GFWC Woman's Club of Beckley

Club History - Part I

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 Part I                                                                                                                            Part II
 

The First Fifty Years

 

1909 - 1959

The First Woman's Club of Beckley 1909
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Click on picture for enlarged view and specific information.

First Woman's Club of Beckley
 
     It all began in the year 1909 when Miss Ethel McDairmid called a group of local women together for a meeting in the home of Senator John W. McCreery.  One of the charter members describes the meetings of that time as gala events held monthly in the homes of the various members.  She remembers that the ladies dressed "fit to kill" and took the greatest pride in their sandwiches and coffee.  Of course this was the height of the social functions held in Beckley at that time.
 
     The 1909 yearbook lists approximately 30 charter members.  Officers of that memorable year were Miss Ethel McDiarmid (President), Mrs. Earnest M. Merrill (Vice President), Mrs. George W. Harris (Secretary), Miss Elizabeth Anderson (Treasurer), Mrs. William Taylor (Director of Music). 
 
     The club's purpose in those early years was self improvement through literature and music.  The year 1909 was spent studying the literature and music of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and the programs were rich in the presentations of famous English authors, playwrights, and musicians.  Miss McDairmid continued as president for the next several years, and the club furthered its study of different countries including Italy, France, and Germany. 
 
 
Change and a New Direction
 
     During the First World War the ladies put aside their search for culture in favor of giving their all for the war effort.  The Woman's Club, which was federated in 1914, assisted the Red Cross in Beckley by taking complete charge of the surgical supplies, knitting, and garment making departments. 
 
     By the mid-twenties the club had increased in membership and broadened its interests.  Their purpose had grown to promote civic interest in Beckley as well as the literary and music culture of its members.  Departments were created and added as need and interest dictated. 
 
     By the end of the decade departments in the Woman's Club included Music, Literary, Civic,  Education, Citizenship, and Home Economics.  Energy was directed toward aiding worthy causes and promoting needed change in the community.  Current issues were public health, child welfare, citizenship, illiteracy, disaster relief, hghway beautification, and raising money to build a new clubhouse.

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A New Clubhouse
 
     During the next ten years there were many more changes.  By 1931 the membership had grown to over 175.  A long-wanted new clubhouse was built on Park Avenue on a lot donated by the Raleigh County Board of Education.  A House and Garden Department was added, and a Junior Woman's Department was organized.  The Woman's Club of Beckley became the first club to sponsor a Public Health Program and conducted a campaign for city garbage disposal.
 
     Paying for the clubhouse was a prime concern during the thirties and led to many fundraisers.  But they continued their charity work supporting many worthy causes like the Scouts, the Salvation Army, the Crippled Children's Clinic, the Well-Baby ClinicMountain Missions, the Red Cross, and the Cancer Drive.  They helped the needy, kept up with current events, and broadened their interests to include world affairs.   
 
    
Another War and More Changes
 
     As the coal mining industry grew and the population of Beckley increased, so did the club's membership along with new opportunities and challenges.  In the early forties the Civic Department was reactivated and organized from among the juniors and became the largest department of the Woman's Club.  Plans were made to purchase a piano for the clubhouse, and two new offices were added - Historian and Music Director.  Health and wellness remained a high priority as they sponsored the Well-Baby Clinic, organized a Health Clinic Committee, and worked on cancer control.
 
     The Second World War again saw the clubwomen rolling up their sleeves for war work.  They appointed a special chairman for surgical dressings, took charge of the Red Cross's house-to-house canvassing, and donated to the chapter's War Relief Fund.  They started a War Service Committee and a Bond and Stamp Sales Committee.  Membership had increased to the point of having to set a limit of 300 members. In the mid-forties the club was able to concentrate more on community needs and improvements.  They worked with the City Recreational Council, the Civic Park and Playground Committee, the Community Chest, the Pinecrest Fund, the Cancer Drive, and other local drives.       

Beckley Post-Herald 12/20/1950
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The Woman's Club Chorus Entertains at Beckley Civitan's Annual Christmas Party (c;lick to enlarge)

     By 1950 their interests included youth conservation, social and child welfare, and recreational facilities.  The early years of the 50s saw the organization of a Woman's Club Chorus and the League of Women Voters under the presidency of Elinor Hurt.  In the mid 50s a tree fell on the clubhouse, calling for extensive remodeling of the structure.  As the 1950s grew to a close a new department was formed, the Intermediate Department, and a 50th Anniversary Pageant, "The Golden Tree," was written and presented by the members.  Some of the many accomplishments during this past decade were the birth of the Mental Health Program, the organization of the Golden Age Club, support of the Epic Drama Project, and the publication of a club newspaper, The Beckleyan.  The Woman's Club of Beckley had come a long way in fifty years and accomplished much since that first meeting in 1909.    
  
 
Club Presidents  1909-1959

   1909-1911   Miss Ethel McDairmid
   1911-1913   Mrs. E. W. McDairmid
   1913-1915   Mrs. W. W. Hume
   1915-1917   Mrs. Thomas E. Bibb
   1917-1918   Mrs. John H. Hatcher
   1918-1919   Mrs. W. H. McGinnis
   1919-1920   Mrs. J. L. Bumgardner
   1920-1921   Mrs. E. S. Dupuy
   1921-1922   Mrs. Henry E. Phipps
   1922-1924   Mrs. B. Lacy Hoge
   1924-1925   Mrs. J. M. Ferguson
   1925-1927   Mrs. James H. McGinnis
   1927-1929   Mrs. E. Earl Bibb
   1929-1930   Mrs. James W. Watkins
   1930-1931   Mrs. W. W. Hume 
    
   1931-1933   Mrs. Andrew H. Smith
   1933-1934   Mrs. Ross P. Daniel
   1934-1935   Mrs. M. C. McCall
   1935-1937   Mrs. L. T. Putman
   1937-1939   Mrs. Clarence D. Walker
   1939-1941   Mrs. R. L. Reardin
   1941-1943   Mrs. K. D. Bowers
   1943-1945   Mrs. S. A. Ford
   1945-1947   Mrs. C. I. Bepler
   1947-1949   Mrs. Floyd Sayre
   1949-1951   Mrs. Fred Hurt
   1951-1953   Mrs. Stuart B. Angel
   1953-1955   Mrs. Wayne Reynolds
   1955-1957   Mrs. J. E. Otto
   1957-1959   Miss Topsy O'Dell
   


CLUB HISTORY - Part II

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