The General Federation of Women’s Clubs is one of the world’s largest and oldest women’s volunteer service organizations. Working locally in thousands of clubs in the U.S., and globally in over 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 specific community needs and benefit from membership services, materials and program support from the state and national Federation levels. GFWC Headquarters in Washington, DC, a National Historic Landmark, also houses the Women’s History and Resource Center, a collection of books and periodicals devoted to women’s history and women in volunteerism.
The Woman's Club was organized on January 17, 1924 and incorporated on July 8, 1924 by the Federated Orange County in 1925 and by the State & General in 1932. The Club Colors are Orange and Green. The Club Motto is: “Together we are able to Recover, Renew, Rebuild ” . Our Club Flower is the Hibiscus.
The Woman’s Club of Ocoee Meets the second Tuesday of each month from September through May. We support civic, charitable, Educational, Literary, Scientific and Social projects for over the past 99 years.
The GFWC Ocoee Woman’s Club was formed from members of the old Community Club. On February 5, 1924, the first meeting was held at the home of Mrs. Arthur M. Clark, with Mrs. Sam R. Scott, President, presiding. Thirty-six charter members, many from the early settlers in Ocoee, were present: A few of the current members descend from the charter group members. The Club was incorporated July 8, 1924, and each of the members paid an initiation fee of $5.00. One of the purposes of this meeting was to discuss the purchase of a suitable lot on which to construct a clubhouse.
The next meeting was held at the home of Margaret Maguire. The State President and the President of the Orlando Club, Mrs. Ruth Maguire, were present for the purpose of giving guidance to the new Club. It was agreed to purchase a lot from Mr. William Blakely, at the corner of Cumberland St. and Oakland Ave. The lot was paid for within the first year. Until the clubhouse could be built, meetings were held in member’s homes, in the pavilion of the bathhouse at Starke Lake and the Ocoee Inn, located on McKey Street.
In 1924, a building fund was started with members giving $5.00 each. In July of 1926, the Woman’s Club had a bid of $14,278.00 to build the clubhouse and another for $8,774.00. It was decided to wait until the Club had $2,000.00 on hand before actual ground breaking took place. An architect was hired and drew up plans for $400.00.
The Great Depression had a big impact on the plans for a clubhouse as well as the community projects chosen by the women but in 1933, while Mrs. D. F. Wurst was President, the Club exchanged their Bank of Ocoee certificate of $1,450.00 for the P. J. New property. The Club placed a new roof and did other repairs to the house. The Woman’s Club had $104.37 in the Bank of Ocoee when it closed.
On December 1, 1933, a special board meeting was called to discuss plans to obtain funds from the W.P.A. (Works Progress Administration) to erect a clubhouse on the Club lot. In 1934-35 while Mrs. Seeley was President, the Club had the building plans revised at a cost of $50.00. It was to be called the Community House until it was deeded back to the Woman’s Club. On September 1935, after a long delay, Mayor E. A. Murray, City Clerk R. A. Sims, Club President Mrs. Seeley and Treasurer Mrs. Hennis met at the office of Col. R. M. Sherer, County Administrator, W.P.A., to discuss the building project. The Woman’s Club contribution was to be the lot, concrete mixer, plumbing and lighting. Things seemed to be ready…well almost.
In September of 1935, the plans for the building of the clubhouse got underway. The Club would obtain funds from the W.P.A. by deeding the lot to the City of Ocoee temporarily until the building was finished, it would then be deeded back to the Club. The original site for the clubhouse was to be on the corner of Oakland Ave. and Cumberland Street. On August 27, 1936, however, the Woman’s Club accepted the offer of a gift by Mrs. Eva Sims of two lots on Lakewood Street between Oakland Ave. and McKey Street in the Marion Park subdivision. Mrs. Jensen made a loan of $1200.00 to the Woman’s Club and the members voted to sell the club cottage on Lafayette Street. The W. P. A. began work and by April 1937, it was reported that the “work on the building is going along speedily.”
In November 1937 each member of the Woman’s Club purchased one chair for use in the clubhouse. But as with many government projects there was a major mistake. The roof had to be replaced because of an architectural mistake. The W. P. A. accepted the full cost of the new roof. Curtains were needed for the stage, and the cost of the desired maroon, velour curtains would be $300.00. It was decided that a six-member committee would accompany an agent and solicit advertisements from business firms to be displayed on a display curtain. The original velour curtains were replaced in 2005 but the advertisement display curtain is still being used in the Woman’s Club.
On February 7, 1938, the City of Ocoee turned the Clubhouse over to the Woman’s Club. The new curtains and drapes were installed, an ‘open house’ was held on February 11, 1938 with its first meeting held February 15, 1938 with thirty-five members present.
The Woman’s Club of Ocoee’s clubhouse has been in continuous use since that date. The population of Ocoee is currently 31,000 but was 300 in 1924. We continue to be a service-oriented organization.
Excerpts taken from The Ocoee History Messenger – July 2002, November 2002, and February 2003 issues.