Gem of Newton - Part of Women's Movement Celebrating 130 yrs

Newton's Hidden Gen - Woman's Club of Newton Highlands

photo courtesy: Woman's Club of Newton Highlands

A veritable gem with rich historical roots in Newton is the Woman’s Club of Newton Highlands.

Jane Cunningham Croly - Founder of GFWC
Jane Croly

The club, located at 72, Columbus Street in Newton Highlands, is now in its 103rd year since its founding, dedicated to educational, humanitarian and social change.

One can feel the overwhelming richness of history inside the main hall, which has retained the majestic wood-paneled walls. In a chance conversation with Ms. Helen Hoffman (who was the main contact person at that time) in late 2011, she described how the Woman’s Club was the hub of activity and socialization for the wives whose husbands were away during World War II.

Historically, numerous woman’s (note the use of the singular “woman’s” vs. “women’s”; a common practice at that time) clubs existed in all of Newton’s villages and across Massachusetts - not to mention across the country.

The Woman’s Club of Newton Highlands is a member of The General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), whose creation can be traced to a gender discrimination incident in 1868.

Julia Ward Howe - Founder of GFWC
Julia Ward Howe

Jane Cunningham Croly, a professional journalist, tried to attend a dinner at an all-male press club honoring Charles Dickens, a British novelist. Jane Croly, denied admittance based on her gender, in response, formed a woman’s club — Sorosis. In 1889, she invited women’s clubs throughout the U.S. to join forces leading to the creation of the GFWC in 1890.

A notable Massachusetts resident and GFWC leader was Julia Ward Howe (1819 – 1910), a prolific writer and leader of the suffrage movement, known for her poem “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Julia helped found the New England Woman’s Club in 1868 and the GFWC in 1890.

Julia died at the age of 91 and is buried at the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


A small sampling of the numerous achievements of GFWC since its inception include:

(source: GFWC website)

Yellow Rose - Symbol of TN Women's Suffrage Movement   In 1906, GFWC member Alice Lakey (1857-1935) spearheaded a letter and telegram writing campaign, critical to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act. 
Yellow Rose - Symbol of TN Women's Suffrage Movement   In 1916, over 2,000 clubs of GFWC worked with the Children’s Bureau promoting the National Baby Week by focusing on infant and maternal mortality, birth registration, and public health facilities. The efforts were instrumental in the passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act (1921), which advanced maternal education.
Yellow Rose - Symbol of TN Women's Suffrage Movement   In 1919, under the direction of the YMCA, GFWC created the Overseas Service Unit and sent 100 young women to Europe to assist wounded soldiers in the aftermath of World War I.
Yellow Rose - Symbol of TN Women's Suffrage Movement   In the 1930s, having founded over 474 free public libraries and 4,655 traveling libraries, women’s clubs were credited by the American Library Association with establishing 75 percent of America’s public libraries.
Yellow Rose - Symbol of TN Women's Suffrage Movement   In 1944, the state federations sold war bonds worth over $150 million under GFWC’s “Buy a Bomber” campaign generating enough money to purchase 431 planes during World War II.
Yellow Rose - Symbol of TN Women's Suffrage Movement   In 1961, “The Women’s Crusade for Seatbelts” program led to installing over one million seat belts in one year.
Yellow Rose - Symbol of TN Women's Suffrage Movement   In 1997, renewing its commitment to libraries, GFWC raised and donated $13.5 million to public libraries and public school libraries across the nation.
Yellow Rose - Symbol of TN Women's Suffrage Movement   In 2001, members contributed $180,000 for a fully-equipped ambulance for use by the New York Fire Department in response to the loss of equipment suffered during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Yellow Rose - Symbol of TN Women's Suffrage Movement   In 2015, GFWC celebrated 125 years of Federation on April 24, 2015
125 years of stellar service  


A note about the yellow rose.

(used for the bulleted list above)

Yellow Rose - Symbol of Women's Suffrage Movement in Tennessee

The yellow rose was the unifying symbol of the women’s suffrage (right to vote) movement in the state of Tennessee.

The 19th amendment to the Constitution – guaranteeing a woman’s right to vote – needed Tennessee’s ratification to become the law of the land.

Amidst high drama (captured in vivid detail by Carrie Chapman Catt, leader of the women’s suffrage movement in the US, in her book Woman Suffrage and Politics), Tennessee finally ratified the amendment on Aug 18, 1920. Massachusetts was one of the early states to ratify in June of 1919.