‘Women Going the Extra Mile’

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‘Women Going the Extra Mile’
Gayle Converse walked more than 100 miles to increase awareness surrounding women’s health, history and equity issues. (Courtesy Photo)
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By Gayle Converse

Four x-rays, two arm splints, two heel supports, four pounds of Epsom salts and 101.7 miles later, this Alexandria woman is home.

“Women Going the Extra Mile: The Historic Trek from Alexandria to Richmond” was an Alexandria Celebrates Women journey of three weeks, designed to increase awareness surrounding women’s health, history and equity issues.

It began at 8 a.m. on August 5 from the steps of the Kate Waller Barrett Library in Alexandria. It finished at 11 a.m. on Women’s Equality Day on August 26 at the Virginia Women’s Memorial on the grounds of the Capitol in Richmond. In between it linked locations such as the Lucy Burns Museum and the Turning Point Suffrage Memorial in Occoquan, Virginia.

The Walk honored women and girls of today and throughout history who have broken tradition, social norms, glass ceilings and gone the extra mile.

I followed the East Coast Greenway, a developing 3,000- mile network of protected pathways, from Maine to Florida. My route took me through Fairfax, Prince William, Caroline, Stafford, Spotsylvania, Hanover and Henrico counties. Virginia claims more counties named for women than any other state.

While Virginia boasts some of the loveliest stretches of the route, there are locations here that are still on-road and some are considered highly hazardous to navigate. Factors such as climate, physical and mental health and well-being and the connection of historic sites equal a need for trail completion in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

One goal for this endeavor was to visit sites near the trail linked to Virginia’s women and their history – women who were and are true trailblazers. Gathering oral histories from and about Virginia’s women was also key. More on this in future columns.

Another objective involved highlighting current women’s health statistics. One example centers on Mary Ball Washington, the mother of our nation’s first president, who died at the age of 80 from breast cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 44,000 American women will die from the same disease in 2023.

In the workplace, Virginia women must still fight to be recognized. Many struggle to afford child care and balance responsibilities of work and family. Most must compete for equal pay in the work- place earning $.82 for every dollar their male counterparts receive.

If we are physically able to do so, we can also take steps essential to preserving our health. Worldwide, the average number of steps accrued daily is approximately 5,000. In the United States, it is 4,800.

According to calculations based on studies by the American College of Sports Medicine, the estimated 241,131 steps covered in “Women Going the Extra Mile” is equivalent to the following: 609 lengths of the London Bridge, 59.8 lengths of the Golden Gate Bridge, 42 lengths of Heathrow Airport’s northern runway, 40.7 lengths of Central Park and 40.7 laps of the Daytona International Speedway.

While my recent journey – complete with x-rays, arm splints, heel supports, and those pounds of Epsom Salts – officially ended August 26, Virginia women who will always go the “Extra Mile” are just getting started.

The writer is co-founder, along with Pat Miller, of Alexandria Celebrates Women, a nonprofit that highlights influential women throughout the city’s history. Contact them at AlexandriaCelebrates Women@gmail.com.

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