Explore Women's History Month in the Town of Vienna
To engage properly with Women’s History Month, you don’t have to go too far to teach your children or to immerse yourself in the many accomplishments and stories that this month celebrates. The Town of Vienna, nestled in northern Virginia, comes with many ways to investigate and appreciate the trailblazers, history, and women-owned small businesses in the area.
Whether you’re looking for a teaching opportunity for your kids or just want to gain some knowledge on your own, these historical sites, books, and events can help you open your mind during this month.
Some of Vienna’s biggest historical sites and locations have been founded by women. For example, Wolf Trap, the national park dedicated to the performing arts, is more than just a concert venue. It was founded by Catherine Filene Shouse, the first woman appointed to the Democratic National Committee.
Shouse purchased Wolf Trap in 1930, looking for a piece of farmland to settle down on. She used her land during World War II as a place for soldiers who had been wounded or needed a mental break before going back to the war. In 1966, an older Shouse donated 100 acres to the Department of the Interior, along with the money intended to build an amphitheater. That year, Congress designated the gift of land as America’s only National Park for the Performing Arts.
Shouse stayed involved in the development of the park and the maintenance of the land. In 1982, when the original amphitheater burned down, she raised enough money to replace it and found an alternative space on the land for more shows. Shouse received the American Presidential Medal of Freedom and a British Award of Dame Commander.
While the Women’s Rights Movement Exhibit in the Freeman Store & Museum has been taken down, there are still ample online resources provided by Historic Vienna, Inc., on their website. All the information and images that were displayed in the exhibit can be found in downloadable material, which makes it perfect for an impromptu lesson for yourself or your children.
No local exploration of feminist history in Northern Virginia would be complete without a tour of the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial, located in Lorton (a few miles up Route 123). In 1917, some 120 suffragists were imprisoned in the Occoquan Workhouse for picketing for the right to vote. The memorial includes a garden and some information stations to honor the women that fought bravely for the right to vote.
If you don’t feel like venturing outside to explore the historical sites, then invest in some local literature and history instead. Whether you’re hiding from the emerging allergens or simply don’t want to come down with a cold, some local authors have compiled exciting books and titles for you to read.
Fly Girls: The Daring American Women Pilots Who Helped Win WWII, is a fascinating read written by Patricia O’Connell Pearson, a resident in Vienna, Virginia. Pearson used to teach at Fairfax County Public Schools. She often serves as a volunteer with the National Park Service. The book itself examines the Women Airforce Service Pilots and the discrimination they faced while they served during World War II.
Some other books written by locals include To Kill a Mocking Girl, by Harper Kincaid, who actually set the book in the town of Vienna. For children large and small, there are other books written by Pearson and Kathy Ellen Davis. You can order these books online, or you could find them in a Vienna bookshop.
Go to Women-Owned Businesses
Vienna is full of small businesses that are owned by women. Restaurants like Magnolia and Caboose Tavern provide community charm and delicious flavor while also offering an experience like no other. In the case of Magnolia, an Asian cafe that offers traditional and modern treats can give you a taste of the Orient, while in the case of Caboose Tavern, flights of beer and homestyle food can be found alongside the W&OD trail.
Another spot worth visiting and patronizing is Bard’s Alley, a bookstore owned by women that sells many of the books mentioned in the above section. You can find Bard’s Alley on Church Street. If you’re interested in finding kindred spirits, the bookstore also has a bookclub, called the Badass Women’s Bookclub, that is worth your time.