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History of GFWC Advocacy

GFWC clubwomen have been advocates for over 100 years, and continue this rich history of advocacy into the 21st century. The Federation's grassroots efforts were recognized in the floor of the United States Senate as "a gem in our midst" by Senator Joseph Biden (Del.). From food safety legislation, to labor laws, to protecting those with disabilities, to enacting legislation to combat domestic violence, GFWC truly has a voice and an impact in our nation's policy. 

Timeline of GFWC Advocacy

1868: GFWC's roots can be traced back to 1868 when Jane Cunningham 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. She was denied admittance based upon her gender, and in response, formed a club for women.  

1890: Jane Cunningham Croly extended an invitation to women's clubs throughout the United States to attend a ratification convention in New York City. Sixty-three clubs attended on April 23-25 and took action to form the General Federation of Women's Clubs.

1898: GFWC unanimously passed a resolution against child labor. With the help of clubwoman Jane Addams, child labor became a major area of concern for the Federation. In 1901, Miss Addams headed the Federation's Child Labor Committee to work for the maintenance and improvement of child labor laws.  

1899: GFWC's Chicago Woman's Club supported the juvenile court law, the first ever to be passed in the United States. This law became the model for all subsequent juvenile court laws, many of which were passed at the insistence of GFWC clubwomen. Julia Lathrop led this club effort and was appointed by President William Howard Taft to head the Children's Bureau in 1912.

1901: The 56th Congress of the United States chartered GFWC and designated that the Federation be headquartered in Washington, D.C.

1906: GFWC member Alice Lakey spearheaded a letter and telegram writing campaign, which was essential to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act. Dr. Harvey Wiley, the first chief of the Pure Food Bureau, attributed the bill's passing to GFWC and stated, "Trust them [GFWC] to put the ball over the goal line every time."

1910s: GFWC supported legislation for the eight-hour workday, workplace safety and inspection, and workmen's compensation. Members also supported prison reform legislation.

1916: GFWC worked with the Children's Bureau to promote National Baby Week.  The Federation's efforts resulted in the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act (1921), which advanced maternal education.

1922: GFWC Clubwomen purchased 1734 N Street, NW in Washington, D.C., to serve as the Federation's International Headquarters. This gave the Federation a home in the heart of our nation's capitol and helped ensure their influence the national policy discussion.   

1934: GFWC began a 10-year study to review the question of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). In 1944, GFWC adopted a resolution in support of the ERA, which the Federation continues to support today.  

1945: GFWC was one of the five women's organizations chosen to participate in the conference to form the United Nations. At the conference, GFWC representatives supported the ratification of the United Nations Charter.  GFWC currently supports the work of the United Nations, including advocating for the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), supporting the strict observance the Geneva Convention on Protection of Civilians in Wartime, and Supporting the UNESCO Day of Tolerance.

1960: Brighten the Night was a nationwide Federation campaign advocating for street lighting to prevent crime and accidents.

1965: GFWC was awarded a stamp by the United States Post Office in honor of its 75th anniversary. The Federation continues to support the United States Postal Service, and supports continuation of the special postage stamps that benefit charitable causes.

1986: In keeping with GFWC's commitment to conservation, the Federation instituted advocacy campaigns and programs to protect and preserve endangered species, which continue today.

1990: GFWC actively supported the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability.

1993: GFWC supported the passage the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, allowing an employee to take unpaid leave due to a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his job, to care for a sick family member, or to care for a new child.

1994: Clubwomen advocated on behalf of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and aided in the passage of this legislation that provided $1.6 billion to enhance investigation and prosecution of the violent crime perpetrated against women. The National Organization of Women heralded the bill as "the greatest breakthrough in civil rights for women in nearly two decades."

2005: Clubwomen advocated nationwide for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and the necessary funding in Congressional Budget.

And we're not stopping there! GFWC clubwomen are currently advocating for a variety of priority issues, including full funding for the Violence Against Women Act, the Global Poverty Act, the HEART for Women Act, and many more critical pieces of legislation.

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