Oral History; Deborah Watt
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Transcription of Deborah Watt Interview
Becca: This is Becca MacKillop and I’m doing Oral History #4 for the archive. It is November 25, I’m in York, Pennsylvania, interviewing Deborah Watt, who is the mother of Sydney Watt, who I interviewed for Oral History #1. Say hi, Deborah!
Deborah: Hi! (Laughs)
Becca: (Laughs) Cool (Laughs) So Deborah was at the Women’s March on Washington in January. So we’re, I’m just gonna start with the question that I start with for everyone, which is can you tell me about where you grew up, and all of the places you’ve lived since.
Deborah: Okay, um I was bon in South Texas and moved when I was about four to Central Texas and um, moved again in fourth grade to Seguin, Texas where I stayed and where my parents still live except that our house flooded twice so we moved out to the country um, another story . . . And then I went to college in north Texas and . . . in the pan handle . . . and got married and finished college in Florida, in Sarasota Florida. And then I moved to Nashville, Tennessee. And then I moved back to Texas, lived north of Austin, and then moved to . . . not very far from Seguin, Texas, New Braunfels, Texas. In central Texas. And now I live in York, Pennsylvania! The past three years.
Becca: Cool (Laughs) Do you have a favorite out of all those places?
Deborah: New Braunfels.
Becca: New Braunfels. Which is where you moved from before York.
Becca: So can you talk about the, um political climate in each of the places you lived and where it’s the most drastically different?
Deborah: Uh . . .
Becca: If it is drastically different.
Deborah: (Sighs) Um, well it was different . . . I mean I had just started voting in college and . . . I was not a progressive then. I voted for Reagan (chuckles) and then I moved and I married um, a buckeye and I was probably . . . we were probably married like ten years before I kinda, he converted me. And I would say that Sarasota was . . . I don't’ know . . . a mixture but I would say more conservative. Uh, Texas definitely conservative. Nashville was a mixture but we were at Vanderbilt so that was not necessarily conservative, more progressive. And then um, in New Braunfels most of my friends were my kid’s friend’s parents and she, they were both in theatre so . . . most of them were pretty liberal. And then York, Pennsylvania surprisingly is very conservative! (Chuckles) It’s like . . . it’s like uh . . . I can’t think of the name of the guy but he said this area is like uh . . .um, there’s Philadelphia and then there’s Pittsburg and then there’s Louisiana in between. (Laughs) He might have said Alabama but I think . . . yeah.
Becca: So like when the state went red during the election, it’s all that middle part?
Becca: Between Philly and Pitt?
Becca: Interesting, I didn’t realize that necessarily.
Deborah: There’s a lot of rural counties in Pennsylvania.
Becca: Yeah. Had you ever been to a protest or a march or a demonstration before the Women’s March?
Deborah: Yes, I went to the Millions Mom March but that was in Austin, Texas. I didn’t go to the D.C. one and then um, took Sydney with me, she was . . .
Becca: What’s the Millions Mom March?
Deborah: It was about gun control, the one I went to.
Deborah: And then I went to . . . I just went to one right before up in, up at the capitol. I’d gone, it was uh . . . it was . . . you know, trying to convince the people that were the delegates not to vote for Trump. (Laughs) Not to . . . not to go on and . . .
Becca: This was in Philadelphia?
Deborah: This was in Harrisburg, just north of where we live.
Deborah: The capitol.
Becca: And this was last November?
Deborah: I don’t know, it was December. I think it was in December maybe. Or January. I don’t remember. It was between November 7th and January 21st.
Becca: Gotcha. Wow. And how did you hear about the Women’s March?
Deborah: I . . . I don’t know, Facebook probably.
Becca: Cause Sydney, in her interview, said she heard about it from you.
Deborah: Oh well, of course! (Laughs)
Becca: So you heard about it from Facebook?
Deborah: I . . . don’t remember but maybe that might be where I found it. I don’t, I don’t know. I . . . I get some emails so it might have been on an email. I’m not really sure.
Becca: How did you decide that you wanted to go?
