GFWC DELAWARE STATE FEDERATION OF WOMEN’S CLUBS
HISTORY 1898 - 2006
Seven women’s clubs throughout the State of Delaware joined together with the Wilmington New Century Club in 1898 to organize the Delaware State Federation of Women’s Clubs (DSFWC). These clubs included women from Wilmington, Newark, Middletown, Dover, Felton, Georgetown, Seaford and Bridgeville. At the first annual meeting of the DSFWC, was held in Dover, Delaware in May of 1898, the members “pledged to work on education, civics, libraries, prison reform, health and home economics.”
Also in 1898, DSFWC member clubs joined the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC). This organization “banded together women’s clubs throughout the world bringing together a group of organized women who can be depended upon to promote all movements leading to the betterment of life.”
GFWC is presently designated as a 50l(c)(3) organization,) It operates from its headquarters in 1734 N. Street, NW, Washington, DC. The GFWC mission statement reads “The General Federation of Women’s Clubs is an international organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.” GFWC initiates programs in six Departments - Arts, Conservation, Education, Home Life, International Affairs and Public Affairs. The fifty State Federations and its member clubs make the decision which of these programs they choose to promote.
The 2007 Amendment to the GFWC-DFWC Articles of Incorporation reads: “The purpose for which the GFWC Delaware State Federation of Women’s Club is organized are exclusively for charitable, religious, educational and scientific purposes, including, for such purposes, the making of distributions to organizations that qualify as exempt organizations under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or the corresponding section of any future federal tax code.”
Highlights from 1899 to 2006
The following highlights represent a narrative of the many GFWC Delaware State Federation of Women’s Clubs activities and accomplishments
In 1899 the clubs “worked valiantly” for passage of a State Bill granting appropriations for traveling libraries throughout the State. The Legislation passed earmarking $100 yearly for traveling libraries. This continued until 1932, when a budget was provided for the State Library Commission. GFWC DSFWC and all of the member clubs throughout the years have been active and involved with libraries in their communities….lobbying for free libraries, providing books, furniture, reading to children, and donating monies.
The clubwomen saw the enactment of the State Library Law in 1901. The Federation was honored in having Governor Hunn express his approval of the club women's involvement. Governor Hunn announced his State Library Commission appointees - of the nine, three were members of the GFWC Delaware State Federation of Women’s Clubs.
After many years of working “to secure the passage of a law requiring that children between the ages of seven and fourteen be kept in school at least five months of the year,” in 1907 the Compulsory Education Act was passed by the Delaware Legislature. An editorial in the Wilmington Morning News May 23,1907 stated….”In every way the effect of this State organization (DSFWC) has been for advancement…..The women are a power in their way and capable of bringing about many much-needed reforms of a civic and educational nature.”
During the Legislative session 1909 every club in the State joined together to actively work for a State Tuberculosis Commission. The Bill passed by a unanimous vote. Of the nine (9) members of the Commission, appointed by the Delaware Governor, three were members of the Delaware State Federation of Women’s Clubs.
The Delaware State Federation actively endorsed and promoted the idea that there be a women’s college affiliated with Delaware College at Newark (presently known as The University of Delaware). Delaware State Federation of Women’s Clubs members “encouraged the representatives with telegrams urging the passage of the Bill.” The Bill passed in 1913. The Bill provided for a Commission consisting of the Governor, and a member of the Senate, House of Representatives, State Board of Education, Trustees of Delaware College and The Delaware State Federation of Women’s Clubs.
Clubs furnished rooms, and one club furnished an entire room to the College.
It was in 1914 that DSFWC began its scholarship program, funds to be given to a female student. DSFWC has maintained the Custodian of Student Funds, Scholarship to date 2022 - 2024 with Linda King as elected Custodian of Student Funds 2022-2024.
1914 The DSFWC President stated in her report, “The work for sanitation, clean streets and markets, libraries, prison reform, a juvenile court, the anti-tuberculosis movement, ….better educational facilities -consolidated schools, a compulsory education law, economy in the assessment and collection of school taxes, a college for women - all the work is beginning to pay off.”
