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Contributing to ‘fabric of local life’

Organized in 1920 the year women received the right to vote, the Woman’s Club of Farmville (WFC) has come a long way.  Today, some 96 years later, the club continues to exercise the right to vote — now it’s to select local charities to receive the club’s yearly donations.

Every year in January selected organizations and charities are invited to the WFC meeting to receive a check. This year the recipients include Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, STEPS, Farmville/Prince Edward Library, Commonwealth Chorale, Camp Loud

& Clear, Virginia Children’s Book Festival, Patrick Henry Family Services, Special Olympics, Prince Edward Volunteer Rescue Squad, Pregnancy Support Center, FACES and Meals on Wheels.

Civic improvement and general community improvement are part of the mission of the women’s clubs,” FWC President Deborah McClintock said.

McClintock is currently serving her fourth term as club president.

The General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), of which the Farmville club is a part, originated well before the Nineteenth Amendment granted women the right to vote. It was in 1901 that Jane Cunningham Croly, a leading New York journalist in 1890s, founded GFWC, which was later granted a charter by Congress. The organization’s goal at that time was “to promote civic improvements through volunteer service.”

“Occasionally GFWC gets involved in big projects,” McClintock said. “In the past GFWC started a lot of the public libraries in the country, and GFWC was instrumental in the beginning of the National Park Service. Many famous women —including Eleanor Roosevelt — have been members of women’s clubs.”

The Farmville club, formerly the Fortnightly Music Club, set similar objectives in 1920: “to study such subjects as music, literature, art, current events and the promotion of civic improvement and social welfare.”

The list of the local club’s past presidents includes many historically prominent Farmville names such as Jarman, Lancaster and Doyne. The club initially met on the second floor of The Farmville Herald building. Later meetings were held in members’ homes, then at the State Teachers College (now Longwood University).

Over the years the reach of the Woman’s Club of Farmville extended into many areas of community life. Past projects included establishing Grove Street Park (1925); conducting a cancer drive (1936); providing a Motion Picture Guide in The Farmville Herald (1931); mending linen for Southside Hospital; contributing to war services during World War II; establishing a recreation center for servicemen and assisting the Red Cross; supporting Patrick Henry Boys Plantation (from 1950s on); producing radio spots called “Be an Informed Consumer” on WFLO; sponsoring the Virginia Museum Artmobile (1984); conducting a literary contest sponsored by GFWC open to Prince Edward students (1985 on); supporting a building fund for Farmville Prince Edward Library (1985).

Today, due to aging membership, the club’s scope is smaller.

“Our youngest members are well into their 60s,” club treasurer Phyllis Guilliams said. “At our Christmas meeting we asked — is anyone under 60? No one raised a hand. The membership dwindles every year.”

The club, however, still takes part in community-minded endeavors.

“We always do a Red Cross blood drive in April — we partner with the police and fire departments for that,” McClintock said. “We ring the Salvations Army bell and have participated in the Taste of Farmville sponsored by the Rotary Club.”

Currently the club has 31 members (20 of whom are active). Those members are still proficient at raising funds to contribute to the local community.

“In addition to the club dues, we hold what we call ‘showers’ several times a year,” Guilliams said. “We pass the hat to fund additional things such as a YMCA scholarship fund and the ‘Women in Livestock’ project that sends cows, chickens and goats to countries like India.”

Club dues go to GFWC projects such as Operation Smile, Camp Easter Seal and the Hugh O’Brien Foundation.

“GFWC wants us to participate in the fabric of local life,” McClintock said.

The Woman’s Club of Farmville continues to add strength and color to that fabric with an impressive patchwork of good works.