The Barnard community has always been known for its commitment to activism, from its founding days and the fight to provide women with a quality education, to this past year where national movements focused on women’s rights, immigration, science and climate change, and other social issues. The past year was no different. Below is a selection of how Barnard’s students, alumnae, and faculty have gotten involved with their communities to make a difference.
It all started with Election Day on Nov. 8, 2016. Eliza Siegel ’20 wrote for Hudson Valley One about the disappointment she felt that evening and how she and her classmates joined thousands of protesters the following weekend in a march that ran from Union Square to Trump Tower in midtown, inspiring her to engage in community building and political organizing. In the weeks between the election and the inauguration, these efforts were echoed by fellow students and alumnae: NBC News profiled Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum ’81 as she and fellow clergy members at her synagogue joined forces with the Islamic Society of New York University to combat the rise of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim violence. Rhea Suh ’92, president of the National Resources Defense Council and named by Elle as one of their “2017 Women in Washington,” told GreenBiz that efforts were already underway in many cities to combat climate change—with or without federal support.
The Women’s March
The Women’s March on Washington took place on January 21, 2017—the day after the inauguration—and saw hundreds of thousands of women in D.C. and around the world take to the streets. Prof. Mary Gordon ’71 wrote for Vogue about her experiences marching against the Vietnam War as a student and in the Women’s March as a professor. Prof. Irena Klepfisz, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, told Haaretz why she joined the Women’s March on NYC as part of the Jewish Resistance group. Krista Suh ’09, whose hot pink “pussyhats” were knitted and donned by Women’s March protesters as a powerful symbol of unity and resistance, visited the Barnard campus after the 2017 March. She returned this week with a new book and to reunite with singer MILCK, whose anthem “Quiet”—like Suh’s pussyhats—became synonymous with the March. The friends discussed the importance of sisterhood and their surprise at how quickly and naturally they became politically active through their art, before MILCK gave a rousing performance of songs from her new album.
The Women’s March galvanized faculty, students and alumnae. Pilar Laitano Ferreira ’20 wrote about her experiences of solidarity in D.C., while Kate Gerhart ’19 gave an interview while attending the New York City march to emphasize the importance of supporting minority groups. And New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote about Mythili Lahiri ’94 and her sisters Maya Rao and Meera Oliva, first-generation Indian-Americans who were moved to activism after the election. They viewed the country as on the precipice of a “slippery slope” away from the American ideals of freedom of expression and transparency.
“Barnard women kept on marching long after