Carroll County Times Opinion

Nonprofit View: During Year of the Woman, remember key role played by General Federation of Women’s Clubs

By Monday, May 25, let’s hope the world will be in COVID-19 recovery. If so, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs — Woman’s Club of Westminster and the Historical Society of Carroll County will be marching together in the Westminster Memorial Day Parade, both to recognize the significant roles women have played in national defense since the start of the 20th Century and to honor the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which extended voting rights to women. We invite all women in Carroll County to join us.

When the US entered World War I in 1917, women in unprecedented numbers went to work handling jobs traditionally held by men. During WWII, five million women entered the workforce. Rosie the Riveter became a cultural icon, representing women who worked in factories and shipyards, many of whom produced munitions and war supplies. 350,000 women served in the military, working as nurses, engineers, chemists, driving trucks, and repairing airplanes. Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) flew 60 million miles delivering planes from factories to military bases. WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in the US Naval Reserve served as photographers, control tower operators, and intelligence personnel. In 1948, Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which enabled women to serve as permanent, regular members of the armed forces. Since World War II, more than 1 million women have served in the US military.


On the home front, General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) members have worked diligently to support national defense efforts. During WWI, the GFWC raised nearly $5 million through the sale of Liberty Bonds. During WWII, GFWC’s “Buy a Bomber” campaign raised more than $150 million to purchase planes for the US Army Air Force. The first 431 planes were purchased with these funds.

Maryland’s Sara Whitehurst, who served as the president of GFWC International 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. Whitehurst coordinated massive bandage-rolling efforts at the GFWC headquarters in DC to support military hospital operations throughout Europe. Thousands of federated clubs across the country collected books, knitted scarves and sent these and other high demand items to troops. In 1945, then General Dwight Eisenhower recognized the importance of these efforts, stating, “the friendly hand of this nation reached out across the sea to sustain its fighting men. “


Peace initiatives were also on the agenda. GFWC representatives were chosen to participate in a conference to form the United Nations and voted in favor of the ratification of the UN charter.

Governor Hogan has proclaimed 2020 the Year of the Woman in Maryland. We hope you will dress in suffragette, Rosie the Riveter or other attire that recognizes the important roles women have played in our history, and join us in the Memorial Day Parade.

We will be posting detailed parade information on our websites. We invite you to join the GFWC Woman’s Club of Westminster and, and the Historical Society of Carroll County

Also watch for The Historical Society of Carroll County’s opening of the Breaking Barriers Exhibit to celebrate women in Carroll County who have opened new frontiers, starting with Mary Shellman, who started the Memorial Day Parade in Westminster.

Lynn Wheeler is a board member of the GFWC Woman’s Club of Westminster and the Historical Society of Carroll County. Reach her at

Each Monday, the Carroll County Times publishes a column from a local nonprofit, allowing them to share information about their organization and the issues facing it, as our editorial. To be considered, email with the subject line “Nonprofit View.”