1918 - 1919 DSFWC encouraged and promoted involvement and patriotic service in many areas during the war years. Particular help was given to the Red Cross. Club houses were converted into Red Cross Units, and club activities centered around projects to help the war effort. In cooperation with the State Council of Defense DSFWC organized Liberty Kitchens in several towns.
1923 The first Club Institute (now known as the Fall Workshop) was held, where “methods, movements, and programs” were presented.” It was at these meetings that members were encouraged to exchange ideas and promote DSFWC and GFWC in their programs volunteer projects.
1924 - Marked the formation of the first GFWC Junior Club with 21 charter members from age 16 to 28 years.
1925 DSFWC has maintained interest through the years in conservation and the preservation of Delaware’s Forests. The DSFWC Chairman of Conservation submitted a Bill in 1925 providing for a non-partisan Commission of Delaware Forests. This Bill was presented and passed by the State Legislation and signed by the Governor. Two DSFWC members were appointed to the Commission.
1928 The DSFWC Endowment Fund was established for the purpose of expanding Federation work throughout the state.
1928 the DSFWC Past Presidents” Club was established.
1930 the Delaware State Federation of Women’s Clubs was incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware. “It’s principal office is to be located in the City of Wilmington, County of New Castle, and name of its resident agent will be “The New Century Club of Wilmington. During the depression the women’s clubs, under a DSFWC program, provided items for those in need, such as food, clothing, etc. Public Welfare Departments were formed committed to welfare work. Clubwomen were active in the work of the National Recovery Act (NRA). The DSFWC State President was Women’s Division Chairman of the Delaware NRA.
DSFWC and member clubs were active and had programs on “prison problems, mosquito control, mental hygiene.
The 1940’s saw DSFWC and club members participating in instruction meetings on civil defense, working in Canteens, helping with nursing and first aid instruction, promoting buying of “Stamps and Bonds.” The DSFWC State Radio Program had its premier in January 1940 under the leadership of a DSFWC member. Programs covered such topics as War Gardens and Defense.
Member clubs participated in the Woman’s Field Army of the American Society for Control of Cancer. A DSFWC member was State Commander. Club members headed each of the Counties.
DSFWC and Club members continued their involvement with the war effort. And, something worthy of noting is the work members did promoting nurse recruitment for local hospitals. They also clubs earmarked their scholarships for nursing programs. The first Latin American Scholarships were started in October 1942.
During World War II GFWC and DSFWC and the member clubs stressed promoting the Victory Bond Drive and Rehabilitation of Veterans.
Post war plans and War Service Activities presented the opportunity for support of welfare groups. The objectives were aid to the handicapped, child welfare and public health, all areas embraced by DSFWC and the clubs.
During the 1940’s DSFWC and its member clubs joined the GFWC project, Youth Conservation. Club house facilities were opened to the youth in the communities where Youth Canteens operated. The participants would meet where “music, food and fun was provided in a wholesome environment.”
Under the DSFWC Committee on Public Welfare clubs partnered with Easter Seals providing funds for their programs for children. The Committee on Mental Health provided funds for educational films, clothing and supplies.
Between 1954 and 1956 DSFWC members contributed $4,542.60 for the furnishing of the library of John Dickinson in Dover, Delaware (the State Capital).
In the 1960’s DSFWC club women were “urged to volunteer time and talents for Community Work.” During these years DSFWC reinforced its commitment to volunteer service in their communities. They reported serving at libraries, baby clinics, Meals on Wheels, Needle Work Guild, School Assistance, the Flower Market, manned Salvation Army kettles, worked in hospitals, and cancer clinics.
The DSFWC actively supported passage of the bill to restore the old State House in Dover, Delaware. They co-sponsored, with AAUW, the Women’s Advisory Council of the University of Delaware for a “Know Your University Day.
