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GFWC Arkansas History

The Arkansas Federation of Women’s Clubs was organized and became a member of General Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1897. The Official Seal for the Arkansas Federation was adopted during the 1928-1930 administration, but since original material defining the seal had been lost, the Arkansas Federation Board on January 18, 1961, voted to redefine it.

The seal is round, signifying eternity. In the upper center of the sun is a large diamond, the Arkansas Diamond, surrounded by twelve stars. To the left stands the classical figure of a woman holding aloft a torch representing knowledge and enlightenment. On the right side is a crusader’s shield, and on it are designs chosen to represent industry, agriculture and forestry; at top a factory; in the center a sheaf of grain, bale of cotton and basket of fruit and vegetables; at the bottom our state tree, the pine. The shield is backed by the state flower, the apple blossom. The state bird, the mockingbird, is perched atop the flower. The symbol of this seal shows items of pride and significance to the Federated Club members throughout the Great State of Arkansas. We are proud of our role in the development of Arkansas.

General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Arkansas was adopted as the official name of our state federation May 1987.

Arkansas Seal

General Federation of Women’s Clubs
Established in 1889 - Chartered by U.S.
Motto - "Unity in Diversity"
Mission Statement
The General Federation of Women’s Clubs is an international
women’s organization dedicated to community improvement by
enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.


Founded in 1890, the General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC) - one of the oldest non-partisan, nondenominational women's volunteer service organizations - is well into its second century of volunteer service in communities throughout the United States and the world.

GFWC traces its roots back to Jane Cunningham Croly, an accomplished New York newspaperwoman, who wrote under the pen name of Jennie June. Indignant that she and other women were denied admittance to a banquet honoring Charles Dickens in 1868 at the all-male New York Press Club simply because they were women, she organized a club for women only.

In 1889 Jane Cunningham Croly proposed a conference in New York to bring together delegates from 61 women's clubs. The constitution was adopted in April 1890, and the General Federation of Women's Clubs was born. It was charted by the U.S. Congress in 1901.

To this day, the middle day of the 1890 organizing conference - April 24 - is celebrated each year as Federation Day.


Symbolism of GFWC Emblem

GFWC’s emblem depicts a circular band signifying eternity. In the center of the circular band, the crusader's shield emerges from a darkened world (represented by the field of darkness), which represents enlightenment. The enameled colors—red, white, and blue—are the colors of the United States of America. The red implies courage, the white equals purity, and the blue stands for constancy.



In 1868, when the Sorosis club was formed by Jane Cunningham Croly, the objective, as printed in the “New York World”, was to promote agreeable and useful relations among women of literary and artistic tastes, entirely independent of sectionalism or partisanship. Many clubs were organized between 1847 and 1889, an underlying theme being self - improvement and reaching out. Women had become weary of limited horizons - they were anxious to learn and act upon the opinions of many.

About Croly and other women leaders of the time, Julia Ward Howe wrote in 1889: “It occurred to them that union is strength. They began to reach out toward each other...”

In March 1889, a committee was formed to draft a constitution and present a plan of organization for ratification of an international organization of independent clubs. Ella Dietz Clymer was chairman of the committee. She said: “We hope from this convention to form a lasting union of the women’s clubs throughout the world. We do not feel that sectional differences will separate us; on the contrary, we hope that these very differences will form a bond of sympathy... we look for unity, but unity in diversity...let us pledge ourselves to work for a common cause, the cause of united womanhood throughout the world.”

1890 - 1915

On Thursday, April 24, 1890, the constitution presented by the committee was adopted by the convention delegates after discussion and amendments. Officially, the organization would be known as the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC); its object would be “to bring into communication with each other the various women’s clubs throughout the world, in order that they may compare methods of work and become mutually helpful.”

1897 Arkansas Federation (AFWC) was admitted to GFWC on April 22. The motto for AFWC became “Courtesy, Culture and Courage.”

1899 We established a national model for juvenile courts and by 1900 AFWC had established 20 libraries.

Arkansas had 57 clubs with 2300 members

1901 We had a successful campaign for the Apple Blossom as state flower.

1903 Got legislation passed providing that cities could levy taxes to support libraries.

1904 Initiated a call for preservation of the Old State House, raising funds to preserve it as a museum. Federation member Agnes Loewer became the first curator of the museum. AFWC furnished one of the period rooms and contributed financially to the recent renovation completed in 2003-04. We continue to refurbish and finance our GFWC Arkansas Room.

1906 We helped pass Pure Food & Drug Act.

1911 Supported legislation for 8-hour work day.

1915 - 1940

1917 As part of the national effort, AFWC members worked on the campaign to sell Liberty War Bonds to help finance America’s war effort during WWI.

Thousands of books were sent to soldiers and contributions made to the war library fund.

1922 Arkansas donated $600 to GFWC to help purchase our headquarters building in Washington , DC , which is now on the National Register.

1929 Helped secure the adoption of the Mockingbird as official state bird.

1930 Saw AFWC going to the two-year basis for officers, conforming to GFWC, and asked clubs to do likewise. AFWC was elated to have its invitation to GFWC to hold a convention in Hot Springs accepted. During that convention three controversial subjects were discussed: ‘Old Age Pension’, ‘Birth Control’ and ‘Equal Rights Amendment.’

In 1937 and 1939 we gained $100,000 appropriations for State Library Commission.

1938 Supported first child labor law. The “ Arkansas Clubwoman ” , state newspaper now known as “Arkansas Federation Speaks” was established.

1940-1980 AFWC was instrumental in founding the U of A School of Nursing and the Med Center Complex. We worked with Arkansas legislature to create the Arkansas Council on Children and Youth.

Efforts to establish the Governor’s Mansion came to fruition during 1947-49.

1955-1980 At this time there were 115 clubs with 3,111 members!

1958 We supported equal pay for equal work.

1959 Adopted the Children’s Colony as a project, purchased playground equipment and raised $18,000 to build a chapel there, donating a stained-glass window as well.

1960 A new club, the Pocahontas Woman’s Club, was organized and federated. The objectives: “The club shall promote a broad cultural program, keyed to the mutual interest of all its membership. It shall contribute to the betterment of the civic and social welfare of the community, state and nation.”

1961 The “women’s crusade for seat belts” program resulted in more than one million belts installed during the course of one year.


1987 Voted to change official name to GFWC of Arkansas.

1994 Founder Jane Cunningham Croly was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls , NY .

2002 GFWC fulfilled its commitment to America’s Promise by raising and donating over $13.5 million in books, the Libraries 2000 project. GFWC of Arkansas donated more than $200,000 to libraries between 1997 and 2000 as part of Arkansas’ Promise, surpassing its goal of $100,000.

2004 GFWC donated $180,000 for a fully-equipped ambulance for the New York Fire Dept. after the 9/11 tragedies. GFWC of Arkansas helped!

Prominent politician members of GFWC of Arkansas have been US Senator Hattie W. Caraway, State Rep. Ann H. Bush, and State Rep. Will Etta (Willie) Oates.