawmakers to raise their concerns about changes coming from the White House.
“Some of the things that are happening are very difficult for us to swallow,” chimed in Alice Morawetz, 88, one of the group's organizers.
“I get sick when I think about it,” added Barbara Appleby, 86, who spent 30 years in New York teaching English to immigrants.
Many of the women, sporting neatly styled silver hair, are grandmothers and great-grandmothers. They’re also activists working to protect human rights and their values.
“If we don’t fight for our daughters, our granddaughters and our great-granddaughters, who’s going to do it?” said Dee Rudolph, who raised four children in Montana while working for the Democratic Party.
Slightly hard of hearing with soft, shaky voices, the strong-willed women laced up their tennis shoes in January and marched through the halls of their retirement home.
“It was one of the most inspiring things that I’ve ever done in my long life,” said Eve Rosenberg, 102, an avid reader who spent her career in the New York City Public Library on 5th Avenue.
"There was such a spirit here,” Rudolph added. “Everyone wanted to be involved.”
Their signs read: “Our rights are not up for grabs," "Make America think again" and “Let’s be an example for the world.”
“I’ve seen a lot of marches in my lifetime,” Rosenberg said. “But this is one of the most significant marches that I can remember.”
A picture of a sign posted in their retirement home to organize a march went viral on Twitter. It was retweeted thousands of times.
“This has caused quite a stir,” said Morawetz, smiling proudly, noting that the group had to keep their voices down for the sake of the other residents.
The women are taking part in the national post-march initiative of “10 Actions in 100 Days,” arming themselves with pens and postcards and writing to their elected representatives.
“I have always expressed myself with paper and pen,” said Agnes Herman, 95, who wrote for the Los Angeles Times and had a column in the North County Times.
Writing a letter is much more effective than Twitter, added Rosenberg.
“I don’t tweet, toot or anything else,” Rosenberg laughed.
They hope by expressing their concerns over President Trump’s executive orders and plans, their voices will be heard.
“What I’ll write on the next one is that we have to take care of the refugees,” Rudolph announced to the women sitting at tables in the community room, holding up her stack of postcards.
Denny Cope read her letter aloud: “Dear Congressman Issa, I’m from Encinitas, California and I’m concerned about Medicare, Social Security and Medical.”
Jean Detsky followed: “My name is Jean Detsky and I certainly believe that the world has changed.”
“I’m going to write that we have to protect our rights,” added Fox. “That our democracy is very dear.”
They have witnessed a lifetime of historic protests and movements, from Civil Rights and anti-war to abortion and labor rights.
Some of the women, including Appleby, have done a lot of marching through the decades.
“In college I was for solidarity and I came home and I thought my father was going to throw me out of the house,” said Appleby, who also marched for union rights in the 60s, and Roe v. Wade in the 70s.
Now, disheartened over president Trump’s stance on immigration, Appleby has renewed her activism.
“To stop immigration for whatever reason he has is just un-American,” said Appleby, whose English class back when she was teaching represented as many as 20 countries at a time.
“I could always tell which country was in trouble because those people ended up in my class,” Appleby said. "I just feel that my classes helped everybody to assimilate and to become American."
Immigration is also on the mind of Rudolph, who said she can’t stop thinking about the uncertain future of Syrian refugees. The crisis echoes the Holocaust, she said.
“There’s no place for them to go in this world,” Rudolph said. “My God, it just brought it all back.”
Many of the women recounted growing up during the Great Depression, including Eve Rosenberg. She said severe poverty instilled in her the need to support one another.
“You understand what it means when you are at the bottom of the heap and you need a hand, somebody to help you get up,” Rosenberg said.
The women agreed they’ve seen the country come too far, and they won’t allow it to take a step back.
“We fought too hard and too much,” Appleby said.
Not everyone at the retirement home opposes the new administration. Out of respect for conservative residents the women have agreed: no politics at the dinner table.
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