During the 1970’s DSFWC club members participated in the Governor’s Earth Week program. They mailed letters to all churches in the state asking for support, gave Savings Bonds to grade school, high school and college students who participated in Earth Week. All DSFWC clubs supported the GFWC Drug Abuse initiative, and contributed S&H stamps to this program. The program emphasized the importance of teaching youngsters, at an early age, the danger of illicit drugs.
DSFWC raised $3,200 for the Delaware State Home and Hospital for the Aged and Chronically ill. These funds benefited the completion of a Chapel at their hospital facility.
As part of DSFWC’s Conservation program, and as a Bicentennial gift, a tree was planted in the three counties, at Stockley, Delaware Home & Hospital and Farnhurst Home for the chronically ill.
The DSFWC and its member clubs planted five thousand trees throughout the State of Delaware.
After the sale of the Wilmington New Century Club Clubhouse on Delaware Avenue in Wilmington and was considered the State DSFWC Headquarters; DSFWC voted that the Dover Century Club, Dover, Delaware be designated as the permanent headquarters for DSFWC. The records were moved to their clubhouse.
Mrs. Pierre S. DuPont IV informed the State President that the china in the Governors mansion was in ill repair, and would DSFWC spearhead a committee to replace the damaged china. As a result, DSFWC voted to add to the Lenox china, which would be marked Delaware State Federation of Women’s clubs. The cost of the donated china was$2,890.
In 1988 GFWC Delaware State Federation of Women’s Clubs voted to establish an office at The Treadway Towers - Inn in Dover, Delaware.
DSFWC pledged to raise money for a Redwood Trellis for the Stockley Hospital for the Mentally Ill. Clubs responded and the necessary funds were raised.
DSFWC initiated legislation for an additional state mileage tax deduction for volunteer work. Partnering with United Way of Delaware DSFWC saw passage of HB119 in 1984.
The state volunteer program Read Aloud Delaware was formed. Three members of DSFWC served on its Board of Directors. The aim of the program is to ensure that every pre-school child in Delaware has someone to read aloud to on a regular and sustained basis. DSFWC and the club members read to children and purchased books for many of the sites.
During 1984 DSFWC, partnered with a Dover Department store implementing the first DSFWC Federation Day in the state. $18,600 was realized that “day.” The monies were distributed for recreational programs for the handicapped in each of the three counties…Camp Manito, Camp Sunnybrook, Camp Lenape, The Children’s Beach House and Delaware Special Olympics Coordinating Council for the Handicapped Child.
DSFWC joined with the Hugh O’Brian Youth Foundation (HOBY) providing funding for the 1984 first HOBY Seminar. The 3 day leadership program targeted high school sophomores, providing an opportunity to interact with community leaders. In 1986 DSFWC became the official state sponsor of HOBY and continues annually to date, 2023.
The GFWC DSFWC Federation Day proceeds in 1985 targeted three state parks, one in each county. In connection with the DSFWC State Project for the Disabled $12,000 was raised. DSFWC co-hosted a reception for Delaware Special Olympics athletes who participated in the International Games.
As an originating organization in the forming of the State Forestry Commission, DSFWC was highlighted in 1985 with the dedication of the Delaware State Federation of Women’s Clubs Memorial Forest in Blackbird State Forest. DSFWC donated the needed funds to build a bench and a trail for the handicapped.
DSFWC partnered with the Delaware Nature Society printing and distributing pamphlets dealing with clean water. These pamphlets were distributed statewide. DSFWC supported this project with $5,000.
The first Hugh O’Brian Youth Foundation (HOBY) Community Leadership Workshop (CLEW) was held in Kent County. This one day program targets high school freshman, and is organized much like the three day HOBY Seminar for sophomores.
The name of the DSFWC organization was officially changed to GFWC-Delaware State Federation of Women’s Clubs. (GFWC-DSFWC)
The GFWC-DSFWC Special Project was the adoption of a room at a VA Hospital. $1,583 was raised to decorate and refurbish a room.
GFWC-DSFWC promoted the General Federation of Women’s Clubs “Color Me Healthy” program. This program expanded women’s awareness of taking charge of their health. Special emphasis was made on breast health.
