The other White House
WASHINGTON—January 19, 2009—Over at the white house, high-ranking officers have been going over business matters and planning for the weeks and months that lie ahead.
Now that their business is finished, Sheila Shea says she's excited to be able to turn her full attention to "the other White House," that one over on Pennsylvania Avenue.
As recording secretary for the General Federation of Women's Clubs, the Marlborough resident has been here with select members of women's clubs from across the nation.
"Being here for the inauguration is just one small part of it."
They meet at the national headquarters, three adjoining white townhouses on N Street, several times a year. Every four years in January, they also hold an open house that coincides with the inauguration. Members of women's clubs and families in town for presidential events were invited to the national headquarters yesterday afternoon.
"We've done that for years," said Shea.
"It is the members' home," decorated with furniture and art donated by women's club members, said Shea, but also home to annals and archives used by students researching the women's movement through the years, and a library of books focused on women and volunteering.
Photos of past national presidents line the walls. Moments in women's clubs history are also on display.
"It always amazes me," Dorothy Graham of Framingham said yesterday as she passed a photograph of a 1915 convention held in New York, and marveled at the sheer number of women attending "in that day and age, getting to New York."
The historic home in the Northwest section of Washington will be open to public for tours on a limited basis, starting in June, as part of a consortium of small museums in the District, said Erica Sterling, the organization's meetings and conventions director.
"We and our members who get to come here are very proud of these buildings," said Shea.
And proud of the organization they serve.
"Moving into a strange town" 40 years ago, "it opened so many doors for me, friendship, community service," said Graham, a member of the Framingham Women's Club and parliamentarian for the national federation. "It opened the doors to community service in Framingham."
Which, in turn, led to service to the organization.
But for today, Shea and Graham are focused on "the other White House," and have standing-room tickets for the noontime ceremony at the Capitol.
"This is not a political organization," said Shea, but witnessing history is one of the perks of being in Washington at this time of year.
—Julia Spitz, The MetroWest Daily News, Framingham, Mass.
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