GFWC Parkersburg Woman’s Club marks 115 years

PARKERSBURG — On April 2, Mayor Tom Joyce presented a proclamation of General Federation Day of Women’s Clubs to Parkersburg and South Parkersburg Woman’s Club Presidents.

The General Federation was organized April 24, 1890, and chartered by President William McKinley and Congress March 3, 1901. It is one of the world’s largest and oldest non-denominational women’s volunteer service organizations with members in fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and twenty countries. The Federation provides opportunities to develop personal and leadership skills, study issues, educate the public, stimulate civic consciousness, commemorate women’s history, and participate in public services as well as develop a vital and continuing commitment to community improvement:


For 115 years GFWC Parkersburg Woman’s Club has been a vital organization in our community. It has more than 100 members and meets on the first Tuesday of the month August through June at Parkersburg Country Club. As a part of General Federation of Woman’s Club West Virginia, the Parkersburg Woman’s Club participates in national activities.

In March 1904 members of the Woman’s Literary Club (as it was originally named) voted to join the new Federation of Women’s Clubs. The constitution and bylaws were written by Laurane Boreman, daughter of West Virginia’s first governor. The present clubhouse at 323 Ninth St. in Parkersburg was purchased in 1915. It was listed on the Historic Register Oct. 8, 1982. The concert baby grand piano in the meeting room was a gift by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Cochran.

By 1913, the name of the club had changed to the Parkersburg Woman’s Club. Departments included: civics, literary, parliamentary law, music and art.

The first Junior Department was organized in 1932. Helen Keller was brought to Parkersburg, in a standing-room-only appearance with an overflow crowd. Other famous speakers included Amelia Earhart who lectured here shortly before she vanished somewhere over the China Sea.

During World War II, a War Service Committee was created with many members taking part in the Red Cross Canteen, knitting and sewing for the fighting men, making surgical dressings, and the promotion of the sale of bonds to aid the war effort.

After the war, a “Department of Peace Service” required by the state federation was active, and such programs as “The Veterans Return Home,” “The United Nations,” and “Adjusting Our Homes to the Post-War Era” accentuated the project.

During 1962-1963 the club spearheaded the local celebration of the West Virginia Centennial Year. Activities included publishing “You and the Law” which was distributed to ninth graders in the public and parochial schools. The club also received an award from the Retail Merchants Association for its beautification of downtown by placing flower boxes in selected locations.

In 1967, the successful Holly Trail public tour of local homes decorated for Christmas began, and continued for 50 years.

The Diamond Jubilee Year commemorating the 75th Anniversary in 1976 included a special November meeting in the Gold Room at the Wilmar Restaurant honoring 16 out of 22 past presidents. One of the state projects was “Books for Beginners.” The Parkersburg Woman’s Club was the first to complete this project.

The Parkersburg Woman’s Club, under the guidance of Judge Arthur Gustke, took steps to establish a Crisis Center for Abused Children. Efforts were coordinated with the help of the South Parkersburg Woman’s Club, Vienna Woman’s Club, Civic Woman’s Club, and the Junior Department of the Parkersburg Woman’s Club. Furnishings were completed and the center was occupied in December 1979.




* ARTS: Helps arts-associated agencies, such as Artsbridge and the Very Spectacular Arts Festival at West Virginia University at Parkersburg. In September any PWC member can enter a specific arts project judged locally. Then the first place entries are judged at Western District meeting, and on to State Convention for final judging — 2019 winners were members Judy Wilson, Jody Stewart and Rachel Johnson.

* CONSERVATION: Designed for members to gain an appreciation for our environment by increasing awareness of conservation issues. During this past year some of our projects include collecting old shoes for the Soles4Souls Program; recycling more than 1,000 pounds of cardboard boxes; collecting old blankets, towels, sheets for the Humane Society of Parkersburg for animal bedding at the shelter; collecting mascara wands for the North Carolina Wildlife Refuge to be used to clean bird feathers; and planting hundreds of milkweed plants at the Williamstown Wetlands.

* EDUCATION: Has three basic components: literacy, learning, and libraries. It sponsors four Free Little Libraries at City Park, Worthington School, Parkersburg High School, and Eagle Park in Vienna. The libraries offer free books for all ages and are constantly restocked. Two additional libraries are expected to be built by the construction class at Parkersburg High School to be placed by summer. The committee is also beginning a “Snuggle Bug Reading Club” by providing a tote bag, three or four books, a fleece blanket and a flashlight so students may continue to read in the comfort of their own homes. A scholarship is also being offered this spring to a Parkersburg High School senior wanting to major in education.

* HOME LIFE: Activities include the Brown Bag project where each week snack bags are supplied to 340 students who might otherwise have little to eat over the weekend. Members provide Christmas gifts to Family Crisis Intervention Center and nursing home residents who might otherwise receive only gifts from the facilities. An ongoing project is Pinwheels for Prevention where pinwheels are placed at the intersection of Emerson and West Virginia avenues to promote Prevent Child Abuse America month. There are two food drives for middle school food pantries and volunteers serve at Survivors’ Table during Mid-Ohio Valley Relay for Life.

* INTERNATIONAL OUTREACH: Each year two luncheons are held that feature a speaker providing information on international topics. By providing money or sponsors, the department supports projects including Operation Christmas Child, Operation Smile, Heifer International, and mission school in Burkina Faso.

* PUBLIC ISSUES: Participates in community service programs, including programs for local law enforcement, firefighters, active military, and veterans. Projects this year are Sheriff’s K9 Units, bedding for fire stations, Veteran’s Traveling Wall with help from Jackson Middle School National Honor Society. For “Project Fill A Sock,” New Hope Baptist Church provided assistance. Other projects include Christmas cards, candy, and cupcakes donated to veterans for Veterans Day. Public Issues will sponsor an appreciation lunch for local law enforcement in May.



Many of the club’s activities are designed to acquire funds to be donated to local organizations, including the American Cancer Society, Children’s Home Society, GFWC West Virginia Scholarship, Holiday in the Park, HOBY (Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership, Rhododendron Girls’ State scholarship, Habitat for Humanity, Pearl Buck Museum, Wood County Society. There are three GFWC Parkersburg Woman’s Club scholarships for girls graduating from Parkersburg High School and Parkersburg Catholic High School. Some fund-raising activities include a paint party, making and selling Easter eggs, and selling flowers. A quilt raffle is underway and a bingo night is being planned for fall. In December the annual Christmas gift wrap project will return in front of Belk at Grand Central Mall.



Under the motto “Living the Volunteer Spirit,” the club invites area women to gather April 28 from 1-3 p.m. for Celebration of Federation Day. Departments will have displays to highlight club activities for prospective members.

Members are invited to bring a guest. For more information: 304-428-3677 or 304-615-0436.


Susan Shawver is a Parkersburg resident and has been a member of the club for 4 years. She is a member of the public issues and arts departments for the club.