The Woman’s Club of Raleigh First Century…plus 14 (1904-2020)
In the late nineteenth century, the Women’s Movement followed closely behind the Suffrage Association and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. In the beginning, it was ridiculed; then it was tolerated like a passing fad; and later accepted as good for women and the world. The first clubs were literary, but all evolved into broader lines of service. Club life taught members discretion, self-control, self-reliance, forbearance toward others, eliminated the tendency to gossip by supplying something better to do, and laid the foundation for a sisterhood of women in the future. (Sallie Southall Cotton)
When Elvira Evelyna Worth Moffitt moved to Raleigh in early 1900’s she found a progressive town with a hometown atmosphere. As she looked at Raleigh, she saw unattractive streets that were not clean, sidewalks that were bare and uninviting, yards and driveways not cared, and other areas needing TLC. An idea began to form…this town needed the touch of a woman’s hand. In 1904, Ms. Moffitt talked with every woman she knew about organizing a woman’s club and asked these women to spread the word. As the news spread women were invited to attend a meeting in the State Capital Library Reading Room. Can you imagine the excitement when women began to fill the space to overflowing! 141 of those numerous women are listed as charter members of WCR. The group elected Miss Fannie Heck as the first president and selected Child Culture, Literature, Domestic Science, Art, Village Improvement, Charities, and Music as the beginning departments for the club’s service to the community. They adopted a statement of purpose and the seed was planted. The number of members quickly grew to 180 dedicated women determined to improve their city through intellectual, philanthropic, social and domestic betterment of everyone. WCR joined NC Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1906 and incorporated the “Club” as The Woman’s Club of Raleigh, INC. WCR is a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Those early members purchased their first clubhouse on the corner of Morgan and Salisbury Streets. In 1914 they purchased land on Hillsboro Street to build a larger clubhouse. The Club gave its first scholarship to a student; presented excellent programs for members; and organized a Club Chorus. WWI called and they gave full use of the clubhouse to Red Cross. They raised $129,000.00 for Liberty bonds. Women were asked to serve in positions of leadership in local politics and business. By 1924 the membership was 769 members. Raleigh Juniors were organized as a part of WCR. They organized a Red Cross Chapter and continued to serve wherever needed.
Depression years hit with a vengeance! Membership dropped. The elaborate social events were changed to luncheons and meetings. A soup kitchen was started and a sewing room was opened. Members volunteered in schools, libraries, and attention to citizenship and education became a high priority. WCR sponsored the county’s Tuberculosis Association; built a Preventorium; and campaigned to “Build a Better Community.” They worked with Junior League to establish a Cerebral Palsy Center. Paid a pledge of support to the YWCA and gave more scholarships to college-bound students.
In 1956, the Club was chosen for an article in the December edition of Life Magazine. The Club was featured as the typical Woman’s Club in the Nation -757 lively conscientious women. The magazine stated that place after place in Raleigh is better for the touch of the Woman’s Club’s hand. The Carolina Arts Gallery, selling only NC made arts and crafts was opened in Efrids Department Store. Members taught Bible classes at Women’s Correctional Center (WCC). This involvement with WCC led to forming the only Woman’s Club in a US Correctional Center. The Club helped the city establish Capital City Trails; sold their second clubhouse in the city; bought property for a new clubhouse; and sponsored a Raleigh Boy Choir.
Their third clubhouse became a reality when they moved into the present day building at 3300 Woman’s Club Drive. Members continued their service to the community in a variety of ways. The Centennial Celebration continued throughout the year of 2004 with much joy and anticipation. A special display was featured in the City Museum honoring WCR. A 100-year history was published, A Century of Culture for Service-Culture in Service, compiled by J. McPhaul, Club Archives.
And now WCR has 117 years of service to others. These twelve years have been so full that it is difficult to summarize all the activity and service that has gone on inside and outside these clubhouse walls. There have been outstanding special projects in each administration – Interact, Summit House, Hospice of Wake County, A Special Garden at the Hospice Facility, Pretty in Pink, Dress for Success, and Continuing the Legacy (a three-part project). The clubhouse has been refurbished, repaired, and brought into this 21st century with a new look…it is white on the outside with black trim. Scholarships have continued with a special evening of recognitions for Seven Young Women of Achievement from the area high schools. Community Grants continue to serve needs and Great Decisions is an important part of the program for the community. After many years of having two Antiques Shows the Club has turned to other ideas for raising the funds needed to fulfill their obligations each year. A Fashion Show was held in the early years and the Fall Show continues to be a very important part of the fundraising agenda. A special springtime Capital Gift and Garden Show has been created for the enjoyment of the public and to raise funds for club commitments and the club’s third cookbook was printed. The December meeting offers a Make and Bake Sale that is perfect for that festive time of year. The creative idea of a Silent Mother’s Day Tea gave all members the opportunity to support their club.
In April 2016 WCR was featured at COR Museum with a showcase of 112 years of service to the community, the state, and the nation. Continuing the Legacy was the President’s Special Project consisting of the past, the present, and the future. The April Museum GALA and IN HER VOICE EXHIBIT gave a great look at WCR, its purpose, and its mission. A fantastic 112 years!
The clubhouse grounds look beautiful with a new well-planned McMillan Garden for outdoor activities. Special brick pavers that honor club members lead to the Moring Garden beside the clubhouse. The Club has an Archives, a website, a newsletter, and special information sent to members by email. WCR has begun an energetic path into this 21st Century with strong roots that run deep, a strong tree trunk to keep us steady, and a new growth of service leaves sprouting forth on the twigs and limbs. Our purpose and our mission remain the same.