Sandy Cove's small Women's March on Washington gains big attention

Published on January 24, 2017

The Sandy Cove Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21.

©Gary Wilson photo

SANDY COVE, DIGBY COUNTY, N.S. – There’s a saying that size doesn’t matter and in Sandy Cove, Digby County, 15 people proved that over the weekend.

Their 15-person contribution to the international Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21 has captivated a lot of attention considering that the population of Sandy Cove is only around 65 people. Even when you throw in the population from other parts of Digby Neck, where some walkers came from, it’s still not a huge population hub.

“When we got there and we had that many people were shocked and thrilled and totally motivated,” says Melissa Merritt, one of the organizers. “If we have anything and 15 people show up, we’re thrilled.”

If we had ended up with the two of us, or six of us, or three of us, it really didn’t matter. We just wanted to get out and do something and feel like we were participating in this bigger thing. Gwen Quigley Wilson, one of the march organizers

Millions of people, mostly women, reportedly took part in marches around the world. An estimated 500,000 people marched in Washington, D.C. one day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Still, the Sandy Cove march hasn’t gone unnoticed. A video taken by Kadijah Photiades of the walkers on Highway 217 (scroll down to view) has had huge views and messages on the event’s Facebook page include:

“Thank you from San Francisco, CA! You are amazing!!!”

“From a house of women in North Carolina, thank you for organizing the march in Sandy Cove.”

Another message reads, “It's when we see small women's marches from little towns or remote areas, like the women on the boat in Antarctica and you that it becomes clear how absolutely global this is and that we really are making history. Be proud of what you have accomplished. Thank you from New Jersey.”

And yet another message: “Solidarity sisters! Love from Australia!”

A couple of days after the march, friends Merritt and Gwen Quigley Wilson were still in awe to the reaction. Neither had set out to change the world when they organized the Sandy Cove march with one day’s notice, but they certainly wanted to be a part of it.

Both had been concerned over the candidacy of Donald Trump and both were admittedly shocked when he won the presidency. It was a combination of that, but also wanting to have their voices heard on women’s issues, that drove them to take action.

There was some discussion about the march in Halifax, but the trip would be long and the discussion was short-lived. Besides, Quigley Wilson had just arrived home from Halifax after celebrating the birth of a granddaughter.
“That was in the back of my mind,” she says. “I want her to grow up in a world where she has every opportunity, equal like everybody else, and she doesn’t have to be afraid of anything.”

And so on Jan. 20 Quigley Wilson and Merritt threw out a public invite for a march that would stretch between the elementary school and the fire hall.

“If we had ended up with the two of us, or six of us, or three of us, it really didn’t matter,” says Quigley Wilson. “We just wanted to get out and do something and feel like we were participating in this bigger thing.”

Merritt agrees, saying, “They were talking about the marches and I support that so much and I didn’t want to miss out. I thought it was an important moment in time.”

In southwestern Nova Scotia a march also took place in Shelburne. Quigley Wilson says everyone’s voices matter.


“I think a lot of people think that just because you live in a small, isolated community that you’re also isolated from some of these bigger events in the world. But I think we proved no we’re not. Things are on our minds and we have points to make about them,” she says, saying people have concerns over equality and women’s rights regardless if they live in a city of 200,000 people or a village of 65.

Meanwhile, the march participants are gathering Thursday for a potluck supper and to talk about maybe doing other things in the future. Holding discussion forums from time to time is one idea that’s been thrown out.

Merritt and Quigley Wilson are also part of a newly formed non-profit initiative called Digby Neck Collective. The idea is to promote and facilitate social and entrepreneurial activities in Digby Neck.

Merritt says in small, rural communities you should never be discouraged from holding an event – or in this case a march – even if you think no one will come.

“Some people think if hardly anybody is going to show up than you shouldn’t have it, but I think if you get one person, that’s one person you didn’t have before,” she says.

As for Sandy Cove’s 15 minutes of fame – actually, it’s been more than 15 minutes – the women continue to be amazed. Laughs Quigley Wilson, “We may be the very last picture on the New York Times website but it doesn’t matter, we feel like we’re on the top.”