GFWC Book Clubs

November is a month filled with literary celebrations! On top of being National Novel Writing Month, it also has National Young Reader’s Week (November 10th-14th), National Author’s Day (November 1st), and Book Lovers Day (November 5th). It’s a great month for book lovers, and GFWC has a lot of those! Book clubs are a popular activity for GFWC clubs, and this month is the perfect time to celebrate books and the people who read them.

The Elmhurst Junior Woman’s Club (Illinois) has had a book club for two years now, and it’s been a popular social offering for the club. It has eighteen participants and they meet every six weeks. The group agrees upon a book, sometimes fiction, non-fiction, a classic, etc. and has a moderator to lead discussion. Afterwards, they have a “What I’m Reading” chat to have further bookish conversation. The club finds that it’s a good option to engage members’ interests.

The Upper Allen Woman’s Club (Pennsylvania) was inspired to form a book club in 2000. They had a regular program meeting called “The Girl with a Pearl Earring”, where they met to discuss a book they had read. Since the program was so successful, the following year the club created an afternoon book club. It became large enough that it had to be split into two groups, with one that has eleven members, and one that has ten. They also created an evening book club, which currently has five members, for women who work or can’t make daytime meetings.

The book clubs sometime decide upon books based on member recommendation, other times by the New York Times best sellers list. They choose books across different genres so that members can broaden their reading choices and read something they might not otherwise pick for themselves. The clubwomen take turns hosting book club and providing refreshments, occasionally even coordinating the menu with the book!

The book clubs meet year-round, and plan books at least three months ahead so everyone has a chance to locate it. They also find questions from the author or online to facilitate book discussion. The Afternoon Book Club is currently reading Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate; the Book Buddies, the second afternoon book club, is reading Flight Patterns by Karen White; and the Evening Book Club is reading The Lost Bastards by L. Todd Wood. In seventeen years, the book club members have read over 300 books!

If your GFWC club doesn’t already have a book club, consider organizing one! It creates an intellectually stimulating community where you can find new reading material. Reading is often a solitary experience, but with a book club, you can share your thoughts with your fellow clubwomen, as well as listen to theirs, and get new perspectives on what you’ve read. Book clubs can be a rewarding experience, and can foster an open and enjoyable environment for your club members, both new and old.

Saidie’s Cupboard

A small club can still have a large impact, and the GFWC Salem Woman’s Service Club (Oregon) is proof. With eleven current members and limited finances, they are always on the lookout for projects that small clubs can accomplish. One project that became an enduring success is Saidie’s Cupboard, which partners them with Public Health Nurses who work at the County Health Department with children who have medical issues. Many low income families have children taken care of there, and Saidie’s Cupboard attempts to ease the financial burden.

The club creates family bags that hold 15 hygiene and personal care items, including shampoo, detergent, toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant, toilet paper, and more. They also create infant bags, which have newborn care items like diapers, clothes, blankets, infant shampoo, wipes, and other items. Every other month, the club delivers these bags to nurses, who keep them on hand for when a visiting family might need them.

The club named the project to honor Saidie Orr Dunbar, who led the Public Health field in the 1930s. She was crucial to the development and funding of Public Health Nurses, and was both an active member of the Oregon Federation of Women’s Club, as well as the GFWC International President from 1938 to 1941, and so there was no better person after which to name the project.

They began thinking about the project in 2004 when one of the members saw a similar project operated by a church in another state, and brought the concept to her club. They liked the idea because it meant they could provide items to disadvantaged families who couldn’t get those necessary items with food stamps or through other community agencies. They proposed the idea to the Public Health Nurses, who eagerly worked with the club to identify what kind of items would be most helpful. In addition to the family and infant bags, the nurses specifically requested Spanish and English board books and newborn rattles. The nurses explained that they use the books and rattles to teach parents how to have positive interactions with their baby that foster attachment, stimulate the baby, and encourage literacy for both baby and parent.

Club president Pam Briggs said, “This has become an important project to our club because it has been so well received by the nurses and has given us an ongoing project that the community can connect us with.” To strengthen that connection with the community, the club puts labels on the bags with information about the club and their contact information.

