Federated clubs contribute to community

Published 12:03 am Friday, August 14, 2009

The Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs recently held its summer board meeting at the historic Foster House in Birmingham. Columbiana is blessed to have three, very active federated clubs: Columbiana Culture Club, the Vignette Club and the Novella Club of Columbiana.

Culture is the oldest club, organized in 1910 and federated in 1914, the members are celebrating their centennial anniversary this year.

Vignette was organized in 1949, federated in 1950 and had their 60th anniversary last spring. Novella was organized and federated in 1957, and celebrated its golden anniversary in 2007.

About 80 women belong to these Shelby County clubs and their commitment of service and support to their community is invaluable. These clubs provide everything from scholarships to young women through the Miss Shelby Pageant the Vignettes produce to the Cancer Survivor Dinner the Novellas give each year to the “Paint the Town Purple” fundraiser that the Cultures use to raise money for the American Cancer Society. These hard–working, civic–minded, generous women support our community and schools behind the scenes and are part of an organization that gives back so much to our state and country.

What is a federated club and what is so special about these groups of women?

The roots of the federation can be traced back to Jane Croly, who organized the first club after she was denied admittance to hear Charles Dickens speak at an all-male press club meeting because she was a woman. Croly, a New York journalist who wrote under the name Jennie June, founded a club for women in 1868 called Sorosis, a Greek word which means “an aggregation; a sweet flavor of many fruits.”

In 1890, Croly invited 63 clubs from all over America to New York City and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs was formed. For more than 119 years the GFWC has been “an international women’s organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer work.”

In 1895, the Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs was organized and was chartered with the GFWC in 1907. Today, about 100 clubs and more than 1,200 women around the state work to promote the six main departments of the GFWC: arts, home life, conservation, international affairs, education and public affairs.

Some of the many projects the GFWC has supported over the years include: establishing 75 percent of America’s public libraries including Columbiana’s, supporting legislation for better child labor laws, establishing the Pure Food and Drug Act, mandating the eight-hour workday, advocating prison reform, installation of seat belts, supporting the Violence Against Women Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act; and achieving the goal that homemaker is included as an occupation in the 1930 Census Act. Over a five–year period beginning in 2000, the GFWC raised and donated more than $13.5 million to public and school libraries. After Sept. 11, 2001, GFWC members contributed $180,000 for a fully–equipped ambulance for the New York City Fire Dept.

Last year, the AFWC clubwomen donated 73,661 hours of volunteer service to Alabama communities; supported 8895 programs and projects, and raised and donated over $360,000 to their local communities. Columbiana is blessed to have our three federated clubs dedicated to community improvement through volunteer service.