WHRC Staffing Update and News
by Hope Royer, WHRC Committee Chairman
Due to staffing restrictions during the phased reopening plan of Washington, DC, the WHRC
Manager position will not be filled until the spring of 2021. Therefore, the Executive Committee
and Board of Directors have voted to reallocate funds in the 2021 Budget previously allotted as
salary and benefits to a planned archival enhancement project designed to strengthen the WHRC
Archive’s current organization system. This will increase usability for onsite researchers and
facilitate the eventual expansion of the WHRC Online Catalog, making our collection more
accessible to all.
While the position remains vacant, satisfying members’ time-sensitive research requests remain
a top priority. Please direct any urgent WHRC inquiries to Communications Director
Carrie deGuzman during this transition. Tours of GFWC Headquarters remain suspended
until further notice due to COVID-19.
From the WHRC Archives
by Hope Royer, WHRC Committee Chairman
Part of the Memorabilia Collection, the original GFWC “rising sun” pin was designed and
commissioned in 1892 by the Committee on the Federation Badge Pin. The pin shows a rising
sun behind mountains and GFWC’s motto “Unity in Diversity” in a red inverted arch along the
bottom. Appointees to the committee, which included Jennie June Croly, GFWC’s founder, and
Charlotte Emerson Brown, first GFWC President, chose blue as the Federation color and dawn
with the sun’s rays as a symbol.
At the August Executive Committee Meeting, the GFWC Officers authorized the reproduction
of the “rising sun” pin for WHRC fundraising purposes. Proceeds will finance a project to stabilize,
restore, or replace the frames of the International Past President Portraits. Look for an opportunity
to purchase this special legacy pin in the coming weeks.
Turning Point Suffrage Memorial
by Hope Royer, WHRC Committee Chairman
Virginia historic marker E 61 in Fairfax County marks the site of the Occoquan Workhouse.
Under construction on that site today is the Turning Point Suffrage Memorial. The
Memorial, a cornerstone of a planned public park redevelopment, will commemorate the five
million women who fought for seven decades to win ratification of the 19th Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution – the right for American women to vote.
The November 14, 2019, groundbreaking date coincided precisely with the 102nd anniversary
of the infamous November 14, 1917, “Night of Terror.” On that evening scores of suffragists,
ages 19-73, were illegally imprisoned and tortured at the nearby historic D.C. prison grounds
(what is known as the former Occoquan Workhouse) after peacefully picketing outside the
Woodrow Wilson White House for the right to vote. Construction of the Memorial was
anticipated to take nine months, culminating with a dedication ceremony on August 26, 2020,
the centennial anniversary certification of the 19th Amendment.
Doris Stevens was one of the women imprisoned on the night of November 14, 1917. In 1920,
she wrote “When all suffrage controversy has died away, it will be the little army of women with
their purple, white and gold banners, going to prison for their political freedom that will be
remembered. The challenge of the picket line roused the government out of its half-century
sleep of indifference… (On the Night of Terror) I saw Dorothy Day brought in. She is a frail girl.
The two men handling her were twisting her arms above her head. Then suddenly, they lifted
her up and banged her down over the arm of an iron bench – twice.” When word leaked out
about the unconscionable treatment, it became a “turning point” in forcing President Wilson
to ask Congress to consider a Constitutional Amendment.
Mandates of COVID-19 brought construction of the Memorial to a halt only three months after
it was begun and several thousands of dollars short of its $2 million goal. Construction has
begun again and will be completed in phases as financing allows.
Hurrah for Clubwoman Febb Burn
by Carolyn Forbes, WHRC Committee
Febb Burn of Moose Creek, Tennessee, was a college-educated school teacher, but in 1920,
she did not have the right to vote. As a young woman, she had married James L. Burn and
together the couple had four children. In 1916, James died from typhoid fever, so Febb stopped
teaching to run the family farm and hosiery mill. She was the manager of the farm and
responsible for paying the taxes, but couldn’t vote. She worked alongside the hired men, many
who couldn’t read, but could vote. She didn’t believe that was right.
Febb read three newspapers a day and was an active member of the General Federation
Women’s Clubs. On the porch at Hathborn, the Burn family homestead, she wrote a seven
page letter to her son, Harry T. Burn, a member of the Tennessee legislature, which has now
become famous. In the letter she said, “Hurrah and vote for Suffrage and don’t keep them in
doubt,” and urged him to “be a good boy” and vote in favor of the 19th Amendment.
Less than a year later, Febb was the first of 900 women in her county to register to vote, filling
out a registration card that still referred to voters as “he,” “him,” and “sir.” The state board of
elections failed to revise the cards for several years.
There are two lessons we can learn from Febb’s story. First, listen to your mother. Second,
never underestimate the power of one vote…..your vote!
Women of Color and Suffrage
by Mary Baird, WHRC Committee
The Women’s Suffrage Movement included women of color who banned together to establish
women’s clubs in their neighborhoods and to campaign for equal voting rights. One of the most
exceptional was Mary Church Terrell, a daughter of former slaves who spent 20 years fighting
diligently for the rights of Black citizens.