The biggest challenge for the club has been providing continual funding, but they have integrated several funding sources over time. In addition to club members bringing a few items to meetings each month, they have obtained grants, as well as established a direct mailing campaign called “Stock the Cupboard” to encourage medical professionals and other clubs in the state to contribute. But the most important development was that of in-kind donations from the community, with the club acquiring unsold infant clothing from a consignment store and surplus items through a United Way program.

From their first delivery in 2005 to the end of 2016, GFWC Salem Woman’s Service Club has provided 514 family bags, 337 infant bags, 1,568 Spanish and English board books, 682 rattles, and 22,190 diapers, showing that a small club can yield big results.

A Look Back at GFWC History with the International Past Presidents

Five of the GFWC International Past Presidents at the 2015 GFWC Annual Convention in Memphis, Tennessee.

For two years, the GFWC International President resides at GFWC’s Headquarters on 1734 N Street, located just south of DuPont Circle in Washington, D.C. It becomes her home as she invests all of her time into GFWC. Living at this National Historic Landmark is just one of the many duties required of the International President during her administration.

Serving as the official representative of GFWC, each International Past President has left a truly remarkable mark on GFWC that is still felt today. From Charlotte Emerson Brown, GFWC’s first president in 1890, to Babs J. Condon, GFWC’s 50th President, the Federation has been led by inspirational leaders who ensured GFWC was meeting its mission of improving the lives of others through volunteer service.

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, join us on a glimpse of the past as we look back on the accomplishments and contributions of just a few of the many International Past Presidents. These incredible leaders are true examples of Living the Volunteer Spirit.

Mary Elizabeth Preston

During her term, Mary Elizabeth Preston, the 32nd GFWC International President, promoted family unity and free enterprise.

“The private enterprise system has been the financial pillar of our society, the family has been the moral and philosophical pillar. While they both stand, our country is held aloft and free; if they should fall, America falls with them,” she said.

She also helped to establish the Korean Federation of Women’s Clubs, traveling to Seoul, South Korea in 1978. She then spent a week in the Soviet Union, along with First Vice President Juanita Bryant and Second Vice President Jeri Winger. In Moscow, the GFWC leaders met with leaders of the Soviet Women’s Committee and discussed the roles of Russian women.

After the discussion, Mary said that she had “a better understanding of Russian women. I have to believe that they too would like world peace. All the women of the world would. Our governments may work in very different ways, but as women, we have many common concerns.”

Marijo Shide
North Dakota

As GFWC International President, Marijo Shide worked to increase awareness of GFWC and encouraged clubs to put GFWC in their club name.

“Clubs and State Federations saw the value of the GFWC Brand. If a reporter didn’t know what GFWC was, that gave them a great opportunity to tell them,” she said.

Marijo promoted programs including crime prevention, energy conservation, the Community Improvement Program (CIP), CARE, and National Family Week.

Marijo enjoyed interacting with clubwomen and having the opportunity to serve. She also loved living at GFWC International Headquarters and having access to the Archives.

Juanita Martin Bryant
North Carolina
The opening of the GFWC Women’s History and Resource Center on May 1, 1984 was one of the highlights of Juanita Martin Bryant’s time as GFWC International President from 1982-1984. Vice President George Bush cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony, officially opening the center, which stores GFWC Archives and documents the history of women volunteerism. As a self-described history buff, Juanita is proud that the WHRC is still going strong today, and that it is used by individual researchers, universities, and historians.

Working with the mentally and physically handicapped, especially through the Special Olympics, was Juanita’s special project during her administration. She attended the International Special Olympics in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1983. Another highlight of her presidency was attending the National Multiple Sclerosis Conference in Houston, Texas, where she presented the MS Volunteer Award to Frank Sinatra.

Juanita also travelled internationally through the CARE project, visiting projects in Hawaii, Guam, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, and Saudi Arabia.

Looking back at her administration, Juanita says that she enjoyed the opportunity to visit and meet with clubwomen not only in the United States, but around the world as well.

