Some Philly women striking Wednesday; most teachers at two schools call out

Philadelphia teachers from Bayard Taylor Elementary and Science Leadership Academy march around City Hall as part of Wednesday's Day Without a Woman protest,

With signs and shouts, by forgoing paid and unpaid work and wearing red, women across the region on Wednesday protested the economic and political inequalities they face, participating in a range of activities for International Women’s Day.

Some city teachers picketed before the school day; others called out of work, gathering at City Hall to lobby legislators on education issues. Others planned to join an evening protest in Center City.

The nationwide women’s strike, known as “A Day Without a Woman,” took place in solidarity with the International Women’s Strike, projected to occur in 50 countries.

“We recognize people are in different situations, and people are doing whatever they can,” said Phoebe Jones, an Overbrook woman who was helping coordinate the international strike. Women and men should take a day, or hours, or minutes, or whatever time they can spare to support the strike, she said.

Organizers encouraged women to take the day off from work if they could, but also to wear red and forgo shopping, except at small business that are woman- and minority-owned.

Pat Albright, who lives in Germantown and is out of work on disability, said she would join the rally.

“It’s an opportunity to stand together, different races, internationally,” she said. “Everybody is doing what they can, to take a stand and be part of this international strike.”

As the single mother of an African American son, she said, she worries about the divisions in the United States and that her son could be targeted.

Meagan Ingerson, a fifth-grade teacher at Bayard Taylor Elementary in North Philadelphia, was one of 33 teachers at the school who took the day off. They hoped to draw attention to the fact that Philadelphia teachers - an overwhelmingly female group - have spent nearly four years without a contract and nearly five without a raise.

“Underpaying teachers is an issue of gender equality, but it’s also an issue for our students and our schools,” said Ingerson, a teacher in the district for seven years.

Taylor was open, but regular academic classes were not held. Children read in the library, participated in physical education activities, and worked in the computer lab.

Teacher absences in the Philadelphia School District were heavier than usual, officials said, with more than 930 teachers out of 8,700 calling out, according to a spokesman. On a typical day, about 600 are absent.

Philadelphia schools were as not hard-hit by the protest as some other districts nationally. A handful of school systems, including those in Alexandria, Va., and Prince George's County, Md., canceled school because of widespread teacher absences.

At Rutgers University, the faculty union organized a walkout of female faculty and held a teach-in at Rutgers-New Brunswick.

Around Philadelphia, educators held informational pickets before classes began Wednesday.

Half the faculty of Science Leadership Academy - most of the school’s female teachers - called out as part of A Day Without a Woman. Other schools had heavy absences, too.

At C.W. Henry Elementary in Mount Airy, 20 teachers were out, parent Jenny Aiello said. She and a number of parents pulled children from school, though Henry managed to get a number of substitutes to cover classes. But Aiello said she didn’t mind the inconvenience.

“Teachers have gone so long without a contract,” said Aiello. “I hate how they’re portrayed. They have my full support.”

Others stayed home or participated in the protest to make other points.

Carolyn Hill said she marched to oppose city Department of Human Services decisions that remove children from poor homes. The Germantown woman said she is not employed, but does volunteer work.

At midafternoon, a few ralliers began to gather near Logan Square, to make signs and prepare for a march to Thomas Paine Plaza.

They weren't all female.

"We're together with the women today, for recognition of women's work," said Eric Gjertsen, 44, of Lancaster.

He is a family caregiver to his mother-in-law, work which is strenuous and stressful - and often the kind of job undertaken by women, who get little recognition for their labor and caring, he said.

It's time, he said, for the country to stop spending billions on bombs and armies and divert some of the money to support women in all the work they do.

Lauren Rowell, 26, of Moorestown, came to Philadelphia to stand in solidarity with all women and the struggles that they face.

"What's important is we're bringing attention to people who are local to Philadelphia," she said. "And drawing attention to the way women's issues impact families."

Staff writer Jonathan Lai contributed to this article.