A History of Child Advocacy
October 25, 2016
This week, GFWC is celebrating the 17th anniversary of the Juniors’ Special Program: Advocates for Children. Although the program itself is fairly new in the scope of GFWC’s 126-year history, advocating for youth and supporting children all over the world is a core part of GFWC values and tradition. A push for improved public schools, the establishment of kindergartens, and public libraries were among the very first civic missions of GFWC in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
During the 1896 GFWC Convention in Denver, Colorado, members focused on solving problems affecting women and children that had been exasperated due to rapid urbanization and industrialization. In Denver, clubwomen unanimously resolved that no child under the age of 14 should be employed in a hazardous setting, and that proper sanitation and safe working conditions must always be provided. This resolution would become the cornerstone of legislation preventing child labor. Clubwomen such as Jane Addams led the way in advocating for children by heading GFWC’s Child Labor Committee in 1901. GFWC is proud of our history of supporting children and providing a voice to those without one.
Proper hygiene for children, as well as nutrition and care for infants, also became a rallying point for clubwomen throughout the 20th century. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the March of Dimes in 1938, clubwomen immediately found an ally in the fight for proper health care and hygiene for mothers and their children. Today, GFWC continues to partner with March of Dimes through our Juniors’ Special Program. Clubs like the Junior Woman’s Club of Loudoun in Virginia support March of Dimes by hosting fundraising events such as a wine and chocolate pairing fundraiser, and participating in the March for Babies Walk. The GFWC Boulder Valley Woman’s Club (Colorado) has collected loose change at their meetings to benefit March of Dimes. Whether hosting an event, participating in a walk, or collecting spare change, clubs are dedicated to helping March of Dimes in its mission to end premature birth and infant mortality.
At the 2015 Annual Convention in Memphis, Tennessee, GFWC was proud to begin a partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, giving clubs another way to support the Juniors’ Special Program: Advocates for Children. GFWC has demonstrated our commitment to ending childhood cancer by bringing all hands on deck for the St. Jude Run/Walk to End Cancer. Members have created 31 teams in 19 markets, collected 422 donations, and raised more than $27,000.
Advocates for Children Week, which takes place this year from October 23 to October 29, gives members the perfect opportunity to shine a light on all that they do year-round for children. Many clubs, like the Ridgefield Park Woman’s Club EMD in New Jersey, submit proclamations to their local government declaring GFWC Advocates for Children Week in their community. Consider starting a project focusing on children this week. For example, the Pio Pico Woman’s Club in California is collecting stuffed animals and donating them to a local hospital. The GFWC Emerald Coast Junior Woman’s Club in Florida collected juice boxes and held a non-perishable snack drive for the Children’s Advocacy Center’s Sexual Abuse Treatment Program.
What will your club do to celebrate Advocates for Children Week? Stay tuned to the GFWC Facebook page for more historical facts and highlights of club activities, and read the Juniors’ Special Program section of the Club Manual for information on how you can be an advocate for children.
An eight-year Air Force veteran, Penny has been a GFWC member since 2008, and is currently serving as the club president of GFWC Helena Woman’s Club (Montana).
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