“I feel very strongly that our volunteer work is a great contribution. It doesn’t trickle down from the top; it wields up from the bottom. The great success of GFWC is because it is organized not only in clubs, but on regional, national, and international levels. I think that is a major thing that has made GFWC so successful during this 126 years,” she said.

Jacquelyn Pierce
As the 46th GFWC International President, Jacquelyn Pierce’s administration focused on Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention. Participating in the writing of the Violence Against Women Act was one of the highlights of her time as president.

Jacquelyn is proud of GFWC’s recognition in the United States Senate in 2006. Then-Senator Joseph Biden (Del.) called “a gem among our midst” for our work in domestic violence awareness and prevention, as well as GFWC’s history of support for the Violence Against Women Act.

Jacquelyn had the opportunity to visit the Dominican Republic in 2007 with Reaching Out Internationally Chairman Nancy Jones, participating in the Plan USA Global Women’s Fund in Action.

“It was a very humbling experience for me to be able to write a personal check in the amount of $800 which enabled the women of the village of Azuna to purchase their first commercial sewing machine so that they could make the school uniforms that their children were required to wear. Presented on behalf of GFWC, that small donation made a difference. The women could now be gainfully employed and the uniforms could be made at a cost much less than if purchased in a retail store,” she said.

Jacquelyn’s administration theme was “Empowering Women One by One.”

“I have always thought that if you looked at a banner in the front of a convention hall, the words on that banner should define, without question, the mission of the organization. To me, GFWC, first and foremost, empowers its members, and it does so on an individual basis. Ask any club member what GFWC means to them and their answer will involve their personal empowerment,” she said.

Rose M. Ditto, Ph.D.
Rose M. Ditto, Ph.D., served as GFWC’s 47th International President. Her administration focused on health programs, specifically healthy self-worth. As president, Rose enjoyed the opportunity to share her passion for the importance of the development of healthy self-worth and emotional intelligence.

Serving with Missi McCoy, GFWC Director of Junior Clubs, the Executive Committee, and the GFWC Staff was another highlight. Rose also enjoyed attending GFWC Region, State, and club meetings and representing GFWC at events.

“Through my travels to GFWC Regions, States, and Clubs, I was always amazed by the projects and volunteer achievements proudly reported,” she said.

“GFWC — A Vision of Possibilities” was Rose’s administration theme, inspired by the song “I Am a Promise” from the musical “Kids Under Construction” by the Gaithers. The words are, “I am a Promise, I am a Possibility, I am a Promise with a capital P.”

“These describe each and every GFWC member as we have unlimited possibilities for serving others in our families, clubs, and communities,” Rose said. “GFWC’s historical accomplishments speak loudly, the present accomplishments continually build, and the future accomplishments are within our reach.”

The volunteer spirit and the giving nature of GFWC members have impacted the American spirit and culture which have reached all over the world, Rose said.

“At one time the voice of GFWC was very strong and quite influential, however, as our membership has lessened, so has our voice. The challenge now is to continue impacting those around us and within our reach—families and communities. The American dream is just not to have more, but to give more for the betterment of others,” she said.

Mary Ellen Laister
Mary Ellen Laister strongly supported the GFWC Signature Project: Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention and the Success for Survivors Scholarship. In 2013, GFWC awarded eight scholarships of $2,500 each for a total of $20,000.

Mary Ellen is proud to have raised over $20,000 in 2012 and 2013 to award these scholarships. Reading the applications and hearing the stories of these women was an emotional experience.

“When I read those applications, I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream. It gave you every emotion in the world,” she said.

Mary Ellen met one of the scholarship recipients during her administration, and said the young woman was so grateful that it brought tears to her eyes.

“It was so important that we made their life better,” she said.

According to Mary Ellen, the most exciting part of being president was traveling to the Regions and attending State Conventions, which allowed her to meet clubwomen and hear about the impact they were making in their communities.

It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I was very fortunate to be the 49th president,” she said.

