Women first came to the English colony at Jamestown Island in 1619–400 years ago, and hence their arrival is part of the American Evolution 1619-2019 commemoration going on throughout the Commonwealth. As with the other events that marked the historic significance of this year and that I have written about in this column, the real meaning of the events comes about in examining the decades and centuries that followed from 1619. There is no surprise that the land developers who were making investments in the new colony would advertise free voyage to women to come to this new land of potential opportunity and freedom from poverty and oppression they may have felt at home. If the colony was to have success in developing economic opportunities and stability that families would bring, it needed women to come and find themselves adventure…and a husband.
English women who came were not slaves although they no doubt had to work hard to start a life and a home in the wilderness. If they came with an indenture to pay off their voyage fare, they could work off their obligation over a number of years. But just like in the society they left, even with the indenture paid off, women were not free or in the same category as men. When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence nearly a century and a half later, he proclaimed that “all men are created equal.” We speculate that if he were writing a document today that he would say “all persons,” but his writing at the time reflected women’s lesser role in society. The story of women’s rights continues to evolve even until today.
The capital of Virginia moved to Richmond in 1780, but it was not until this week that a memorial noting the contribution of women to the Commonwealth’s history was finally dedicated on Capitol grounds. The twelve women chosen to be depicted as bronze statues in the Virginia Women’s Monument represent women from all corners of the Commonwealth, both widely-celebrated women, as well as those with previously unknown but equally important stories. Many more women will be memorialized on the Wall of Honor and in the accompanying virtual educational modules. To get to know these women, most of whom I dare to say few have heard of, visit Women’s Monument.
Also recognizing the struggle of women for their rights, the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association (TPSM) is building a national memorial to American suffragists–with a special focus on those imprisoned at Occoquan, VA, who endured harsh conditions and abuse to win voting rights for American women. For more information on the women who led the suffragist movement and the hardships they endured, visit suffragistmemorial.org. The nineteenth amendment ensuring women the right to vote was not ratified until 1920. Virginia rejected it in 1920 and did not vote for ratification until 1952.
A fitting tribute to Virginia women 400 years after their arrival would be passage of the Equal Rights Amendment by the General Assembly at its next legislative session.
Today is International Women’s Day and Lake Anne Brew House is brewing up something special to celebrate.
The business, which is located on 11424 Washington Plaza West, will join 15 breweries to make a special beer called 15 Shades of Grisette. The recipe was piloted at Lake Anne Brew House.
The collaboration is part of the Pink Boots Society Collaboration Brew Day, which aims to raise the profile of women’s roles in the beer industry.
A release party will be held at Old Ox Brewery on April 13, followed by a taproom release at Lake Anne Brew House on April 14.
Here’s more from Melissa Romano, owner of Lake Anne Brew House:
As a female owned brewery, with a female Brewer on staff, we are active members of the Pink Boots Society (PBS), which is an organization that supports women in the Brewing industry. PBS sponsors an annual collaborative Brewing day (on national Women’s Day) where breweries are encouraged to come together and Brew a beer which will be shared among all participants. Portions of proceeds realized from the sales of the beer at each location go to sponsor scholarships and programs funded by PBS.
When tens of thousands descend upon the National Mall on Saturday for the Women’s March on Washington, many will be adorned with pink knitted hats. A large number of those hats, products of the worldwide Pussyhat Project, will have filtered through a home on Lake Newport Road in Reston.
The house, which looks quiet from the outside, is filled with bustling action as women of all ages work hard to prepare hats that are arriving every day. Boxes upon boxes of the hats, knitted by concerned people from around the world, are stacked in the home’s basement in various stages of the organizational process.
College student Molly McKnight and her mother, Carrie, volunteered to make their Reston home the hub for the hats. Family friends, including Jeanne Robertson and Diane Brown, are among the dozens of volunteers who have assisted with the project.
“We’re the grunt work,” said Robertson, who was processing hats in the basement Wednesday along with Brown. “There are a lot of friends who are here to help.”
Stefanie Kamerman, the project’s D.C. organizer, is coordinating the effort. She said the final days have been hectic, as many hundreds of hats — some days as many as 2,000 — have been showing up through the mail every day.
“We are hoping to distribute them at the march successfully,” Kamerman said. “We are trying to get the hats from Point A to Point B, to get them to the women who are marching on the 21st.”
Between 200,000 and 500,000 women are expected to participate in the event Saturday, Kamerman said. About 60,000 hand-crafted hats have been donated to the project so far, she said. The collection site on Lake Newport Road has been operating since early December.
Politically, Kamerman said she considers herself a Libertarian. She said concerns about women’s issues that arose during the election of soon-to-be President Donald Trump led her to fight for the female voice.
“It’s not necessarily that we’re anti-Trump; we’re just trying to take back those infamous words he said on the ‘Access Hollywood’ video,” Kamerman said, referring to audio from 2005 that emerged prior to the election in which Trump used vulgar terms to describe his treatment of women.
According to the project’s website, its name is in part a reference to one of those terms used by Trump — and its goal is to “reclaim the term as a means of empowerment.”
Each hat that is donated is accompanied by a note from its knitter, which includes not just a name and a hometown, but a list of women’s rights issues most important to him or her.
“Being involved [in this project] has opened my eyes to a lot of women that are hurting, and who don’t feel like their voices are being heard,” Kamerman said.
More than 50 volunteers are working for the project across the United States, Kamerman said, with about half of them having worked from the Reston site at some point during the past month.
“It’s helping other women get something that is special,” she said. “We’re all working together for something amazing.”
Kamerman said she and many of the other volunteers will be attending the march Saturday, both to support the cause and to see the fruits of their labor.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what we’ve been working so hard for coming together,” she said. “It’s been an amazing experience.”
Kamerman said she is hopeful her 8-year-old daughter, who has been helping with the project as well, will lead the next generation of activism.
“I wanted to raise her in a world where she will continue the good fight for women and men across the nation, regardless of who they love or what they believe or who they are,” she said.