Northampton Event Encourages Women Activists to Speak Up

The day after Donald Trump’s election in 2016, corporate communications trainer Cathy McNally vowed to join activist communities to oppose the conservative forces that got him elected.

Founder and CEO of the Women Speak Up organization, she realized that it was her work with teaching women to be better public speakers that could make a real difference.

“Women are the leaders of so much movement work, but they need to be speaking more and they need to feel more confident about speaking,” said McNally, 62, of Northampton.

Cathy McNally at a TEDx talk in Easthampton. Courtesy photo

On March 9, McNally and others she has worked with will hold an event in Northampton called “Why I March,” focused on women leaders and speakers in activist movements. The event will feature about 15 speakers, each of whom will talk for about three to five minutes, and the audience will get chances to participate as well, according to McNally.

“In so many ways people tend not to value what a woman says, and then women internalize that message,” McNally said.

The Women’s March following Trump’s inauguration was a catalyzing event for McNally and other women, she said.

“It’s always been the case that women have been the foot soldiers and the doers, but not the leaders,” McNally said. “The Women’s March was good because it helped women see each other and support each other in a really public way.”

Alicia Fleming, 37, of Chicopee, who identifies as a woman of color, will be among the speakers at the March 9 event.

“I feel very motivated to be involved in every way that I can to bring up the issues that I experience as a woman and a woman of color, and a mother raising a black son,” Fleming said.

At the same time, Fleming, who is an organizer of Massachusetts for Equality and Racial Justice, was a hesitant public speaker. The first time she had to speak, at a march for racial justice this past October, she felt sick about it.

“I wanted to organize from behind the scenes, and in the end it was determined I would MC the event,” she said. “It was an initial hurdle, but it was not as intimidating as it seemed.”

Fleming decided that the benefits outweighed the anxiety; she wanted both the public and her son to see she is capable of being a leader and a speaker as a woman of color, she said.

Eventually, Fleming became one of the speakers at the Northampton Women’s March in January, which was attended by thousands of people.

She is also happy to be able to attend the event and share her experiences with others looking to be more confident speakers.

“I think it is going to be wonderful to be amplifying these voies,” Fleming said. “I applaud Cathy for putting it together. It is a wonderful thing and it should be done more often.”

The event will take place on Friday, March 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the Northampton Center for the Arts at 33 Hawley St. with a sliding scale of $0 to $15. For more information, visit

Dave Eisenstadter can be reached at

Share This Post On

Sign up for our daily newsletter!

You don't want to be left out, do you?

Sign up!

You have Successfully Subscribed!