Tracing back to the early 20th century, Women’s History Month has been a way to highlight the contributions of women in history and society. It’s also a reminder of the various groups and organizations making it their mission to help and/or empower women.
In 2017, the Women’s History Walk was started by Nikki Henderson from the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, as well as current City of Falls Church council member Marybeth Connelly. The walk was created to highlight the history of “little-known” women in Falls Church, which then expanded into the Women’s History Group as more and more local women became involved.
As a founder of the Women’s History Group, Connelly said since the group is trying to “encourage the next generation of young women to get involved.” On the Women’s History Walk website, Connelly stated there’s a page dedicated to how a woman can get involved in the city, including various organizations who need volunteers. The group has also held events that allow local, elected women to share their stories amongst themselves as well as others.
“When you’re running for office, it’s really intimidating to think about how you would do it when you have kids and a job,” Connelly said, “so to hear the stories of people who do this successfully and need encouragement…I think it’s really important to share that message.”
The group also recognizes the work that women have done in the past decades, which Connelly stated is important to celebrate and highlight due to their impact on the City of Falls Church today. This year, the Women’s History Walk will be a little different, as the “walk” spans over the whole month of March instead of just one day. Signs with the names of various Falls Church women and their biographies can be found at different locations, such as Creative Cauldron, Harvey’s Restaurant and more.
One local nonprofit organization, Homestretch, has been designed to empower homeless parents with children and help “to move them from crisis to long-term stability and financial independence.” Starting over 30 years ago, credit counselor Heather Lynskey said Homestretch helps homeless women by “setting goals and specific plans toward reaching self-sufficiency.”
As a female-dominated organization, Director of Development Nekita Jones said the organization has served “90 percent of women,” as well as being staffed by “over 90 percent of women.”
“With that comes the knowledge and history of knowing what the obstacles are against women,” Jones said, further stating that over 65 percent of Homestretch’s clients are coming from domestic abuse situations. “Immigrant women, women of color and single mothers are facing all kinds of barriers and other obstacles in this country and in this region.”
Kayleen Mark, the housing specialist for the city’s Department of Housing and Human Services, said the main focus of the department is to provide affordable housing and programs to all citizens. Mark stated the department serves a lot of women, unfortunately those who have faced domestic abuse or have children to take care of on their own.
“We work with them on a daily basis to help them find any sort of resources that they may need,” Mark said.
Mark further stated the reason she wanted to be involved in the field of human services was because of her mother, who Mark said had a passion for helping others and “doing good” in the community.
“That has always been my passion as well: to serve those in need,” Mark said.