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Voices From 'A Day Without A Woman'


Many women are heading back to work after taking yesterday off for a national strike called A Day Without A Woman. It was organized as a follow up to the Women's March on Washington, which drew crowds of protesters to the nation's capital and other cities after President Trump's inauguration. NPR's Sarah McCammon spent yesterday with a group of women in Roanoke, Va.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: At an artists' gallery and studio space in downtown Roanoke, women spent most of the day doing relaxing things, like taking yoga and dance classes...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Ready and one, two, three...

MCCAMMON: Getting massages and one somewhat less peaceful activity. Instructor Mike Huff led a group through a self-defense training where he described exactly where to go after a potential male attacker.

MIKE HUFF: What do you think is the best way to attack the groin area of an attacker? That's right, the knee.

MCCAMMON: Those were just some of the ways several dozen women in Roanoke spent their time away from work for A Day Without A Woman. Several of the organizers, including Leslie Cramer, were also involved in organizing a local women's march in January.

LESLIE CRAMER: After the march, we felt this responsibility because so many people wanted to continue being active in making sure the voices were heard.

MCCAMMON: Cramer is 35 and owns a small digital marketing firm that she shut down for the day. She and other local women also organized a clothing and supply drive for a local women and children's shelter and set up a table to sign women up to help with voter registration drives.

CRAMER: Here in Virginia, we're really exciting because we have an election this year, which is a really, really big deal.

MCCAMMON: That's not only for the state legislature but also a gubernatorial election. Cramer says she hopes the strike will motivate women to stay engaged in both national and local politics. But for many, a day off either wasn't possible or seemed counterproductive. Paula Richards is an immigrant from Ecuador who came to the U.S. as a child. Now living in the Cincinnati area, the 32-year-old labor and delivery nurse didn't go on strike but she sympathizes.

PAULA RICHARDS: At the same time, absolutely I feel like I have a duty to my patients to be there, and my patients are women who are becoming mothers.

MCCAMMON: It was a dilemma for many women working in traditional jobs like teaching and nursing that involve taking care of other people.

RICHARDS: Yes, yes, the irony of it's not lost on me (laughter).

MCCAMMON: Stephanie Bergeman lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and took part in a local march in January. She wanted to take part in the strike, but that would mean staying home from her job as a cook at a child care center where her all-female colleagues would have to pick up the slack.

STEPHANIE BERGEMAN: The people that we help out because I'm at a day care, you know, we're helping out working mom. So it seemed like if I did take the day off it was going to have a negative impact on the very people that I'm trying to fight for.

MCCAMMON: Some critics complain that a protest focused on skipping work is mostly feasible for white upper-middle-class women who can afford to take a day off without fear of losing their jobs or missing a rent payment. Leslie Cramer of Roanoke acknowledges she doesn't have to worry about that or a lot of the other challenges low-income, minority or immigrant women might face.

CRAMER: None of the things that the administration is attacking will necessarily, like, affect me personally, you know, so I'm not here because I'm so worried about myself. I'm so worried about other people.

MCCAMMON: Cramer says she understands the criticism of this strike, but she hopes her decision to join will help make it possible for all women to one day enjoy that kind of freedom. Sarah McCammon, NPR News, Roanoke, Va.

(SOUNDBITE OF NOBODY'S "THE COAST IS CLEAR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.

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