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Women’s Club reaches centennial mark

August 6, 2011
By Beth Christian Broschart - Staff Writer , The Inter-Mountain

For the last 100 years, the GFWC Woman's Club of Elkins has contributed to the formation of Randolph County's civic organizations and educational opportunities. This year as the group celebrates its milestone, a collection of former club presidents' scrapbooks chronicle history as it took place throughout the last century.

"We are fortunate that families donate the books back to our club," said Woman's Club of Elkins president Betty Roberts. "We have a room in the Darden House where these scrapbooks are stored for future reference."

The Woman's Club of Elkins, originally named the Woman's Civic League, was organized in 1911 by Mrs. William E. Baker, Mrs. Howard Sutherland, Mrs. A.M. Daniels, Mrs. H.G. Kump, Mrs. E.T. McHale, Mrs. William Guilland, Mrs. E.T. Talbott, Mrs. Boyd Weese, Mrs. S.L. Reger and Mrs. R.E. Lee Fink.

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Some of the current members of the GFWC Woman’s Club of Elkins are, Leona Thompson, Sandy DiBacco, Debbie Sorensen, Toni Herron, Nancy White, Janice Gongola, Betty Roberts, Cathy McMenamy, Sandy Grahame, Betty Hardman, Peg Rector, Diana Kerr, Judy Myers, Mary Davis, Cary Hopwood, Carole Hyre, Carrie Wetsch, Debbie Pernia, Jane Lawson, Holly Hughes Reilly, Sherri White, Betty Haynes, Betty Linger, Kay Riggleman, Debbie Saseen, Cissy Row, Diana VanNoy, Alice Wise, Lessa Harris, Marijane Kiley, Peggy Knutti, Keitha Wing, Marlene Kyle, Roseann Harvey, Katie Kerns, Jean Schmidt and Connie Pingley.

According to the scrapbooks, the club's first fund raising project was a carnival with a museum booth and food. Admission was 10 cents to the booth, peanuts and candy were sold for 5 cents a piece, and a glass of buttermilk was 5 cents. The $400 the group raised at this event was given to the Elkins Fire Department to purchase a fire engine for the city.

In its early days, the Woman's Club of Elkins helped set up a restroom in the Western Maryland Railroad building for women and children to use. The club even paid for a matron to care for the area.

Early significant contributions include the establishment of a local Red Cross chapter, the first Parent Teacher Association, a free dental clinic and a nurse to administer therapy to school-age children afflicted with polio.

The meetings of the group were originally conducted at the Elkins Randolph County YMCA. The first community Christmas tree for Elkins was placed upstairs at the Y by the club and a Christmas party was hosted for 100 children who received gifts and candy for the holiday.

The Woman's Club of Elkins also opened a lending library, located in the YMCA and supported solely by the group until 1964. The club continues to support the efforts of the Elkins Randolph County Library, and the chandelier it donated still hangs in the library.

One unusual activity the club sponsored in 1924 was a contest for school-age children. According to the scrapbooks, that year there was an overabundance of flies and the club members worried that could cause the spread of disease. The contest was opened and prizes were awarded to students and classrooms who killed the greatest number of the insects.

Also in 1924, the group changed its name from the Civic League to the GFWC Woman's Club of Elkins. According to the scrapbooks, the goals of the club were "to promote mutual counsel, sympathy and unity of action among its members, and advancement of the various interests of women and the improvement of civic, moral, cultural and educational conditions of the city of Elkins."

Many letters, included in the scrapbooks, were drafted over the years where the women requested actions they felt should be taken. One letter was to the mayor of Elkins requesting that spitting on the sidewalks be banned due to the spread of disease; another advised that the Fourth of July celebration should not include fireworks in order to help keep the holiday more safe; still another, from June, 1924, was to The Inter-Mountain asking the paper not to be unfair in any editorials to then-Sen. Howard Sutherland.

The 21st annual convention of the WV Federation of Woman's Clubs was hosted in Elkins Sept. 29 to Oct. 2, 1925. Women from throughout West Virginia gathered here and learned about public welfare and American citizenship. Talks were given on what clubs can do for the child, urgent needs of our institutions, interpreting citizenship, citizenship training, Americanization, cooperation with war veterans, education needs, helping overcome illiteracy, and methods of starting public libraries.

The focus of the Woman's Club of Elkins lies mostly in education and the arts. Members have the opportunity to showcase their artistic efforts at both the club and state level. Each year the club sponsors the Arts and Crafts Show of the Mountain State Forest Festival. The club also joins with the State Federation in the restoration and maintenance of the Pearl S. Buck Home, located in Hillsboro.

During World War II, the club helped with the USO host dances, helped serve cookies and coffee to soldiers and assisted in mailing packages to our soldiers. In the 1940's, members had a focus on providing glasses and hearing aids to children in need of those services.

A door-to-door cancer drive was organized in the 1950's and helped lead to the formation of the Randolph County Cancer Unit of the American Cancer Society.

In the 1960's, an Arts and Crafts Shop was established in Elkins. This was the first shop of its kind to be set up, managed and maintained on a volunteer basis. It allowed craftsmen from the area and West Virginia to sell their wares to the public.

The Woman's Club of Elkins participated in the state project for literacy in the 1970's and purchased books to give to each first-grader in Randolph County.

The Women of Song musical group of the Women's Club of Elkins was formed in the 1980's. The group, under the direction of Virginia Rinehart and accompanied by Carrie Virginia Lantz, performed for various organizations and special events in the area. They were invited to sing at the Annual WV Federation of Woman's Club State Convention in 1991.

The club continues to add splashes of color to those visiting Elkins by planting flowers in the beds opposite McDonalds. Each year, the club offers scholarships to local high school seniors and those in need of educational assistance.

On Aug. 28, the club will celebrate its 100-year anniversary with an ice cream social from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Colonial Estates Club House.

For more information about the Woman's Club of Elkins, call 304-636-6641.

Contact Beth Christian Broschart by email at



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