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Celebrating Freedom: GFWC Marks Banned Books Week and Promotes Legacy of Literacy

Perhaps no other issue is as close to the heart of GFWC clubwomen as literacy and the support of public libraries. GFWC founder Jane Cunningham Croly, one of the earliest American newspaperwomen, was an avowed supporter of freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights, and throughout our history GFWC clubwomen have demonstrated a passion for promoting literacy and the work of libraries across the nation. By the 1930s—after four decades of Federation unity—GFWC clubs had founded more than 474 free public libraries and 4,655 traveling libraries.

In fact, the American Library Association confirms that 85 percent of all libraries in the United States have been founded by GFWC clubs.

In 1997, GFWC established Libraries 2000 and pledged to deliver at least $12.5 million worth of books and materials to public libraries and public school libraries. By June 2002, GFWC members had surpassed this goal, eventually raising more than $13.5 million for public libraries. Inspired by the Federation's accomplishments in the area of literacy, International Past President Ernie Shriner (2004-2006) challenged members to focus on combating the startling low literacy rate in the U.S. and reaching students in need, setting a goal to train 7,500 new literacy tutors and tutor 10,000 students by 2006.

Local clubs have worked hard to fulfill the mission of supporting reading and library services, as well.

Today, clubwomen continue to support libraries with book drives across the nation. And our legacy of literacy is visible throughout the history of GFWC’s work.

»Read more about current club activities related to literacy and education

At the 1948 Annual International Convention in Portland, Oregon, GFWC members passed their first resolution to support libraries. The resolution reads in part:

The General Federation of Women's Clubs...recognizes the contributions libraries have made and should continue to make to the national welfare...and supports adequate library funding at all levels; and further [GFWC] urges its member clubs to:

  • Continue strong support of existing libraries
  • Encourage the extension of library services to all areas
  • Strongly encourage the people of their communities to make full and responsible use of their library facilities and services
  • Support and encourage enforcement of confidentiality laws.

Supporting local libraries continues to be a Federation priority today. Our Program Department supports a Literacy Program that provides information on tutoring activities and resources available in local communities. In addition, GFWC's Lifelong Learning Program encourages members to participate in the Epsilon Sigma Omicron reading program and support libraries in their communities, with an action plan, awards, and resources.

GFWC is proud to celebrate the achievements of clubwomen across the nation in creating and protecting opportunities for American citizens to learn the joys of reading. As the American Library Association observes Banned Books Week, GFWC joins the chorus in reminding readers to celebrate and protect their democratic freedom to read!

»Inform Others

»Create Change

»Links and Resources

No matter how you choose to commemorate Banned Books Week, remember to report your activities to GFWC.

In 2006, GFWC members volunteered more than 800,000 hours on projects related to education. more than $5.2 million was raised for these programs, which thrived in communities throughout the country. Clubwomen worked to educate children, adults, and each other through a wide variety of successful projects.

The primary way that GFWC clubs promote Lifelong Learning is through their support of numerous scholarships, giving high school seniors the option of higher education. Clubs also provide camperships to enable children to attend a variety of programs, field trips, and camps.

GFWC members partnered with such organizations as Reading is Fundamental, Books for Babies, First Book, and community based literacy councils and afterschool programs to promote literacy. GFWC members also promoted family literacy by encouraging parents to read to their children at home.

GFWC members also tackled the issue of adult literacy and teaching courses on English as a Second Language  and tutoring adults for citizenship tests. These varied and successful programs have allowed clubwomen to reach their entire communities and promote education throughout the country. 

Let us know what your club is doing to promote literacy and lifelong learning!


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