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Unity in diversity

November 5, 2010
By Charles Repnow

Stop for a minute and think about this: What's the most useful service organization women could have used for 110 years? I will give you a hint-for many years this organization existed in Rugby. It is the General Federation of Women's Club (GFWC). Today it is still the world's largest and oldest nonpartisan, nondenominational volunteer service organization of women. This year they are celebrating 110 years of service. Their outreach has been in many countries-large and small communities alike-treasure this organization like a jewel.

The General Federation traces its roots back to the vivacious Jane Cunningham, an accomplished New York newspaperwoman who wrote under the pen name of Jennie June. She and other women were denied admittance to a banquet honoring Charles Dickens in 1869 at the all-male New York Press Club, simply because they were women. (It is interesting to note that these same self-righteous men thought nothing of asking women to prepare their banquet meal, press their shirts, and perhaps even have them polish their pompous egos.) Indignant and set into to motion by these bigheaded men, Cunningham and her friends were determined to organize a club for women only! Thus comes about the organization which is still going strong today with 400,000 members in 10,000 clubs across the United States and additional millions of members in 46 countries.

My recent interest in the GFWC was piqued by a telephone call from a Massachusetts friend, Gregg, who shared that his Aunt Ruth, age 91, was still going strong and criss-crossing The Bay State in mission for GFWC. She has been a long-time member and served in many capacities. He was impressed by how her service to the local community benefited many and also reached beyond the town. Her service as a local leader prepared her to take on greater leadership roles with much success. He also shared that he became inspired by her service and took an interest in this worthwhile organization.

I shared with him that Jan had been a member of the GFWC when it existed in Rugby, and that she certainly enjoyed being a part of this service organization. One of their projects was providing Books for Babies at the Heart of America Hospital to encourage new mothers to read to their babies. They also hosted their annual art show at the library for a number of years showcasing local artists. I took the liberty to share with him a story about the Rugby chapter.

One evening when I was in attendance and waiting in another room to give my program, the question arose to the group about work ethics. The matter dealt with doing personal work on work time--whether it was right or wrong. The late Alice Liming, who had arrived at the meeting with a red hat and matching shoes had definitely the most entertaining and thoughtful comment. She said, "I see nothing wrong with someone writing a personal note or reading on company time if you have all your work done. Take for example myself at Ely Elementary. When my work was done, I would write a note or pay a bill." She then extolled the group with the following, "My favorite thing to do is to read steamy romances, and I usually conceal my book within a school book so the students don't know. Now if Mr. Pennington should have to stop by the room, I merely slid it very conveniently into my top desk drawer without a hassle!" It was a delightful moment. As you can see, much more than points of service were discussed at these meetings.

Ella Dietz Clymer served as the first chairperson when the constitution was adopted in 1890, and the General Federation of Women's Clubs was born. The Federation was chartered by Congress in 1901. Ella Dietz Clymer authored their motto "Unity in Diversity." Speaking to the delegates at the first conference, she said "We look for unity, but unity in diversity. We hope that you will enrich us by your carried experiences"

Fact Box

Squash Casserole

1 1/2 pounds yellow squash

2 medium-sized carrots

1 medium-sized onion

1 can pimiento pieces, optional

1 can of cream of chicken soup

1 cup dairy sour cream

Topping:

1 package stuffing mix

1 stick of butter

Cook squash until tender. Drain; cook carrots (sliced thin) until tender. Season with butter. Mix together with chopped onion, pimiento, soup and sour cream. Place in casserole and top with 1 package stuffing mix, tossed in melted butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

(This casserole freezes well.)

Recipe submitted by Polly Moore of Henrietta, North Carolina

Carrots Fudge

1 1/2 cups grated carrots

teaspoon lemon extract

3 1/2 cups sugar

cup sweetened condensed milk

cup water

Cook carrots, sugar, milk and water to soft ball stage (235 degrees). Remove from stove: add lemon extract and cool to room temperature. Beat until creamy. Pour into buttered pan, pat to 1-inch depth. When firm cut into squares.

Recipe submitted by Delva Powers of Wichita, Kansas

Both of these recipes are excellent if you have a love of squash and carrots! There certainly has been an abundance of both this year.

Repnow is a Rugby resident.

My conversation with Gregg took place right before our recent election. We both shared a thought that our newly elected officials should take this motto with them as they come together to serve.

These recipes came from the GFWC Centennial Cookbook.

 
 

 

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