The actions and influences of the Little City’s ladies take center stage for the first annual Falls Church Women’s History Walk this Sunday, Mar. 26 at 2 p.m.
The idea for an organized walk through the city originated from executive director of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation Nikki Graves Henderson and gained steam once it was co-signed by Falls Church Vice Mayor Marybeth Connelly.
The two saw a need to recognize the achievements of the women who lived in Falls Church. With March also being Women’s History Month, the pair viewed this as a golden opportunity to spread awareness about the role women have played in molding the City’s image and culture.
“There’s so much energy right now in the country and in Falls Church,” Connelly said. “We thought it’d be a great time to honor the women who came before us, pull together the women who are here now and celebrate the people who got us where we are.”
The walk will be one mile and plans to tell the “herstory” of 14 women who have made significant impressions on the City’s lineage.
Starting at the plaza near the Lincoln at Tinner Hill, participants will wind their way up Washington St. and make stops at the house of Mary Ellen Henderson, a 20th century activist responsible for desegregating Falls Church schools, and the Tinner Hill arch before cutting through Big Chimneys park to discuss some of the area’s notable female colonial settlers.
Participants will proceed to Gundry Dr. to discuss Maddie Gundry, a local pioneer for special needs schooling. Then it’s up to Mary Riley Styles Library, a structure honoring one of the City’s foremost civic leaders and longtime chairwoman of the Library Committee of the Falls Church Woman’s Club.
The walks ends at the Falls Church Community Center for a community resource fair. Henderson and Connelly, alongside other Tinner Hill Foundation members and elected officials, reached out to organizations that aim to enrich the lives of local women, inviting them to take part in the resource fair. A wide range of groups will be represented, including the American Association of University Women, the League of Women Voters, CorePower Yoga and Cultural Care Au Pair.
The resource fair is an effort to showcase the walk’s dual purpose of elevating historical awareness and women’s personal wellbeing. It also serves to dispel the notion that this walk resembles recent protests such as the Women’s March on Washington in January.
Creating the walk’s mantra took that effort a step further.
Ever since Harvard professor Laurel Thatcher Ulrich uttered her landmark phrase, “Well-behaved women seldom make history” in the 1970s, the slogan has been a calling card for women to break through boundaries. The Falls Church Women’s History Walk makes a slight addendum to the phrase with their slogan, “Well-behaved women do make history,” to display how both types of women are really two sides of the same coin.
“Some of these women weren’t necessarily rebels,” said Dr. Beverly Pittman of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation. “A lot of these women were integrated into the fabric of society. In those days they were considered well-behaved, not rabble-rousers.”
The walk has been steadily gaining enthusiasm among residents, with nearly 100 people marking their interest on the event’s Facebook page. Younger residents of the City, however, remain fickle about attending.
“That group of people in their 20s and 30s are tricky in how to reach them,” Connelly said.
Organizers have also enlisted local figures such as former City of Falls Church mayors Carol DeLong and Betty Blystone as well as fifth-generation John Tinner descendant and family matriarch, Mildred Tinner Leake, to be honorary grand marshalls.
With the walk set for this weekend, Connelly and others are confident that everything will come together in time for Sunday’s inaugural trip through the city.