Madison Thomas, from timid middle-schooler to bold activist.
At Large In Ballard: The Rise of the Woman
By Peggy Sturdivant
Madison Thomas thought she wanted to go into medicine. Then she got a taste of government as a page for then-State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles and realized, instead of one patient at a time, she could help masses through legislation. Now she’s in truly in charge of organizing the masses, as college engagement coordinator for the January 21, 2017 Women’s March on Washington.
Thomas considers herself a citizen of two cities; her hometown of Seattle (Ballard), and her Georgetown University college town of Washington, D.C. Like many she watched the presidential election returns in shock, but unlike most she was shortly fielding thousands of phone calls as an intern in Senator Patty Murray’s D.C. office. “Citizens were worried about the future of the United States. ‘What do I do?’ they kept asking?’ I didn’t have an answer.”
In fact Thomas was asking the same question, but when she heard about plans for a Women’s March on Washington on the day after inauguration, she focused her energy immediately. She found the Facebook page for the national organizers, studied it, and contacted them to say, “You need to engage college students. I’m happy to help.”
Her offer of help has resulted in a network of 220 college campus liaisons, helping to coordinate transportation, lodging and day of event logistics with campuses in 40 states. She is also working with colleges participating in “Sister Marches” in their own city or State Capitol. National organizers are hoping for 200,000 attendees to converge at the National Mall. Thomas is optimistic about that number, with 1500 scheduled buses already nearing capacity. They encourage attendees to pre-register but it’s almost impossible to predict how many additional people will be converging by way of Amtrak, car, airplane, bicycle, METRO, Greyhound…Thomas has heard of students who will be on traveling for days beforehand and families reuniting to march together, many in pink “pussy” hats.
The initial interest in medicine was part of a humanitarian and service urge that Thomas further credits to an emphasis on social justice issues in high school. “Holy Names (Academy) transformed me from a young, relatively timid middle-schooler with a curiosity in social justice to a bold activist.” She was already impassioned about the issue of human trafficking before her high school opportunity as page for Kohl-Welles, who led the country’s first anti-trafficking legislation. Now Thomas is a sophomore at Georgetown, with a double major in Government and Economics, and a minor in French. Yet she volunteered herself into this huge coordination effort, “Because college students are the ones who will be inheriting the next United States.”
Now she’s balancing the double major and final logistics. Her passion must have replaced her need for sleep. Fortunately Thomas has already studied with leaders in female empowerment beyond her experience with Jeanne Kohl-Welles…Senator Patty Murray and Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. She was an intern last summer during Jayapal’s campaign and in intern in Murray’s office before, during and after the 2016 election. Quite a resumé for a young woman from Ballard.
Before we were able to find a time to talk by phone, Thomas shared by email, “The biggest challenge is simply working against the clock. ‘Too much outreach’ simply doesn’t exist, because there are always more colleges and universities I could mobilize, more events I could plan, but just not enough time in the day.”
It’s hard to summarize the myriad goals of the national Women’s March, in part because it is meant to be so diverse and inclusive, but this statement from their website provides some context. “The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new government on their first day in office, and to the world, that women’s rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.” The Sister Marches are taking place all over the world; the main Seattle contingent is spelled the Womxn’s March, as further indication of its inclusiveness (and is shaping up to be third largest in the nation).
No one knows how exactly how the Women’s March in D.C. will unfold when it comes to logistics, or outcome. “I’m sure it will be frigid,” Thomas said cheerfully. However her hope, along with the organizers all across the States and world, “is that it becomes more of a movement than a one day event.”
The national website’s banner reads, “The Rise of the Woman = The Rise of the Nation.”
This is one young woman’s rise, from timid middle-schooler to bold activist, now coordinating with thousands by way of 220 colleges and universities. Madison Thomas is already raising the bar for all of us. From your hometown: thank you.