Deborah: (Sighs) Um . . . well I was really frustrated . . . with um, the outcome of the election and . . . so I was like . . . you know, kind of my energy . . . went that way and then Sydney said she wanted to go and she said, “Mom, can I invite friends?” and so her really cute friends came. . .
. . . and um, uh, yeah that was . . . that was, that was actually fun.
Becca: Yeah! Um so, what . . . what was the planning process like for you? What did you have to do to get ready for . . .
Deborah: Oh I was like planning on it being freezing!
Deborah: Socks, I bought my . . . I bought snow boots, I bought a new parka, I bought long johns. I bought warmers for everybody that was going, hand warmers and feet warmers. Didn’t need ‘em. I bought backpacks, clear backpacks (Laughs) and then my, one of my really close friends made us the pussy hat . . . pink pussy hat . . . pussy cat hats. (Chuckles) So . . .
Becca: Did you, was she at the march also?
Deborah: She was not. She did not um . . . she made hats for like . . . a lot of my friends. And, she did not go to the march. And I’m not really sure why. Um . . .
Becca: Is she a big knitter?
Deborah: She’s a big knitter, yeah. Well, it’s just a fun . . . I think it’s just a little hobby. She started it about five years ago.
Becca: So she wouldn’t have had to . . .
Deborah; She could have gone and I’m not, I don’t really know why . . . because she’s been to a lot of protests. Um, oh God I can’t remember the like, when . . . Wendy . . . I can’t think of her last name, was running for governor of Texas, she was protesting um, with Planned Parenthood and . . . and some other stuff at the capitol so she’s gone to marches.
Becca: (Laughs) What we’re hearing in the background is a really small dog trying to get through a gate into the room where we’re holding the interview, because she feels left out. What’s her name?
Becca: Bella, right. (Laughs) So we, how many pussy hats would you estimate that she made? For the march?
Deborah: Um, I would say . . . well, I’m not really sure but I would say at least . . . (whispering and counting on fingers) five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen . . . I would say twenty.
Becca: Wow. I remember the one I had, had like a tag on it . . .
Becca: . . . that said like, “This is for XYZ purpose, this is made by . . .” I think a lot of them had tags on them saying where they were coming from and where they were going.
Becca: I think I still have the tag too.
Becca: I still have the hat, definitely.
Deborah: I still have my poster.
Becca: Oh you do?!
Deborah: Yeah, you can have it if you like.
Becca: Oh my gosh! I’m definitely going to take a picture of it!
Deborah: (Laughing) Okay.
Becca: Cool. So you prepared pretty thoroughly for the day. Did you feel over prepared?
Deborah: I don’t know if over prepared. I mean I just, you know I . . . I had gone to that little march protest in Harrisburg so . . . I know how cold it was that day and I, I was thinkin’ about food and um, you know timing about getting on the . . . the metro on time and um, making our signs and having all the posters ready when y’all . . . when everyone came over.
Becca: Can you describe from the night before til the night after, what do you remember being the chronology of the day?
Deborah: (Laughs) Uh . . . okay.
Becca: I want to see what you remember versus what I remember versus what Sydney remembers
Deborah: (Laughs) Um . . . I remember everyone getting in about . . . I don’t know, maybe nine o'clock or something. It was, kind of late. And, being really excited and then I, or, and then I was like, “Okay, we’re gonna make our signs!” and then I um, I had had the posters out, and the markers, the permanent markers and the duct tape and the things to hold ‘em with and everyone sitting ‘round doing that and that was a lot of fun. And snacking, and eating a little bit. And then going to bed, it was pretty late but then having to get up really really early. And . . . eating our oatmeal. And then making our lunches. And getting in the car, and driving. And then getting there and then waiting around. (Laughs) But everyone in such a good mood! And then, when we were like, getting off the tube, people kind of singing in the background like uh, I don’t know what they were singing, I can’t remember. Maybe it was just some kind of a march . . . marching song, I can’t remember. And then walking around and then getting to the right place but then telling everyone we needed to go see if we could get closer. (Laughs) And then marching back to the right place we were at! (Laughs) And then uh, it was um . . . listening to the speeches . . . and meeting, you know, seeing people around us and . . . talking to people around us and . . . the marching on and then taking the tube back . . . driving home and . . . talking on the way. And, I guess that’s about it, going to sleep. (Laughs) It was fun.