The Red Dress Fashion Show at the 2013 GFWC Annual Convention in Hollywood, Florida was a huge hit, Mary Ellen said.

“I felt I had a very positive two years,” Mary Ellen said.

For a full list of GFWC’s International Past Presidents, click here. Stay tuned for a look at GFWC Past Directors of Junior Clubs on the GFWC Facebook Page.




Making an International Impact: GFWC Affiliates Around the World

By Elaine Ko-Talmadge
GFWC International Affiliates Chairman

In 1889, Dr. Emma Brainard Ryder of the New York City Sorosis Club placed an advertisement in a newspaper in Bombay, India, inviting young women of all classes and nationalities to a meeting about forming a women’s organization. Dr. Ryder received a great deal of backlash for her plan. Some missionaries said that men would not permit women to participate, and residents of Bombay argued India’s caste system would make forming a club difficult.

Despite this doubt, 47 women attended the first meeting, and 30 women became charter members. Thus, the first GFWC International Club was created. GFWC Founder Jane Cunningham Croly sent a message congratulating the new club. “Tell them the world was made for women also,” she wrote.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, clubs like Bombay Sorosis continued to form around the world. At one point, GFWC was present in 55 countries. Today, GFWC has International Affiliates in Aruba, the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Ghana, Mexico, Peru, the Philippines, Taiwan, Curacao, and Ukraine.

International Affiliates are supported by the GFWC International Liaison Committee. The committee consists of a chairman and three committee members who work to promote GFWC membership services, benefits, and resources. The committee also hosts members who attend GFWC International Conventions and Region Meetings. I was proud to be selected as the 2016-18 chairman.

My international life began in 1960 when I married my college sweetheart from Korea. During our 30 years of marriage, we had four children and hosted 17 international exchange students from all over the world. It just seemed natural that I would be part of GFWC International Programs.

When GFWC asked me to represent the Federation at the United Nations, I was thrilled and attended meetings pertaining to women, children, and families for a number of years.

My only regret is that I do not speak all the languages of our International Affiliates. Most of the officers speak English, but it is difficult for those who do not to attend GFWC meetings and conventions.

I look forward to the next two years, and hope to bring more clubs into our Federation. Remember, all GFWC clubs are welcome to become a sister club to International Clubs. Please contact me at for more information.

Here’s a brief overview of what some of our International Affiliates have been up to:

American Women’s Club of Toronto
The club’s It’s Teatime Fundraiser raised over $2,000 for Nellie’s Shelter, which assists those in need of food, shelter, and support. The American Women’s Club of Toronto will celebrate 100 years in 2017.

The Federation of Women’s Lyceum Clubs Ammohostos Cyprus
The club’s lifetime project is the Children’s Holiday Resort, a camp for children from economically disadvantaged homes. The project started in 1931 and now includes training in the arts and education, as well as community health services for women and the elderly.

Ukraine Women’s Club
The war in Ukraine has affected children and their families, both young and old. The Ukraine Women’s Club has tried to help make life a little easier for the children by hosting a camp in the summer, providing food during the year, hosting a Princess Ball for children without parents, and collecting clothes and utensils for families escaping the war. The GFWC Cookeville Junior Women’s Club (Tennessee) and the GFWC Heritage League (Nebraska) recently sent children’s vitamins, liquid ibuprofen, and DynaRub to the club, as medicines and fruit are very expensive in Ukraine.

Women’s Club of Aruba
Aruba celebrated its 80-year anniversary in 2014. Last December, the club provided clothes for 300 less-fortunate children. Members recently delivered 2,500 sports bottles to students across the island as part of their Save the Earth Project.

The Women’s Club of Osculda
The Women’s Club of Osculda, located in Curacao, was founded in 1963 for organizing seminars and study mornings. The goal was to help women take care of the economic and social affairs of their families and advance women’s sense of responsibility as members of society. Today, members promote women’s health, and recently formed a parent’s group in the schools.

International Women’s Club of Porto Alegre
The International Women’s Club of Porto Alegre, Brazil, established in 1964, helps children from the slums find a better life. Members run a children’s club for students, helping them complete their homework and learn leadership skills.

