By Maddie Charnes
A mere 50 years ago, women celebrated the ruling of Roe V. Wade, but many, like Darin Wright, 58, have lived long enough to witness its overturning. The fight for not only women’s rights, but human rights and equality is a never-ending battle, and Wright is proving that it is never too late to take action.
“We called ourselves the New Suffragettes to honor the women that fought for our rights,” Wright said. “They were our inspiration.”
Through her overwhelming determination and desire for change, Wright has worked to build a space where women and men alike can come together to make a difference. Darin Wright co-founded the New Suffragettes, an activism group consisting primarily of women over 40. Their mission is to actively promote human rights policies that ensure reproductive privacy, healthcare and autonomy.
“The magic happens when we do things together,” Wright said. “Get involved, find your passion and don’t be afraid.”
The New Suffragettes march for those who marched before them. They aim to show that it’s never too late to push for change, and there’s no strength in staying silent.
“We stand to defend our right to own and control our bodies,” Wright said. “We commit to uphold the separation of church and state.”
Wright has always felt strongly about advocating for others, but within her family, activism wasn’t necessarily encouraged. It wasn’t until she experienced the power of connection through the New Suffragettes that she truly felt her activism be heard.
“I think I was born an activist, but before this group, my activism was more quiet,” Wright said. “I didn’t really know how to activate my activism until I got involved with the New Suffragettes.”
Wright created the New Suffragettes movement in June of 2022, following the overturning of Roe V. Wade. A mother of two herself, she was distraught and concerned about her daughter’s future.
One of Wright’s daughters had considered starting a family, but she was worried about the medical complications that could occur due to the uncertainty of new abortion policies.
“In our family, we have a very high history of miscarriages,” Wright explained. “I’ve had one myself where I needed a medical procedure, or I could’ve died.”
Overwhelmed with concern for her daughter and the future of women as a whole, Wright, alongside her close friend and fellow co-founder Missy Crutchfield, set up a meeting with a few like-minded friends, and the New Suffragettes was born.
The group quickly gained members and attention from those in the community who also yearned for change. By July, the New Suffragettes had its core members who helped to build the foundation.
The New Suffragettes is made up of a variety of different age groups. A large portion of the members are currently retired, which allows them to have more time to work towards change and to be less concerned about consequences for their beliefs and activism.
“This group provides such closeness and the ability to connect with other people,” Wright, co-founder of New Suffragettes, said. “We all come from very diverse backgrounds, but we all work together for a common goal.”
Stephany Butler, one of the founding members of the New Suffragettes, joined just a week after it was created and attended the first meeting.
“To give back to society, we have to get involved and make a difference,” Butler said.
Fellow member, Sandy Campagnone, met the New Suffragettes at a march in October and became involved shortly after.
“I’m old enough to remember a time when women did not have legal access to abortions,” Campagnone said. “Abortions still happened, it’s just that more women died.”
Outraged by the regulations surrounding abortion rights, Campagnone decided to join the New Suffragettes.
“Besides being dead serious about everything, they also made it fun,” Campagnone said.
Campagnone first began marching in 2017 and has been to every local women’s march since then. She recently retired last May, which has given her more time to devote to the causes she values as important.
“I don’t have a job to worry about any repercussions at work for my views,” Campagnone said. “I can say whatever I want and not have to worry about stepping on anyone’s toes.”
Although the New Suffragettes advocate for women’s reproductive rights, they are also very passionate about animal, civil and LGBTQ+ rights.
“It’s not just one thing,” Wright said. “It’s eye-opening and refreshing to see that there are so many different concerns and causes that members in our group believe in.”
Wright is hopeful that the New Suffragettes will continue to work together long into the future and push for change. She said they will not rest until the voiceless are heard and the people are seen.“The New Suffragettes will always have something to do,” Wright said. “There’s always going to be something that is of importance. Whether it’s this fight or another, I’d like to see a lot of change.”
More than Motherhood
By Noah Keur
Mothers are known for their contagious love, endless patience and powerful empathy, but for Taylor Lyons and the other 3,000 members of Chattanooga Moms for Social Justice, these characteristics barely scratch the surface of what a mom can truly do. Between promoting literacy, organizing rallies protesting various government restrictions, to arranging social events with members of the community, these women are caring mothers, driven activists and everything in between.
