Going the Extra Mile

Going the Extra Mile

Walk to Richmond to mark Women’s Equality Day Aug. 26.

Resident Gayle Converse trains for the 133-mile “Women Going the Extra Mile” walk from Alexandria to Richmond to mark Women’s Equality Day Aug. 26.

Resident Gayle Converse trains for the 133-mile “Women Going the Extra Mile” walk from Alexandria to Richmond to mark Women’s Equality Day Aug. 26.

It was a 72-year battle to pass and ratify the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. That historic day took place August 26, 1920, when U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby officially certified the 19th Amendment resulting in the largest single one-day increase of potential voters in the history of the United States.

Now known as Women’s Equality Day, August 26 this year celebrates 50 years since the day was designated by Congress in 1973. Alexandria resident Gayle Converse is marking the milestone leading a walk from Alexandria to the Virginia Women’s Monument in Richmond.

“The walk is designed to recognize and honor all women of the Commonwealth of Virginia – past, present and future,” said Converse, vice president of Alexandria Celebrates Women. “My goal is to highlight women’s history, women’s health and women’s equality.”

Alexandria Celebrates Women is sponsoring the walk – “Women Going the Extra Mile” – with Converse stepping off on the 133-mile journey Aug. 5 from the steps of Kate Waller Barrett Library in Old Town. The location recognizes the efforts of Waller Barrett, an Alexandrian and leading social and voting rights activist of her time.

 Suffragists Helena Hill Weed and Vida Mullholand in the Occoquan prison in 1917. The Lucy Burns Museum at the site of the former prison details the historic events of the Night of Terror Nov. 14, 1917. 


“Weather permitting, we will leave Alexandria at 8 a.m. the morning of Aug. 5,” Converse said. “First stop will be Mount Vernon, then we will head to the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial in Occoquan Regional Park. Factors like weather and air quality will determine the pace but we should be in Richmond by the 26th.”

Converse will lead walkers along the East Coast Greenway, a developing 3,000-mile network of protected pathways from Maine to Florida. The culmination of the walk will be the Virginia Women’s Monument in Richmond’s Capitol Square. The Monument depicts 12 women from around the Commonwealth as bronze statues.

The 19th Amendment was first introduced in 1878 with the victory in the fight for gender equality coming after many decades of campaigning from women's civil rights movements. It would take another 45 years and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to guarantee the right to vote to women of all races.

“We’ve gained some rights along the way that we shouldn’t have had to fight for in the first place but we have a long way to go,” Converse said. “We still have that glass ceiling particularly in women’s health research, such as cardiovascular health. We need to raise awareness of some of these issues that in 2023 we shouldn’t even have to be talking about.”

Converse normally walks 3-5 miles a day but increased that to 8-10 miles per day in anticipation of the journey.

“I started training in March by increasing my miles and walking with a backpack,” Converse said. “Our pace will vary of course but it should take about 16 days to reach Richmond. But anything can happen. I just hope we don’t get a streak of really bad weather or air quality.”

Known as a bit of an adventurer to her family, Converse says she isn’t out to set any records.

“This walk isn’t to break any speed records for heaven’s sake,” Converse said with a laugh. “The goal is to be in Richmond Aug. 26 and along the way focus on the extraordinarily accomplished women that Virginia has produced. Alexandria Celebrates Women is always advocating for women, not just in voting but for women in the arts, women innovators and entrepreneurs – they are all important.”

The public is encouraged to join Converse and others along the route, for a day or for the entire walk. Alexandria Celebrates Women is seeking donations to help support participants in the journey.

“We are walking for women’s equality – in health care, at the ballot box and everywhere else,” said Converse, who will gather and highlight women’s histories along the route. “We honor women and girls of today and throughout history who have broken tradition, social norms, glass ceilings and gone the extra mile.”

Alexandria Celebrates Women is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. For more information or to join or donate to the Women Going the Extra Mile Walk, contact ACW president Pat Miller at Pmiller1806@comcast.net.