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.