Deborah: Big day. Busy.
Becca: Definitely busy day. Um . . . so interesting. (Laughs) Cause I don’t even remember hearing a song when we got off the train.
Deborah: There’s like a . . . I might even have it on a recording, I don’t know. I don’t exa- I don’t know exactly what it was but it was like . . . eh, I don’t remember.
Becca: So you said a lot of people were in a good mood. Um, and you talked to a lot of people.
Deborah: Everyone was pretty polite.
Becca: Interesting, so do you . . . you don’t have any memories really of like, hostility or instances of like, violence or . . .
Deborah: No, no, I don’t remember anything like that.
Becca: Um, do you remember seeing any like police presence at the march? Or security?
Deborah: I remember there were some military people on top of a bus. They looked like, I think they were military or service or something. And they were looking at people. You know, I don't’ know.
Becca: Just like, hangin’ out? Watching?
Deborah: Yeah, and there must have been some police but I don’t really remember.
Becca: Right. Um, was there anything about the march that you were expecting to see or experience . . . I just wanna . . . there’s two dogs now. That’s what that is. (Laughs) She has a friend. (Laughs) They want to be interviewed also but they weren’t at the march so . . .
Becca: (Laughs) Hi little friend. (Laughs) Okay, okay they’re both here with us now. We have Bella and Ashaya. Okay, was there anything that you were expecting . . . (to dogs) this question’s for Deborah, by the way guys. (Laughs) Was there anything that you were expecting to see or experience that didn’t meet your expectations? Was totally different? Or wasn’t there at all?
Deborah: (Long Pause) No. Um, I really didn’t know what to expect. I, I, I kind of missed that, that we weren’t right up in front of the stage but . . . (Laughs) But that was okay, I mean we still heard it. Even though we didn’t see everything. Um, I mean we saw a lot compared to what some people . . . we got a lot closer and everything . . . um, no. I don’t know! (Laughs).
Becca: Which speakers do you remember seeing, or singers or presenters?
Deborah: Oh gosh, I wish my memory was better. Um, the one on fire. Who was that person? (singing) “this girl is on fire!” singin that?
Becca: Oh yeah!
Deborah: Yeah. I’m not gonna sing it. (Laughs) Who was that?
Becca: I don’t know! I can’t remember now!
Deborah: Oh and there was Alicia Keys was there, I think. Um . . . was Madonna there? Yeah . . . um . . and then, oh! And the song where they said the names. Um . . . they were, they would say . . . I wish I could remember the little . . . but they would say remember . . . blah blah blah . . . shout his name! . . . so and so . . .
Becca: Was it people that had died?
Deborah: (softly) Yeah, it was the young people that had died.
Becca: Was it the moms of . . .
Becca: The Black Lives Matter . . .
Deborah: Well, I don’t know if it was Black Lives Matter but it was . . .
Becca: It was mom’s of people that had died?
Deborah: Yeah, and I think a lot of them were black. Or latino or . . . a lot of minorities.
Becca: Mm Hmm
Deborah: So, maybe it was Black Lives Matter, I don’t know.
Becca: Mm Hmm
Deborah: Um, there were . . . well, I don’t know . . .
Becca: Did you see a lot of um, police officers or military people in pussy hats?
Deborah: No. (Laughs)
Becca: A lot of people did.
Becca: I didn’t either. Yeah. Apparently there were a bunch.
Deborah: Ooh, well, nope. I mean I talked to some men . . . that were there with their female friends sporting them.
Becca: Mm Hmm
Deborah: Or we talked to the . . . to the man on the, I think the tube. Or the metro.
Becca: Mm Hmm
Becca: Yeah. Um . . .
