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About GFWC

A Brief History

Jane Cunningham Croly, journalist, author, editor, and woman's club leader, was born in England and moved to the United States in 1841. When her father died, she moved to New York City and began working as a journalist for the New York Sunday Times and Noah's Weekly Messenger, where she started using the pen name, Jennie June (a la Fanny Fern). Aware of her dual roles as mother and journalist, and the changing status of women - middle-class women, especially - Jane spent much of her life organizing venues for women to meet, learn, and discuss issues surrounding their roles in society.

Croly started her first organization, the Women's Parliament, in 1856. Then, in 1869, she and other female journalists were denied tickets to hear Charles Dickens speak in New York City. This spurred her to form the famous women's club, Sorosis - a "centre of unity" that had neither a charitable nor socioeconomic purpose, but sought "collective elevation and advancement." As women's clubs began forming across the country, they became a center of educational advocacy and a sort of college for older women who wanted to learn.

As a result of her participation and creation of women's groups, Croly became very involved in supporting better working conditions for women, supporting professional female journalists, and personally advised and assisted educated girls looking for employment. Through her dedication to women's clubs, she revealed a commitment to women helping each other obtain the education and other reforms the society of men had failed to support.

In 1890, Croly formed the General Federation of Women's Clubs to support clubs throughout the nation and further their efforts at providing education, improved working conditions, health care, scholarships and other reforms.

GFWC Today

Today, the General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC) is one of the world's largest and oldest women's volunteer service organizations. Working locally through thousands of clubs in the United States and globally in more than 20 countries, GFWC members support the arts, preserve natural resources, promote education, encourage healthy lifestyles, stress civic involvement, and work toward world peace and understanding. Clubs shape their local agendas to suit particular community needs.

Each local chapter benefits from membership, service, material, and program support from state and national Federation levels. GFWC headquarters in Washington, DC, a National Historic Landmark, houses the Women's History and Resource Center, a collection of books, periodicals and records devoted to women's history and women in volunteerism.

Throughout our history, GFWC has made a significant impact nationwide and around the world. For example, seventy-five percent of public libraries in the United States were established by GFWC clubs! And, GFWC furnished the reception room and gave visibility for the first hospice in the country.The organization had a part in the passage of womens right to vote, child labor regulations, and more recently, the Violence Against Women Act and the Lily Ledbetter Equal Pay Act. Members have supported Literacy Volunteers of America, the Paul and Lisa Foundation to help sexually abused children, and built the GFWC/CT Bluebird Therapeutic Park at the Alzheimer's Resource Center.

GFWC has raised thousands of dollars for many causes, some of which include:

  • The purchase of an ambulance for the New York City Fire Department after September 11th, 2001
  • Nearly $60,000 for the Haiti earthquake relief.
  • The support and training of Fidelco Guide Dogs for the blind.
  • Creation of "safe havens'" for battered women and their children.

Thats just a small fraction of the accomplishments that are part of the GFWC legacy. Todays members are writing the history of GFWC and are a part of GFWCs future accomplishments!

Some facts about GFWC

  • In 1940, GFWC adopted the red rose as the club flower.
  • The club color is blue.
  • The GFWC flag was adopted in 1941 and it is blue with the Federation emblem on it.
  • The club song is America the Beautiful
  • The GFWC motto is "Unity in Diversity"
The current GFWC International President is Carlene Garner. The theme for 2010 to 2012 is "Create a Vision-Build a Reality."

Correspondence can be addressed as follows:

General Federation of Women's Clubs
1739 N. Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036-2990
Phone: 202-347-3168

General Federation of Women's Clubs of Connecticut

Since its organization in 1897, the General Federation of Women's Clubs of Connecticut (GFWC/CT), the Connecticut state chapter of GFWC, provides volunteer services and support for those in need. Addressing today's issues and promoting strong leadership, Connecticut clubs strive to educate and grow while serving their families, their community and their government. A a proud member of the General Federation of Womens Clubs (GFWC), GFWC/CT creates global change on a local, national, and international level.

GFWC of Connecticut has a membership of 48 woman's clubs across the state with over 2,000 members, addressing issues of importance within six community service programs: the arts, conservation, education, home life, international outreach, and public issues, as well as GFWCs signature project of Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention. With "Unity In Diversity" as a motto, member clubs are able to choose programs and projects suitable to their interests. Thousands benefit from continuing programs delivered by dedicated volunteers.

Some accomplishments include:

  • Established "Vets OASIS" program, created on CT Public Colleges/Universities for homecoming veterans
  • Raised funds for Alpha Home, a shelter and transitional housing program for homeless families.
  • Helped Habitat for Humanity build a home in New London, CT area.
  • Donated funds to raise and train guide dogs for the blind through Fidelco Guide Dogs.
  • Raised funds, promoted tutor training and education through Literacy Volunteers of America.

The current president of GFWC/CT is Helen Barakauskas.

The last eight state presidents are:

  • Joan Duffy - 2014-2016
  • Nancy Kalyan - 2012-2014
  • JoAnn Calnan - 2010-2012
  • Grace Matyskiela - 2008-2010
  • Jeanne Waseleski - 2006-2008
  • Barbara Feinstein - 2004-2006
  • Jean Brown - 2002-2004
  • Ann Nickerson - 2000-2002