The GFWC-DSFWC involvement promoting Delaware Very Special Arts (VSA) had its beginnings during the 90’s. Club members partnered with State VSA, working at festivals, and holding exhibits of VSA artwork at their clubs.
During the 1990’s GFWC-DSFWC sponsored "Federation Day at Boscov's” and raised the following:
1990-1992 $ 6,000. (Recipients: HOBY, VSA. Delaware Nature Center
1994-1996 $22,000. Recipients: Nutritional Programs for the Aging,
Battered Women, VSA, HOBY, Delaware Nature Society
1996-1998 $20,000. Recipients: Abbotts Mills Nature Center, Child Inc,
People’s Place, VSA, HOBY
1998-2000 $25,000. Recipients: Easter Seals, VSA, Nature Centers, HOBY,
Battered Women Shelters
The Tri County Chorus Club; the GFWC Federation Guild Association, Inc. were officially organized and the Dagsboro Club was reorganized during this administration in 2001.
The first LEADS Representative attended the General Federation of Women’s Clubs Convention LEADS Seminar in 2001. The GFWC LEADS program was developed to promote leadership education and development for club members to encourage and train future leaders in the GFWC DSFWC positions.
GFWC-DSFWC Federation Day ($22,161.) were donated to:
Very Special Arts, Delaware Shelters for Abused Women, and the HOBY Leadership program for high school sophomores.
GFWC-DSFWC Federation Day proceeds, ($14,000), were donated to:
Shelters for Abused Women and Children, Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership and Very Special Arts (VSA)
GFWC-DSFWC Federation Day proceeds, ($7,023.), in 2005 were donated to:
Abused Shelters for Women & Children, Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), VSA and Tau Halfway House for Women
During the , 2006-2008 administration we have continued to support the programs and projects of the national organization of which we are a part, the General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC). The twenty-seven clubs throughout the state form individual departments as outlined by the GFWC in the areas of: The Arts, Conservation, Education Home Life, International Affairs, and Public Affairs, along with a number of special programs and projects, and participate hi the projects as suggested by GFWC.
With each two-year administration the state president chooses a special project for the organization to promote and support during the two years. Our special project for these two years has been increased awareness and education in the area of domestic violence. Our members have donated personal items and materials along with financial gifts to shelters for the victims of domestic violence. We have listened to special speakers on the subject, including survivors of domestic violence, and those who work with the victims. We have had special fund-raisers for domestic violence shelters, and clubs have made individual financial donations. We are looking forward to our annual end of the year convention in May, in which we present special donations to the groups who work with victims of domestic violence.
A special project of our State Federation is to sponsor and present the annual Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) Seminar for high school sophomores. Our women are the major financial contributors and also plan and present the seminar each spring. In addition, one of our clubs sponsors and presents annually a one-day mini-leadership seminar for ninth grade students, modeled after the HOBY seminar, entitled CLEW (Community Leadership Education Workshop). Both of these projects are very well received in the community.
Each year, the first Saturday in March, our state organization sponsors a special statewide fundraiser, called Federation Day. Proceeds resulting from the fundraiser are designated for specific charities, selected by the State President and approved by the State Executive Board. Proceeds for the two years of this administration will go to Very Special Arts of Delaware, the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Seminar, and to domestic violence shelters in the state.
Plans for the Future
Our plans for the future include continuation of support for the programs and projects of the national organization, the GFWC, and to continue with our work with the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY), CLEW, and our statewide fundraiser Federation Day. In addition, we shall be alert for other worthwhile involvements that would promote community improvement and enhance the lives of others through our volunteer service.
This GFWC DSFWC HISTORY was recorded by Past GFWC DSFWC State President, Dorothy Traynor of the Dover Century Club.
Edited by Current GFWC Delaware State President, Patricia Ann Rodriguez, “Trish” of the GFWC Rising Sun Community Club since 1961, the GFWC Round Table Club of Wyoming-Camden