Early last week was yet another milestone in the celebrated history of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) Woman’s Club of Westminster. It was on Monday, Jan. 18, 1911, that Carrie Rhinehart Wantz used the telephone to call the first meeting of the Woman’s Literary Club. Club dues were 25 cents.
According to information provided by Lynn Wheeler, “Wantz invited women in the community to form a reading club to study art, architecture, history and other subjects; and the club’s discussions led to engagement in civic matters. Its first civic action was a successful Fly Crusade in 1912 to heighten the awareness of health hazards presented by flies and to encourage homeowners to install window screens. …”
The club, now known as the Woman’s Club of Westminster, has been the subject of a great deal of attention in the last couple of months. This is only fitting. For more than 110 years the Woman’s Club has been a formidable force in the history of our community over issues as varied as: a cannon, typhoid fever, consumption, minimum wage, cholera, women’s suffrage, the League of Nations, raising chickens, drug dealing in American prisons, a new high school, trees, parks, flies, and fly swatters.
Indeed, according to oral tradition, over the last 110 years the Woman’s Club of Westminster is considered by many to have been the “shadow government” in Carroll County that made things happen. Years ago it was well known that in order to bring forward critical social, cultural, and infrastructure improvements in the community, you did not go to local government to plead your case — you went to a member of the Woman’s Club. Then the club lobbied government to get it done.
Westminster Mayor Dr. Mona Becker was the guest speaker at the Jan. 11 meeting of the club and reviewed many of the exciting initiatives underway in Westminster, spearheaded by the city’s elected officials and the new city administrator Sara Imhulse. Many are excited about the city adding Imhulse to the leadership team as she has seized opportunities with energy and fresh ideas.
Last Dec. 14, the club gathered for a luncheon at the Carroll Nonprofit Center to celebrate more than 110 years of progress and accomplishment in the community. At that event, Babs Condon recounted a history of the local club’s accomplishments. The club also recognized the 100th birthday of Betty Mathias, a member of the club for more than 50-years.
The same day, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners issued a proclamation recognizing the club for more than a century of community leadership in Carroll County. I have written about the Woman’s Club on several occasions over the years. One of my lifelong best friends, Babs Peck Condon, served as resident of the GFWC national organization from 2014-2016. And Evelyn Babylon, the mother of another lifelong best friend, my wife Caroline Babylon, had been a member for over 50 years, along with other community leaders, including Gerri Reck, Sally Marks, Lura Griswold, Jackie Hering, Jeanne Herr, and Betty Mathias.
Even though I have written about the local Woman’s Club several times, I learned a few things about the work of the national organization from the commissioners’ proclamation. According to the proclamation, Westminster is one of 3,500 clubs in the International General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Together they have raised millions of dollars and volunteered millions of hours on projects focusing on arts, education, the environment, civic engagement, outreach, health and wellness that have improved the lives of citizens in their communities.
Carroll County Daily Headlines
“GFWC clubs are responsible for establishing 75% of America’s public libraries. … The GFWC has a long history of supporting legislation important to women, starting with the 19th Amendment in 1920, which gave women the right to vote, and including the Equal Rights Amendment, a 50-year effort that could become the 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution. …
“GFWC has earned a reputation as a powerful force in the fight against domestic violence. The Federation was recognized on the floor of the United States Senate for its work in bringing hope to victims and survivors of domestic violence and abuse, and for early support for the Violence Against Women Act. …
“GFWC has a long history of supporting veterans and US defense efforts. Maryland’s Sara Whitehurst, who served as the President of GFWC from 1941-1944, invited club representatives from across the nation to coordinate national defense activities. One of the resulting initiatives was large scale recruitment of nurses and funding of scholarships for training. The GFWC raised significant funds to support the Red Cross. Woman’s Clubs throughout the US raised funds to pay for the first 436 US bombers in WWII. …”
Locally, according to Wheeler, “Despite COVID, the volunteer work of the Woman’s Club of Westminster has continued. Club women transform lives each day, with monetary donations and hands-on tangible projects that provide immediate impact. In 2020, the club handled more than 70 projects, including school supply backpacks, personal supplies for veterans, food bank support, preparing meals for homeless, helping parents and children displaced from their home, annual scholarships, garden projects and support for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation…
“One of these projects, the Little Dresses Project, has engaged the sewing talents of club members to create more than 1,000 dresses sent to relief organizations working within the US and around the world. …”
One hundred and ten years later, the Woman’s Club of Westminster is still involved in dream keeping and making a huge difference in our community. Join me in thanking them.
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at email@example.com.