A college-educated and influential educator as well as activist, Mary became the first President
of the National Association of Colored Women in 1896. In speeches and essays, she demanded
that white women include Black women in the struggle for the right to vote and urged Black
men to support the fight for suffrage as well.
One of the main themes of her message was the rejection of outdated ideas, noting, “Why it is
unjust to withhold from one half of the human race rights and privileges which are freely
accorded to the other half, which is neither more deserving nor more capable of exercising
them, seems almost like an insult to those whom one speaks.”
Although women secured the vote in 1920, women of color were routinely turned away from
the ballot box for many more decades. It was not until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in
1965 and subsequent court rulings that limitations targeting people of color, such as poll taxes
and literacy tests, were outlawed.
This year’s centennial of the 19th Amendment provides an opportunity for all to celebrate,
but also to pause and carefully rethink our history. Understanding the past of women of color
and crediting strong women, such as Mary Church Terrell, is an important step in guiding our
Arts, Culture, and the Clubwoman
by Marian St.Clair, International President
I have a great love for art and museums because of an endless fascination with culture and
human expression that stems from living in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when I was in the 2nd and
3rd grades. My father, a career Navy man, loved to fish, and some of the best memories I have
of times together before he died in the Vietnam War in 1968 are of night-time fishing expeditions
with native Cubans, who spoke a language I had never heard, but conveyed their passion and
excitement for the sea and task at hand through their expressive movements, broad smiles,
and barely-contained exuberance.
I think my passion endures because art and museums help me grow, in many of the same ways
that club work does. The artist Vincent van Gogh said, “Great things are not done by impulse,
but by a series of small things brought together. The statement was made in a letter that
Vincent wrote to his brother, Theo, and the subject was drawing and the need to learn slowly
and patiently to break down the barrier that stands between what an artist feels and what that
artist can create. Then, at the end of his letter, Vincent notes that art is the same as other
matters in life—that creating something great isn’t accidental, it must be willed.
Since moving to Headquarters in July, I’ve discovered some special pieces of art that I had not
seen previously. One is a watercolor painting of geese waddling down a country road, with wide
fields on either side. The painting was completed in 1936 by California clubwoman, Ethel M.
Wickes, and it won a GFWC Art Award in the same year. It was easy to find Ethel online. Her
middle name was Marian, spelled like mine. She was born in New York, moved to northern
California with her family as a teenager, studied art in Paris, operated an art school in San
Francisco, and is best known for her paintings of wildflowers and geese. When Ethel died in
1940, she was the Arts Chairman for the California State Federation of Women’s Clubs.
Another fascinating find was a hand-stitched quilt, with a label that reads, “This quilt, inspired
by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Project, the Restoration of Independence Hall in
Philadelphia, was made by members of the Minnesota Lake Woman’s Club in the year of our
Lord nineteen hundred and fifty-four. Pictorial designs are by Patricia Thomas Steffer, directed
by Lucille Hopwood Miller. Signed, Margaret Latourelle, President.” This inscription is followed
by the names of 43 club members in alphabetical order beginning with Minnie Bair and ending
with Helen Wipplinger, followed by, “Minnesota Lake Woman’s Club, Founded 1912, Federated
1917, Minnesota Lake, Minnesota.”
The front of the quilt features Independence Hall and other patriotic symbols on a blue field
with an eye-catching red and white striped border. Every piece is hand-sewn, from the Liberty
Bell to the Great Seal of the United States. The pictorial designs are art works in themselves,
as you can clearly see from this depiction of George Washington with waving flags.
I learned from President Margaret’s 2012 obituary that she was a young leader, only 26 when
the quilt was made, and that as a child, she often rode her pony to school and then would send
it home by itself so she could take the school bus in the afternoon. She graduated from high
school in 1946, married her sweetheart Bill in 1952, and raised three boys.
To me, these art pieces are incredible expressions of the lives and culture of their creators, and
in a uniquely beautiful way, proof that creating something great is willed through a series of
many small things brought together. And when I stop to look back over my own life, I can see
that small experiences, such as a few night-time fishing trips, delivering The Cat in the Hat
books to an elementary school in Washington, DC, or collecting canned goods to stock a food
pantry, can have profound and long-lasting effects.
And I think this is especially true now. Many times in the past weeks, I have felt alone or like
I was spinning my wheels, and it’s hard not to be discouraged when there is so much we,
together, want to accomplish. So I have to stop worrying and remind myself that the path to
success is making the most of what is in front of us, because opportunity comes to those who
step forward and take hold of it.
Yes, this time in history is full of unexpected and difficult challenges, but don’t be discouraged.
Let’s continue to move forward. Through tenacity and determination, or what Vincent would
call “will,” we can find our light, stand in its rays, and shine. We will make something great, by
the same means as Ethel and Margaret, by a series of many small things brought together.