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Writers showcased in intimate settings Women’s club meets monthly; attendance ranges from 16 to 70 people

By Mike Odom, Staff Writer (Baldwin County NOW; Fairhope, Ala.); Saturday, March 29, 2008 

Once a month for more than five years, Fairhope residents have had a place to meet and talk with well-known writers and those just starting out in their writing careers.

Earlier this month, local writer Sonny Brewer appeared at the monthly “book review” meeting of the Federated Women’s Club of the Eastern Shore. He entertained the audience with readings from his latest book and tales of current and future projects.

Next month, Joan White Crowder will discuss her book about growing up in Daphne.

“These book reviews are one of the ways that (our group) gives back to the community by contributing to the cultural environment,” said Sarah Creech, book review chairperson for the group. “Attendance ranges from 16 to 70 (people).”

She said most of the readings and book signings are done in conjunction with Page & Palette book store, with the speaker appearing at the club meeting Thursday afternoon and at the book store that evening.

Writers during the past few months have included: Louise Schaffer, J.D. Crowe, Michael Knight, Robert Morgan and Thomas Lakeman.

“In June, Hazel Buck will be reviewing her book, ‘Jennie: The Last of the Puffer Girls,’ ” Creech said. “Hazel is 94 years old and very entertaining and sharp as a tack. This story reads like a journal and is a homespun tale of families and friends and a delightful commentary on early social life in small town Mississippi.”

Buck lives in Fairhope and was 90 when her book was published, Creech said.

Showcasing writers in intimate settings is only one project of the FWCES, a group that has been meeting in the area for almost a century.

“Our club was organized in 1929,” said Isabel Jackson, the group’s president. “We have about 35 active members.”

She said the club’s purpose is to unite a group of women to support work in the arts, education, health, government and international affairs.

Jackson is in her fourth year as club president.

“One of the most exciting things we have done the past few years was raising and donating $1,000 to (a group) that helps children who have cancer,” Jackson said. “We also sponsor college scholarships for local students.”

The local group is part of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, based in Washington, D.C. The roots of that group can be traced back to 1868 when Jane Croly, a professional New York journalist who wrote under the pen name Jennie June, attempted to attend a dinner at an all-male press club honoring British novelist Charles Dickens, according to the group’s Web site.

Croly was denied admission based on her gender, and in response she formed a club for women. Two years later, 63 women’s clubs gathered in New York City to form the current federation.

Over the years, the GFWC has championed efforts to improve child labor laws, juvenile justice, safe food and drug laws, workplace safety, environmental protection and numerous efforts to support troops during war time.

The group is also well known for its support of public libraries.

“Having founded over 474 free public libraries and 4,655 traveling libraries, women’s clubs were credited by the American Library Association with establishing 75 percent of America’s public libraries,” the group’s Web site states. “Supporting local libraries continues to be a Federation priority today.”

The next organizational meeting of the local club is at noon, Tuesday, April 8, at Old Bay Steamer restaurant in Fairhope. The meeting is open to women interested in the club’s work. For more information, contact Isabel Jackson at 928-3878.

The next book review meeting is at 1 p.m., Friday, April 18, at the James P. Nix Center. Crowder will discuss her book, Tell It To An Old Hollow Log: Growing Up in Daphne, Alabama. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Sarah Creech at 928-9233.

Information about the General Federation of Women’s Clubs can be found at its Web site: www.gfwc.org.

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