Women's Day parade draws 250

Women gained the right to vote just a few years before Ashland resident Nancy Spencer was born. Although she wasn't around to witness the suffrage movement, Spencer, now 82, has seen plenty of other things change for women in her lifetime.

Saturday — in a celebration that was part party, part awareness campaign — Spencer decorated her walker and marched with 250 others in Ashland's second annual International Women's Day parade.

"We've seen women's rights improve in many ways," Spencer said, speaking for the group she was marching with, the Ashland chapter of the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom, "especially now that more women are taking part in government and politics."

Ashland's Mayor John Stromberg, who also attended the Siskiyou Boulevard parade and after-party at Southern Oregon University, said he's glad that many women hold top government positions in the city.

"Ashland's a place where I believe young women have a number of awesome role models in the community," he said, listing SOU President Mary Cullinan, Superintendent of Ashland School District Juli Di Chiro and City Administrator Martha Bennett as some examples of women in leadership positions in the city.

"Things have really changed a lot," Stromberg said. "Look at Ashland! If you talk about a glass ceiling, in Ashland, it's not there."

Women's rights benefit entire communities, not just one gender, he added.

"Men also have a tremendous amount to gain from women's rights," he said.

Although political and social climates have changed considerably for women in the last 100 years, there is still a long way to go before equality is achieved, even in local communities, said Anna D'Amato, director of victim's services at Community Works, a nonprofit serving Jackson County.

Wearing a "NO means NO" T-shirt, D'Amato marched with 25 other people from Community Works to bring awareness to domestic violence and sexual assault that occurs locally. Each year Community Works serves about 2,000 women that have been victims of violence or sexual assault, she said.

"There's still a lot of violence against women," she said. "It's a big problem and we do have a long way to go."

The parade was also about celebrating how far women have come and remembering women who sacrificed their lives to fight for women's rights.

"I think that women have gone through a lot, probably even more so than men because they've not had equal rights," said 11-year-old Mila Friedl, who was dancing at the after-party with the Ananda Natya Indian Dance School and Company.

Surrounded by her girlfriends, Mila said holding Women's Day made sense because of the contributions women have made to communities worldwide.

"If women hadn't helped, the world wouldn't be the way it is today. And men helped too, but not as much," she said, as her friends laughed.

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