Woman’s Club active then as now

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 27, 2004

Submitted by Anne Roundtree

Special to the News-Herald

As early as 1868, Julia Ward Howe, a prolific writer and poet and proponent for women’s suffrage, helped to organize a New England’s Woman’s Club, and later served as the first president of the Massachusetts Federation of Women’s Clubs. The movement spread, and in 1919 several prominent Suffolk ladies organized the Suffolk Woman’s Club, which remains active today. Still familiarly known by that name, legally it is incorporated as The Woman’s Club of Suffolk Inc. One of the founders, Mrs. Henry Eley, served as president from 1924 – 1933, and rose to the state presidency.


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The dwelling at 223 Bank and Pinner streets was owned by and known as the Woman’s Club. It housed the first public lending library, and during World War II years was opened Sunday afternoons to entertain servicemen in the area. These men became friendly with several families and were invited into their homes and longtime associations were made. A current member of the Suffolk club was a pianist and met her Navy sailor husband and they have enjoyed a life of traveling, painting, writing books and researching the ancestry of family trees.

There were handsome pieces of furniture in the house surrounding a beautiful staircase. The furniture was stored when the house was sold.

In recent years the smaller items were sold and the largest piece, a secretary, was donated to Riddick’s Folly and may be seen in a bedchamber on the second floor.

As a service club, we help to support 21 agencies and projects plus awarding a high school or academy senior a scholarship. A child is sponsored yearly for corrective plastic surgery by Operation Smile. Members regularly work at Operation Smile headquarters in Norfolk filling ditty bags with travel-sized toiletries and small books and toys.

In April, 26 members cut, sewed and stuffed 111 dolls in plain cotton on which the post-op patients’ &uot;smile faces&uot; will be painted. The immediate past president has volunteered with Operation Smile on trips to the Philippines, Kenya in Africa, and Cambodia. She stands ready to go when called.

We co-sponsor Camp Easter Seal East Health Care and Speech Therapy (a state project) for handicapped children at Federation Lodge, Pool and Amphitheater. Appropriate sports such as horseback riding and swimming are available.

The Woman’s Club of Suffolk, a member of GFWC – Virginia, will hold its next meeting on Sept. 27 in Bunny’s Restaurant.