By Beth Hahn
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Falls Church Women’s History Group is pleased to announce the 2022 Women’s History Walk Grand Marshals. The 5th Annual Falls Church Women’s History Walk will take place on Sunday, May 1, 2022, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., honoring women whose civic engagement and dedication helped establish Falls Church as a vibrant, responsive, and well-loved community. The collective contributions of this year’s honorees have enriched the lives and experiences of not only Falls Church residents, but people in surrounding jurisdictions and even across the country. Our 2022 Grand Marshals are:
Sally Cole, in recognition of 17 years of service and unwavering commitment to Falls Church as Executive Director of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce. Her leadership, “above and beyond” service, and influential role in the business and nonprofit communities have substantially enriched the Greater Falls Church community.
Cindy Mester, in recognition of 17 years of service and unwavering commitment to the City of Falls Church as the Deputy City Manager. As a facilitator, collaborator, and negotiator, she has helped to successfully implement the City’s complex Capital Improvement Program, shepherd the City’s legislative agenda in Richmond, and bring about Falls Church Arts and Creative Cauldron through her support of the Art and Cultural District. Her positive influence has helped to build community both within and among City employees and residents.
Ruth Rodgers, in recognition of decades of service and unwavering commitment to Falls Church through her leadership and service as a member of the Falls Church Planning Commission, the Architectural Advisory Board, and the Village Preservation and Improvement Society, as well as her influential role in many other civic organizations to which she has belonged.
Edie Smolinksi, in recognition of decades of service and unwavering commitment to Falls Church through her leadership and service as a member of Citizens for a Better City, the Falls Church League of Women Voters, and the Library Board of Trustees, as well as her influential role in many other civic organizations to which she has belonged.
Derrica Wilson, in recognition of exceptional public service as the first African American female officer in the Falls Church City Police Department and subsequently as co-founder and CEO of Black and Missing Foundation. Her leadership and courage while serving in Falls Church paved the way for others and she successfully parlayed her experiences into compassion for and commitment to supporting those enduring the trauma of a missing loved one.
In addition to these five outstanding leaders, there will be eight new honorees whose signs will join the “Herstory Stations” positioned throughout the Walk. In 2017, the Walk began with 14 stations. This year there will be 62! Twenty-three Young Women of Action will also be recognized for fearless and groundbreaking work to make their school communities better places.
The Women’s History Walk was conceived in 2017 by Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation’s Nikki Graves Henderson as a way to remember and honor the efforts, dedication, and sacrifice of the many women in Falls Church. Then Vice-Mayor Marybeth Connelly jumped at the opportunity to celebrate history-making women, focus on wellness, and build community in Falls Church.
The Women’s History Walk is planned, operated, hosted, and primarily sponsored by the Women’s History Group, the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, and the elected women of Falls Church. Nominees are selected on the basis of their years-long civic activism, leadership, commitment, and contributions to our community—women who have been considered, without question, role models by their peers. Nominees are also selected to represent leadership in a wide spectrum of community involvement: civic, educational, business, political, and religious. Nominees must also reflect the ethnic, racial, and religious diversity of Falls Church.
As we spend the month of March reflecting on the integral role women have played in shaping our community, our nation, and the world, I hope we can also reflect on the questions posed by Marybeth Connelly in 2017 on the eve of the first Falls Church Women’s History Walk. Marybeth asked, “What are you doing, today, to carry on the legacy of these women? What are you doing to make a difference in our local community and the world? How are you making life better for others?” As we seek to learn more about the courageous, determined, altruistic, and self-sacrificing women of Falls Church, I hope we are all inspired to answer Marybeth’s questions and to work to ensure gender equity and equality to build a better tomorrow—not just for women, but for everyone. I look forward to seeing you all at the Women’s History Walk on May 1 and to meeting many of the women who will be recognized on the Herstory Stations of the future.
Beth Hahn is a member of the Falls Church Women’s History Group.