Don’t get it wrong, though. With Chattanooga MSJ, there’s far more work involved than play. From their origins as a small group in 2017, to now a successful movement orchestrating their own social programs, they’ve always said their aim is to simply be a help wherever they can be.
“I would say our first year was just filling in the gaps where we could. With the resources that we had, we would do what we could, when we could, where we could,” Lyons said, a co-founder and the community outreach director for MSJ. “But with our growth and a little bit of know-how, we determined that with the addition of filling these little needs in the community, we wanted to propagate our own social initiatives.”
To date, Chattanooga MSJ’s largest social initiative is The Classroom Library Project—a movement that has successfully installed 18 libraries in Hamilton County schools and homes. Inspired by MSJ’s members’ love for reading, the movement aims to connect as many children as possible with books they enjoy.
“A lot of it is just who we are as people. We are big readers and literacy supporters,” Lyons said. “We also know, as a parent advocacy group, just how important literacy is to our younger kids. They need to love to read, and they only learn to love to read when they are reading things that interest them.”
When it comes to any activism-based movement, scrutiny is bound to ripple from the work that is done. For Lyons, in these times of high tension, it’s important to take a second and look at each other for who they truly are.
“This has been a really rough year for us as an organization,” Lyons said. “What I would like to stress is it’s important for us as people to take a step back and remember the humanity in each other. People can disagree with our ideologies, but at the end of the day, we are just parents who love our kids.”
At the heart of it, that’s what Chattanooga Moms for Social Justice is: a group of mothers who deeply care for their children and want the clearest path to lie ahead of them.
“Moms tend to have a big heart for not only our own children, but for the children in the community in general. We have this impulse to want to help,” Lyons said.
In a society where sometimes no organization seems like the correct fit, Chattanooga MSJ is a place for mothers to make positive changes for themselves, as well as the community they live in—and with a little help from others, they may even enjoy themselves along the way.
Meet the Storytellers
Madison (Maddie) Van Horn is a Senior Communication major and is currently working as the Head Editor of Rising Rock Media and Editor in Chief at the University Echo. Maddie is a writer, editor, storyteller, leader, and a voice for those who need it most. Throughout her time at UTC, she has captured pockets of Chattanooga’s community, from rowing and dance to addiction and women’s rights. This summer, she will begin her master’s in Interactive Design Journalism at UNC Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media. Maddie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for any collaboration inquiries.
Maddie Charnes is a writer studying Communication as a junior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. With a passion for storytelling through her writing and photography, she aims to shed light on important social issues on both a large and local scale. Outside of storytelling, she works as a Research Assistant in the Psychology department, where she is currently working on an Advocacy and Activism project. Maddie hopes to combine her storytelling and research skills to properly gather information and share it in an eye-catching way. To connect, email her at email@example.com
Noah Keur is a Junior Communications major, with a minor in Education, at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Noah is a writer, specializing in all things sports, with experience through publications such as The Chattanoogan and UTC’s student run newspaper, The Echo. He excels in finding stories that tend to go unnoticed by the naked eye, and he thoroughly enjoys expanding on these findings, bringing things to light that otherwise never would. He hopes to exist somewhere within the athletic media world following his graduation. For any questions or collaboration, Noah can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cassandra Castillo is a junior Communication and Humanities major with a minor in Spanish at UT Chattanooga. As a multimedia journalist, she hopes to give a voice to the voiceless through visual and written storytelling around the world. Cassandra works as a videographer for Rising Rock Media, video editor for Mocs News and feature writer for the University Echo. For questions or collaboration with Cassandra, contact email@example.com.
Caroline Colvin is a writer and the Assistant Features Editor for UTC’s student newspaper. She is a junior with a double major in communications and Spanish and hopes to use her Spanish major to expand whose stories she can tell. After all, her passion is finding and sharing the stories of the communities around her to promote compassion and humanity, even when it proves difficult. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
William Chen is a Communication major at UTC studying to pursue a career in media while incorporating his creative skills. Chen has pursued a variety of avenues in both journalistic storytelling and entertainment-based student media. He hopes to utilize his personable character and unique background to help uplift and share marginalized, under-represented stories. For inquiries or to collaborate, contact William Chen at email@example.com.
One thought on “Activating Your Activism”
This was beautiful, thank you so much.