Deborah: He was talkin’ to y’all!
Becca: I remember that. So I’m trying to run through in my head. We talked about your background. We talked about planning for the march. We talked about the day of the march. We didn’t . . . police presence. Expectations. Versus Reality. Um . . . huh! That’s all the ones that I typically do um, we also talked earlier about intersectionality. Um, so part of the archive is touching on intersectionality, which is the study of intersecting identities, different demographics like gender, race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality and how they all combine. So, one of the main criticisms of the women’s march is that it was geared toward like white women, straight women um, and that the people who planned it didn’t really take that into consideration until later in the game. Do you remember seeing anything about . . . wh- do any of the things that I’m saying like ring a bell in your memory?
Deborah: Yeah! Um, I mean there probably were a lot of white people there.
Becca: Mm Hmm.
Deborah: But, there were minorities and um, I mean there were a lot of variety of . . . I mean people dressed um, there were trans people there and um . . . I mean, the interesting thing is all the different things that people came there to support or protest or whatever. I mean, the sciences . . .
Bella: Bark! Bark!
Deborah: Whoops. The sciences. Um, you know um, your . . . your sex, your gender. Um, what else? I’m just thinkin’ of all the things that we shouted while we were there.
Becca: Mm Hmm.
Deborah: Um, environment.
Deborah: Gosh, I can’t remember everything.
Becca: So it was like . . . the Women’s March became a catch-all for all of the things that we didn’t like about the administration. Or all of the things that the administration promised to . . .
Deborah: Yeah it wasn’t, I know it was a women’s march and it was . . . it was supposed to be . . . mostly you know, what women are . . . are interested in. And I mean, women are interested in environment so I mean. It wasn’t just a . . . you know, not like it shouldn’t be there or anything like that . . .
Becca: Mm Hmm. But it wasn’t . . . it wasn’t just about like reproductive rights or it wasn’t just about . . .
Deborah: Yeah that’s right, Planned Parenthood . . .
Becca: Mm Hmm
Deborah: . . . was there.
Becca: It was also about um, other marginalized . . .
Becca: . . . groups or things under attack. Or things that were expected to come under attack like the environment.
Becca: Yeah. I think that’s fair to say. That’s what a number of other people said in their interview as well. Um, did you remember seeing . . . what signs did you see that stuck out in your memory?
Deborah: (Sighs) Y’alls. (Laughs) Y’all’s because they were so long. But then I went back and read ‘em and thought, “Oh they are so good,” And I don’t remember even what y’all said on ‘em. . . . I can’t think of one that really stood out at the time. I mean, except for like you know, “Trump Looks Like a Cheeto” or something like that. (Chuckles) Oh yeah, I wish I had taken pictures of everything and I could look at it
Becca: Mm Hmm
Deborah: Um . . . boy, there were a variety . . . of signs and of ages. There were like people that were really, really old in wheelchairs and little teeny kids, people brought their children and . . . it was nice that it was so, I felt so safe. And . . .
Becca: Were you expecting to?
Deborah: I was but a friend of mine didn’t go because she’s a single mom and her daughter, who is her only child, depends on her totally. And so she didn’t want to go because she was scared that something would happen. So I was . . . surprised about that.
Becca: Mm Hmm
Deborah: But I can, I understand her point of view but . . . that didn’t happen.
Becca: Mm Hmm. What’s your most salient memory about the experience of the Women’s March? When you think of it.
Deborah: Just the amount of people that were there. And all the . . . all the pink too. I thought that was funny. Um, I mean it wadn’t just pink but it’s like . . . just so many people. Just really . . . uplifting.
Becca: Do you think they planned for so many people? . . . The march organizers?
Deborah: I don’t know. I don’t know if they could’ve . . . you know, I don’t know. I don’t, I think it was a large . . . well we know it was larger than the inauguration. (Laughs) But I don’t know, I don’t know what their, how many they planned for . . . um . . . but there were a lot of people there. What was so amazing is that it wasn’t just there, it was Austin, Texas and Boston, Massachusetts and New York and Philadelphia and all, all, all these cities all around the world. Different countries.
