The GFWC Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs, now in its second century of community service, traces its history to the community interest found in Florida women in the late 1890s and during 1900. In 1883 the Village Improvement Association of Green Cove Springs (FL) consisted of 18 women’s groups. By 1891 the Housekeeper’s Club of Coconut Grove had formed. It joined the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) in 1891, the first Florida club to do so. By 1900 several more women’s clubs had been established across the state.
On January 25, 1898 the FFWC was admitted into membership in the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Immediately the FFWC began to widen its scope to include activities and projects on a state and national level. By 1903 the state and national organizations were joined into closer cooperation by the introduction of GFWC programs.
Early special projects of the clubwomen included forest conservation. A proposal to make a Forest Reservation on Paradise Key was endorsed; this later became the heart of Royal Palm State Park. Early clubwomen worked on projects that led to the passage of the Child Labor bill, Compulsory Education bill, and Fire Protection for Schools bill; traveling libraries were established; assistance was given to Seminole Indians.
During the Depression years the clubs continued in their sponsorship of libraries, helped with school problems, beautified communities and assisted with welfare work.
In the World War II years federated clubwomen sewed for the Red Cross, were active in Bundles for Britain, helped with bond sales, and planted victory gardens. Travel was difficult due to gasoline rationing but all districts held meetings.
Over 126 years since its inception the members of the GFWC Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs are still about the business of identifying the needs of the local community and then working to meet those needs through community service projects. As former GFWC Florida and GFWC President Jeannine Faubion wrote, “The history of the state would be incomplete without the immeasurable contributions of the thousands of club members, state officers and chairmen whose vision of a better community and state has been made into a reality by their untiring, unselfish work through the years. The gifts of service which they have freely given helped to make Florida what it is today.”
As we look to the next 125 years, GFWC and GFWC FL is committed to remaining a leading voice in areas our members are active in every day. As an organization dedicated to community improvement, we must discuss important topics that impact the quality of life for all–especially those related to women and girls, early childhood education, and veterans’ services.