Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

The cicadas are coming? Some Mason District neighborhoods report lots of cicada sightings; in others, like mine, two or three critters is all we’ve seen so far. Entomologists (bug scientists) tell us to be patient, that Brood X will emerge en masse during the next couple of weeks, before tuning up for their cacophonous concert. During previous Brood X appearances, I’ve found that the intersection of Columbia Pike and Lincolnia Road is especially loud, as the several ivy-covered trees there provide protection for the red-eyed male chorus.  

Cicadas demonstrate nature’s mystery and marvel. The life cycle of a cicada is well-documented, but still difficult to fathom, as we often try to anthropomorphize the mysteries of nature in an effort to understand a rationale behind it. The fact that millions, or billions, of three-inch bugs will be flying around us for a month or so drives wonder, or fear, in many.  Coming from the Pacific Northwest, which does not experience the cicada phenomenon, I was somewhat repelled by my first experience with Brood X in 1970. The noise was deafening, and stepping on carcasses seemed unavoidable. The 1987 Brood X was more interesting, still noisy, but now seen through my children’s eyes. By the 2004 invasion, I was fascinated, taking a flashlight out to the patio at night to watch the brownish creatures exit their holes and molt.  They are ghostly white for only a brief time as their wings strengthen and change color; soon only the brown exoskeletons are left clinging to a wall, a step, a tree. This year, I have my flashlight handy, fingers crossed, in the hope that I can once again observe nature’s marvel.  I am not holding out for the 2038 Brood X!

If my math is correct, Brood X also appeared in 1919, the year that the 19th Amendment, “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” was passed by the U.S. Congress and sent to the states for ratification. After a lifetime of advocacy, women, finally, were able to vote in 1920. It would be several decades more before electoral barriers were removed for most women of color. The story of women’s suffrage, and the struggle for the right to vote, is the focus of the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial that celebrated its opening on Sunday. The memorial, beautifully designed by Falls Church architect Robert Beach, is located on the grounds of Occoquan Regional Park, 9751 Ox Road (Route 123), in Lorton, and is open to the public during park hours. Admission is free.  

The memorial commemorates the five million women, from across the country, who fought for 72 years, beginning with the Seneca Falls (N.Y.) Convention in 1848, for the right to vote. The women suffragists picketed the White House (a section of the actual White House fence is on display at the memorial), imploring President Woodrow Wilson to support a Constitutional Amendment, only to be arrested at his order and imprisoned at the Occoquan Workhouse. The brutal treatment they endured became the “turning point” in the fight to secure the vote.  The 19th Amendment was ratified on August 20, 1920. Ironically, Virginia, where the women were imprisoned and where the monument stands, didn’t ratify the 19th Amendment until 1952!  

Unlike the Brood X cicadas, whose expressions are heard only at 17-year intervals, Virginia conducts elections every year, giving all voters an opportunity to have their voices heard. The Democratic primary election for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and some delegate’s seats is Tuesday, June 8, 2021 with early voting available now. The best way to celebrate the 19th Amendment is to VOTE, and then go visit the Turning Point Memorial.  The cicadas may be gone by then!