Deborah: So that was very exciting.
Becca: Yeah, I didn’t realize that there were going to be so many sister marches.
Deborah: Yeah, and so many people at the sister marches. Yeah.
Becca: What do you remember seeing about news coverage of the march? Did it start right away? And do you feel it was representative of the march?
Deborah: Yeah, I- I. I mean . . . oh, well. . . I don’t have a tv set so I can’t really say that I watched the news. Um, I mean I only saw things that were like on Facebook or some kind of media. That’s what I saw.
Becca: Like online?
Deborah: Yeah, I didn’t . . . yeah, on my uh, phone. I mean if there was somethin’ on CNN or whatever news that comes up. BBC or whatever. Huffington Post. Whatever it is.
Becca: Gotcha. So, have you ever seen coverage in the news like when they talk about other protest movements like the Black Lives Matter protest movements um, have you seen news coverage of those?
Deborah: Well I don’t have a TV. I mean I’ve seen news coverage of ‘em though. Um, yeah I’ve seen . . . um . . . I mean there was, there was even something in our town but . . . Something came up . . . and I couldn’t, I didn’t go. And I can’t remember at the time why not. Something, something came up.
Becca: What it a Black Lives Matter event?
Deborah: It was a Black Lives Matter . . . and something happened, I almost felt scared to go. I can’t remember what that . . . why that was.
Becca: Was it something, was there an inciting incident?
Becca: Like an act of violence or something.
Deborah: There was something. And I . . . my memory’s so bad, I can’t remember what it was. But um, yeah there was some local stuff.
Becca: But that didn’t feel like a safe demonstration to go to.
Deborah: No because . . . I can’t remember why. It was something to do with, something about they were gonna march to the police station. From the park. And some police officer, something happened to a police officer, and so . . . I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to . . . to go out that night. I don’t . . . I don’t remember now. But there was something that happened and I just didn’t think that it was the appropriate thing to go out. So, anyway.
Becca: Have you ever been to, or seen coverage of, or know somebody who’s been to um, Gay Pride? Like a Pride parade?
Deborah: Yeah, uh huh. Yeah.
Becca: What was that like? Did you go?
Deborah: I did not go.
Deborah: I mean, Sydney’s friend, who we were just talking about, she um . . . she was, she got like her picture taken in the newspaper with a friend and they were walking down the street holding hands. And, and . . . she got her picture on the, you know her picture right there.
Becca: In Texas?
Becca: Oh, in Austin?
Deborah: San Antonio.
Becca: Oh, wow. So, do you . . . was that more of like a celebratory event or was that more solemn?
Deborah: I wasn’t there. I don’t know.
Becca: Oh, okay.
Deborah: I just saw the picture. It looked kind of celebratory to me.
Becca: Gotcha. Yeah. I think people are trying to negotiate where the Women’s March falls in terms, on the scale of . . .
Deborah: Oh yeah.
Becca: . . . a solemn event or a celebratory event or somewhere in between. Definitely wasn’t a dangerous event is the consensus.
Deborah: Yeah, uh, I don’t know if it was celebratory but it felt good . . .
Becca: Mm Hmm
Deborah: . . . to be there. To like, be doing something since . . . we didn’t know what was going to happen and . . . I felt that . . . I couldn’t believe who got elected president. Um, yeah, so it was good to like feel like you were doing something . . . And I, I mean I worked down at the Democratic office here in town before and I . . . oh! I was just thinkin’ about this! The week before I’d gone down to, uh, for Southern Virginia and as I was driving back and I was seeing all of these Trump signs in the yards. Um, I was feeling pretty . . . pretty depressed and um, and then I turned on this like, religious radio station to wake me up. And . . . I was hearing how . . . the talk show host was talking about how you could take a . . . you know, God doesn’t always choose perfect people. And, and so um so you know, Trump’s not a perfect person. And when I heard that, it made me think that, after seeing all these signs, it made me think that Trump was gonna win. Um . . .
