Edna Kunkel was invited by a friend in late February to a Facebook "event" called "Organizing Against the War on Women." Kunkel, who lives in Verona, doesn't know Karen Teagarden, the Michigan resident who created the event, and says she can't even identify which friend invited her to the Facebook page. But within the week Kunkel had taken over the reins of the Wisconsin chapter of Unite Against the War on Women, which will host a Madison rally on April 28 at the Capitol as part of a national protest against attacks on women's access to health care.
"It turned into a grassroots wildfire," says Kunkel. "Honestly, I didn't expect it to get as big as it got so quickly."
The national group now reports about 4.3 million Facebook hits and 28,000 daily hits on its website. Nationally more than 10,000 individuals say they will attend the April rally in their respective states. The Wisconsin group lists 1,466 members, with more than 700 indicating they'll attend the Capitol rally.
Scheduled to run from 1 to 3 p.m., the rally will feature "everyday women" telling their stories and such speakers as Sara Finger, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, and Rev. Stephen Welch of the Wisconsin Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Unite Against the War on Women has the support of the heavy-hitters in the women's movement, including the National Organization for Women. The Wisconsin arm is backed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Women's Caucus.
The inspiration for the group came in a late-night phone conversation between Teagarden and her friend Desiree Jordan. The two were commiserating about the nationwide attacks on reproductive health services and voting rights and wondering why women were not taking to the streets in protest.
Teagarden got off the phone and created her Facebook event, posting it to her wall and friends' walls. Jordan posted it as well. Almost 500 had asked to join by the next morning.
Kunkel, 51, says she's not a political activist. She now works for herself as a technical writer and marketing consultant, but she worked for years in the corporate world, where she saw the pay disparity between men and women.
The repeal of Wisconsin's pay equity law, which Gov. Scott Walker quietly signed April 5 without the usual bill-signing ceremony, riles her in particular. So does legislation like a bill in Arizona that would allow doctors to withhold information about fetal abnormalities from women.
"These go well beyond where most of us feel legislatures have a right to be and where their area of expertise is rooted," Kunkel says.
"For me it's a personal evolution," she adds. "They finally went too far."