What does a day without women look like? Pittsburgh will find out Wednesday

Several women-owned businesses plan to close as part of the International Women’s Strike.

Courtesy Pittsburgh International Women's Strike

Courtesy Pittsburgh International Women's Strike

Sarah Anne Hughes

Update, 9:47 a.m.

Dora Walmsley and Deirdre Kane opened 52nd Street Market in Lawrenceville three years ago this month.

That two women opened their own business seemed to puzzle some. For about the first year, one person a week on average would ask Walmsley if her husband was the owner, she told The Incline.

Some would assume the store’s male manager was the owner, according to Walmsley, or that the two women were owners in name only with men “behind the scenes doing the work.”


52nd Street Market is a women-owned and -operated “community-based corner store,” as Walmsley describes it — a shop that provides affordable and accessible fruits and vegetables, while serving as a bridge between old and new Lawrenceville.

It’s because of those values that Kane and Walmsley will close 52nd Street Market Wednesday as part of the International Women’s Strike.

The strike, a coordinated action taking place in more than 30 countries, will be held on International Women’s Day. “March 8th will be the beginning of a new international feminist movement that organizes resistance not just against Trump and his misogynist policies, but also against the conditions that produced Trump, namely the decades long economic inequality, racial and sexual violence, and imperial wars abroad,” a platform for the event states.

The organizers behind the Women’s March on Washington have also declared that date to be “A Day Without a Woman.”

It’s not clear how many businesses, let alone individual women, in Pittsburgh will participate. At least six women-owned businesses in Lawrenceville will be closed for part or all of Wednesday, while more than 20 will make donations to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the Women & Girls Foundation.

In Pittsburgh, the strike is sponsored by groups and businesses including the Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists of America, Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania, The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh, Socialist Alternative Pittsburgh, Women of Steel, The Union Edge, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Western PA Fund for Choice, One Pennsylvania, Green Party of Allegheny, Party for Socialism and Liberation, Joan Shop + Studio, Caligramme and The Vandal.

The day will feature a 4 p.m. rally Downtown at the City-County Building with speakers including disability rights advocate Alisa Grishman, 1Hood’s Blak Rapp Madusa, Alaa Mohamed of Islamic Center of Pittsburgh and Rosemary Trump, the first women to serve as Service Employees International Union’s vice president.

That inclusion of diverse voices is a natural extension of “looking at working women as a whole,” said co-organizer Casandra Armour of Socialist Alternative. “When you take the 99 Percent, the intersectionality follows naturally.”

Armour noted that International Women’s Day was originally called International Working Women’s Day and “is rooted in labor history and struggle.”

“Women have always played a critical and central role” in equality movements, from labor to civil rights, she said, and “It’s no different today.”

“Women are coming to the forefront to fight Trump and the larger system that he’s a symptom of,” Armour said.

The strike, however, shouldn’t be viewed solely as a response to Trump’s election. Injustices like police brutality against black people, Armour said, “didn’t begin in January,” but the Trump era will undoubtedly be one of change.

Striking for the entire day is not feasible for every woman and it’s also not the only way to participate.

There are two sign-making events today, ahead of #PGHM8: 5 to 7 p.m. at Repair the World, 6022 Broad St. (East Liberty) and 8 to 11 p.m. at Brillobox, 4104 Penn Ave. (Bloomfield).

Organizers in Pittsburgh have also suggested stopping work at 3:08 p.m. Wednesday or abstaining from feminized labor like dishwashing and childcare. Some of the actions are even simpler, like boycotting “misogynistic businesses” or wearing red and black in solidarity.

Armour said women can post a selfie of themselves in those colors using the hashtag #PGHM8 to participate. But even that, she knows, can put a woman’s employment at risk.

“Do not jeopardize your job,” she said. “We understand the economic crisis that people are facing right now.”

Walmsley said 52nd Street’s female manager will be paid despite the store’s closure. She expects a “significant income loss.”

But closing her store for an entire day is also “how we could have the most impact,” Walmsley said.

In addition to posting signs and statistics about issues like the wage gap outside 52nd Street Market, Walmsley said they will use social media to get the message across and to put out a “call to action.”

“It’s our hope that people will take this opportunity to dig into deeper into these issues,” she said.

The piece has been updated to reflect the correct time for the Repair the World sign-making event.