Becca: People were excusing him?
Deborah: Yeah it was like, “God doesn’t choose perfect people.” And so I thought, “Oh yeah. Wow.” (Laughs) Wow, that’s the way to, you know, to put it out there. So it scared me and you know, with good reason.
Becca: So . . .
Deborah: And also working in York at the Democratic headquarters um . . . I mean, there was a lot of apathy towards Hillary, I think. I mean personally I was, I was a Bernie fan.
Becca: Mm Hmm
Deborah: And um . . . I wasn’t . . . I wasn’t crazy about Hillary so I knew that . . . you know a lot of people weren’t just crazy about her. I mean there was, there was kind of that feeling that you didn’t see the signs in the yard. Um, I mean I didn’t, personally I didn’t want . . . I didn’t want another dynasty in the White House. But I didn’t want Trump. So I didn’t get . . . I got one but didn’t get the other.
Becca: Um, what did you, what do you do in the office? The Democratic office in York?
Deborah: Oh, I just call people.
Deborah: And stood out front and tried to get ‘em to sign you know, the register to vote.
Becca: Volunteer stuff.
Deborah: Yeah. Yeah, I didn’t, yeah I didn’t get paid. (Chuckles)
Becca: Gotcha. When, you were doing that the fall before the election.
Deborah: Mm Hmm.
Becca: Okay. Okay. No, that’s good to know. I’m glad, I’m glad you’re telling me that. That’s good context for your deciding to go to the march.
Becca: Do you, so the march was definitely cathartic. Do you think it had effects, tangible effects?
Deborah: Eh, on . . ? On . . . On who? (Laughs) Ah, like on Trump? I don’t . . . I don’t know if it had any effect on him at all. Um, his brain works differently. And, I don’t know how you would have seen the march anyway and he was out of town. He wasn’t in D.C. I remember. Um, But I’m sure he, he saw it on TV. And then he tweeted about it probably afterwards. Um, yeah. He tweets a lot.
Becca: So, maybe not an effect on the administration, do you think it had an effect on . . .
Deborah: I think it had an effect that . . . I mean the whole, this whole thing has had the effect that it’s really . . . to me I think that it’s made people think that their . . .that their vote counts and their voice counts and that, I think it’s pushed a lot of people to think about um, and I don’t know if this is true but . . . to think, you know, to think about running for office and, and getting involved. And having a voice. So . . .
Becca: As a mobilizing force, it was effective?
Deborah: I think so, yeah. That’s a good word, mobilizing force.
Becca: Thank you.
Deborah: (Laughs) I think it . . . I think it has, yeah. Um, and I know that they’ve had some more marches but I’ve never been involved with those.
Becca: Do you think there’ll ever be another march on this scale? Like another Women’s March of this magnitude? Or just in any other um . . . specific demographic march of this magnitude?
Deborah: I think there could be, yeah. Um, depending on what happens in the next four years, three years now almost.
Becca: Do you think the way that this was organized has set a precedent for the way that things can be done in the future?
Becca: Do you think it can be repeated, in the same peaceful way?
Deborah: I think so. Yeah, I do. . . Hopefully it will be as peaceful. I mean it’s . . . it is . . . it is women (laughs). Not that women are all peaceful but um . . . I mean, it was promoted as a . . . you know, you could take your children and, and it, I think it turned out that way. And there’s always like . . . branches of stuff but I don’t know who they were.
Becca: Like counter-protestors you mean?
Deborah: Well I mean I, there were some cars that were burning and stuff like that, like in D.C. And I don’t know who it, who that was and I don’t, I don’t think it was like the same, the same people that came out. I mean, I think it was the, I don’t know the Antifa, or . . . how do you say that?
Becca: Antifa? The anti-fascists?
Deborah: Mm Hmm. I don’t know if it was that group or what.
Becca: . . . I don’t know either.
Deborah: (softly) I don’t know.
Becca: Well, I think that might be a good place to end.
Deborah: Okay, well, thank you.
Becca: Thank you, Deborah!