The Occoquan Workhouse, pictured above circa 1917, imprisoned many women suffragists in 1917.
Photo courtesy of Lynne Garvey-Hodge.
The Lorton Workhouse Arts Center hosted the first of its five-part lectures series "American Women: The Long and Winding Road," on Jan. 8. The series aims to describe the story of women’s fight for equality from the Civil War to present.
Lynne Garvey-Hodge, a Clifton resident and a member of the Fairfax County Historical Commission, portrayed suffragist Mrs. Robert Walker at the event. The arts center is nearby the historic site of the Occoquan Workhouse, where Walker was imprisoned for 60 days in 1917 after picketing for the right to vote at the White House.
"The re-enactment is really about women’s role in trying to seek equality in the United States," Garvey-Hodge said. "And there is still so much work to be done. Women are still only making 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, and are at just about 21 percent representation in the Senate and The House. That is rather disconcerting."
GARVEY-HODGE chose to portray Walker, also known as Amelia "Mimi" Himes, because it allows her to tell the story of women fighting for the right to vote.
"That is why I am so drawn to doing these re-enactments. It is a way to do a story. Most adults are much more drawn to a story than a history lesson," Garvey-Hodge said.
Walker, a Quaker woman from Baltimore, was a suffragist who was arrested for picketing in front of the White House on July 14, 1917, and along with 122 other women, sent to prison at the Occoquan Workhouse. Conditions at the prison were dismal, and many women, including prominent suffragist Lucy Burns, were beaten and force-fed.
"This is a story that needs to be told," Garvey-Hodge said.
Garvey-Hodge has met four of Walker’s six living grandchildren, and the three of them that have seen Garvey-Hodge portray Walker loved the performance.
Walker also testified in front of Congress in 1921 in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, which does not yet exist in the United States.
Garvey-Hodge said that there are many reasons, including divorce and the division of property, that prove an Equal Rights Amendment is still needed.
"There is nothing equal about a man walking away with 50 percent of everything when the woman still has to take care of the children," Garvey-Hodge said.
THERE NEEDS TO BE a stronger representation of women in the United States, Garvey-Hodge said.
"When women come together, we can do amazing things. We are very good at handling emergencies, and very good at coming together to get things done," she said.
Among the audience at Garvey-Hodge’s re-enactment on Jan. 8 was Carolyn Cook, CEO and Founder of United 4 Equality, a group working to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment by 2015.
"Lynne was phenomenal. I was so touched by the end of her performance," Cook said. "For me, I got into this because I have such a sense that as a woman, we have no idea how courageous and brave these women were who worked for all these rights we have today, as well as setting the course of rights that we still don’t have, like the Equal Rights Amendment. I was really touched by her performance because she really spoke to some of the struggles the women at Occoquan had."
The event also featured a speech by Robyn Muncy, an associate professor of history at the University of Maryland.
The next part of the "American Women: The Long and Winding Road" lecture series will take place on Feb. 5 and will feature discussions about women’s role during the Great Depression and World War II.