The General Federation of Women’s Clubs is an international women’s organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.
GFWC clubs and clubwomen are the heart of not only the Federation, but the communities in which they live and work. By Living the Volunteer Spirit, GFWC clubwomen transform lives each day, not simply with monetary donations, but with hands-on tangible projects that provide immediate impact. With a grassroots approach that often thinks locally but impacts globally, GFWC, its clubs and members remain committed to serving as a force for global good, as it has done since its formation.
With nearly 80,000 members in affiliated clubs in every state, the District of Columbia, and more than a dozen countries, GFWC members work in their own communities to support the arts, preserve natural resources, advance education, promote healthy lifestyles, encourage civic involvement, and work toward world peace and understanding.
Founded in 1890, GFWC’s roots can be traced back to 1868 when Jane Cunningham Croly, a professional journalist, attempted to attend a dinner at an all-male press club honoring British novelist Charles Dickens. Croly was denied admittance based upon her gender, and in response, formed a woman’s club—Sorosis. In celebration of Sorosis’ 21st anniversary in 1889, Jane Croly invited women’s clubs throughout the United States to pursue the cause of federation by attending a convention in New York City. On April 24, 1890, 63 clubs officially formed the General Federation of Women’s Clubs by ratifying the GFWC constitution.
Since 1890, GFWC’s impact has been felt throughout communities across the Unites States and the globe.
On October 24, 1899, the Portland Woman’s Club called together the women’s clubs of the state of Oregon. The urgent need in Oregon was for Public Libraries. There were no public libraries in the state at that time. Thirteen clubs attended that meeting. The first convention was in Pendleton in 1900. The newly organized Federation began a vigorous campaign to secure the passage of a Library bill in the Oregon Legislature. Most local libraries in Oregon owe their founding to the untiring efforts of local Women’s Clubs.
In 1901, Oregon Federation of Women's Clubs was admitted to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Another early concern of the Federation was child labor. GFWC Oregon had a prominent part in obtaining the passage of Oregon’s first child labor law. They included efforts to ensure that the law provided for the majority of the Labor Board to be women. The governor appointed three prominent clubwomen to this first board.
In 1903 36 clubs belonged to the Federation. In 1905, the Scholarship Loan and Fellowship Fund was started with $23 remaining from funds used to erect a statue of Sacajawea which now stands in Portland’s Washington Park.
In 1910 OFWC had 51 clubs and 2,398 members. Between 1915 - 1921, OFWC raised $108,000 which was matched by the Oregon Legislature for a women’s building (Gerlinger Hall) at the University of Oregon.
From 1938 - 1941, Oregon’s Saidie Orr Dunbar served as President of GFWC. In 1941, under the sponsorship of OFWC, legislation was introduced and passed by the Oregon Legislature providing for blood testing of prospective mothers in an effort to detect and control syphilis. In 1942, OFWC had 137 clubs and 5866 members.
From 1943 - 1946 the country was at war and OFWC raised a total of $911,950 in the War Bond drive to “Buy a Bomber”. That was more than enough money to name one bomber for the Federation. In 1945 the work of OFWC to secure passage of a new health and physical fitness law for Oregon schools was recognized in newspapers and Medical Journal editorials.
In 1946 the Penny Art Fund Scholarship was started and the first scholarship given in 1948. In 1948, GFWC held their 57th convention in Portland. In 1956 the Saidie Orr Dunbar Nursing Fund was established and in 1961, the Virginia Lang Music scholarships were established.
In 1953, after the devastating Tillamook Burn, OFWC created the “OFWC Memorial Forest”. It is located 40 miles west of Portland and consists of 152 acres that OFWC replanted. In 1973, a roadside marker was placed at the site.
In 1968 OFWC began a two-year project to build a swimming pool at the
Hillcrest School for Girls.
In 1960, inspired by Mrs. Rachel M. Gifford of Oswego Woman’s Club and the work of Oregon artist Mrs. Theresa Truchot, an emblem was adopted. The emblem was a modified heart shape. The settings and symbols were adapted from those used within the shield of the Oregon State Seal.
GFWC Oregon's Motto
The motto “Growth Through Service” was adopted May 20, 1965, at the 50th State Convention held in Gearhart, Oregon.
For more information visit: https://oregongfwc.org/index.html