By Beth Hahn
The story of Falls Church is best told through the lives of some of its most daring, accomplished, and consequential residents — the women of Falls Church. Since its founding in 1699, Falls Church has been shaped by women who saw a need and found a way to make their community better. On Sunday, May 2, you are invited to the 4th Annual Falls Church Women’s History Walk to learn about these pioneers, abolitionists, educators, entrepreneurs, politicians, historians, artists, and activists whose civic engagement and dedication have helped establish Falls Church as a vibrant, responsive, and well-loved community.
This year’s Walk is a little bit different than years past — beginning with the date! While Women’s History Month is celebrated in March, organizers this year chose May 2 for the Walk in the hopes that more people would be vaccinated against Covid-19 and that better weather would allow for a more enjoyable experience. Also due to Covid concerns, and unlike years past, no gatherings are planned prior to the beginning or the ending times of the event. The rain date is May 16 (with the announcement made by 9 a.m. on May 2).
The Walk will be a self-guided 2-mile loop encompassing many sites within the City. The “Her-Story” Stations will be open between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Participants may start at any point along the route, any time between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and enjoy the walk at their leisure. Please note—docents will be available to provide guidance and directions at three locations along the route: Big Chimneys Park, Tinner Hill Park, and City Hall. A limited number of brochures with a map will be also be available at those locations, but you can see the map and learn more at sites.google.com/view/fc-womens-history-walk/home. QR codes at each “Her-Story” Station offer a great way to read about each of the women honored by the Walk.
Important: All participants are asked to adhere to mask and social distancing guidance.
This year’s Walk Grand Marshal honorees are Alma Amaker, a lifelong educator with deep Falls Church roots who was one of the first African-American educators to teach in integrated schools in Fairfax;
Doris Newcomb, one of Falls Church City’s longest-tenured business owners and a longtime member of the City’s Chamber of Commerce;
Sally Phillips, a community activist who served on the Planning Commission, the Library Board of Trustees, several City boards and commissions, the League of Women Voters, and more;
Ellen Salsbury, a dedicated community leader who served on the School Board, the Housing Commission, the Chamber of Commerce, the Library Board of Trustees, and the League of Women Voters;
Mary Ellen Shaw, a dedicated Falls Church City educator who dedicated 34 years to our schools, serving as a teacher, principal, and superintendent;
Marie Hirst Yochim, a champion of the DAR and a 10th-generation community member of Falls Church who was instrumental in the restoration of the historic Cherry Hill Farmhouse.
While these honorees will be at Big Chimneys Park briefly at noon, their “Her-Story” Stations will be posted at the park for the duration of the Walk.
As we begin to emerge (cautiously!) from the fog of the global pandemic, we hope this Walk will provide the opportunity to think about bravery, determination, health, purpose, community, connection, and sisterhood in a way that empowers each person to make a difference for others.
We focus on the women of Falls Church because too often, women’s roles and contributions are overlooked, underappreciated, or dismissed. The small gains that women have made towards equality over the past several decades are being threatened by Covid-19 and its disproportionate effect on women. This is why we walk — to tell the stories of countless women in our tiny corner of the globe who helped lay the foundation upon which all of us stand and thrive today. The more we look to the past to learn about, honor, and celebrate these women, and the more we recognize the women of the present who continue the work, the more likely we are to advocate for gender equity and equality in the future, to build a better future — not just for women, but for everyone.
The Women’s History Walk is presented by The Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, Falls Church Elected Women, and The Falls Church Women’s History Group, and is sponsored by: The Daughters of the American Revolution, Falls Church Chapter; Village Preservation & Improvement Society; Citizens for a Better City; The Falls Church League of Women Voters; Falls Church Jazzercise; Falls Church Branch of the American Association of University Women; City of Falls Church; and Falls Church City Public Schools.
Beth Hahn is a member of the Falls Church Women’s History Group