Recently, members bravely entered a march against government corruption to show the world that, as women of all different classes, they are all affected by government malfeasance, and reform is necessary.

 GFWC Baroy Woman’s Club
The GFWC Baroy Woman’s Club, located in the Philippines, partners with local officials and nongovernmental organizations to implement the KidzFeeding Project, a daily meals program that works to combat undernourishment and malnutrition in children three and younger in Baroy. The project provides training to parents on the kind of meals they should provide their children. The club plans to bring this program to other villages and seeks help funding this project. Only $0.65 is needed to provide one meal to a child.

American Women’s Literary Club
The American Women’s Literary Club of Lima, Peru celebrated its 90th birthday with a new cookbook called “Fresh Flavors.” The club’s signature event is Noche de Musica, held every year at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence. Money from these events has gone towards building a classroom for a school, funding educational supplies, and providing financial support for teachers at the Instituto Pedagogico.

International Women’s Club of Merida
The goal of the International Women’s Club of Merida, Mexico is friendship, service, and self-improvement. The club mentors young women and provides scholarships for higher education.

National Council of Women of Taiwan
The National Council of Women of Taiwan was established in 1950 to enable women’s groups in Taiwan to work with nongovernmental organizations. The National Council of Women of Taiwan advocates for women’s issues, cares for elderly, handicapped, and indigenous people, and promotes environmental protection and child welfare.

Taipei International Women’s Club
The Taipei International Women’s Club has promoted education, public welfare, international friendship, and cultural exchange since 1951. The club recently donated to victims of a typhoon in the Philippines and the Taipei Benevolent Society for the Blind.

Grand Bahama American Women’s Club
The Grand Bahama American Women’s Club is marking 50 years this month. The club is also planning for its 13th Annual Philanthropic Golf Tournament, which raises money for scholarships and grants. Recently, clubwomen provided 1,600 vision and hearing screenings in local schools.



GFWC At Arlington National Cemetery

GFWC International President Babs J. Condon, clubwomen and staff at the 2014 Wreaths Across America Ceremony.

GFWC International President Babs J. Condon, along with GFWC staff, and fellow clubwomen will be participating in the annual Wreaths Across America Day on Saturday, December 12 at Arlington National Cemetery. GFWC has sponsored several wreaths and is also volunteering its time to lay wreaths on the grounds. The Opening Ceremony begins at 9:30 am. If interested in joining GFWC at Arlington National Cemetery, please contact Derek Tennant at

Wreaths Across America coordinates wreath laying ceremonies at Arlington, as well as veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states to spread its message about the importance of remembering our fallen heroes. If you can’t make it to Arlington but want to be involved, check out the wreath laying options in your state or sponsor a wreath at Arlington.

Learn more about Wreaths Across America by visiting their YouTube Channel and checking out this video.


Welcome to the New!

Do not adjust your eyes. You’re not dreaming. Welcome to the new GFWC website!

More than just making things bigger and brighter, we wanted this new site to be a user-friendly experience that contains all the useful information clubs and members expect from GFWC. It was important for to address the needs of our members in building this new site, while appealing to visitors who are just stumbling upon GFWC for the first time. Gone are the occasional labyrinthine pages and less-than-stellar search function. Some great new additions include, this blog, featured members, a GFWC News section, video content, and more.

This site may have just launched, but it’s important to know that we’re far from done. No website is ever 100% complete, and we are determined to make sure continues to be a valuable resource and informational platform.

We would not have this beautiful new site to show you without a lot of help along the way. This project began in earnest in November 2013, but the idea for a new website goes back years further. As we’ve progressed, we’ve had clubwomen, staff, the Executive Committee and outside web developers offer their critique, insight and suggestions to make sure we got this right. The site itself could not exist without the great work of the team from American Technology Services, which has been a great partner every step of the way in the design, development and launch of the site.

So here it is. The new There’s a lot to get used to, so take your time. Look around. Explore. This is GFWC’s new home on the web. It’s your home too.