Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club has a long and rich history of service. It is the oldest civic organization in our town. The only other organization which pre-dates our club is that serving the membership of military service men and women: Local American Legion Post #116.
In 1926, eight women, all of whom lived on the “Varina” area, met and organized themselves in the home of Ms. Bessie Hopson. Shortly thereafter, they moved into a rented room in the Judd Building on Broad Street. They called themselves the “Varina Woman’s Club” and elected Mrs. Hopson as their president and adopted their motto, “Service.” In 1951 it officially became the Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club, long before the town adopted the change in 1963. Women from both areas had been members over the years.
The women who founded the Varina Woman’s Club knew about two earlier levels of organization designed to unite women in support of causes important to their lives and families. The earliest, now known as GFWC (General Federation of Women’s Clubs) traced its origins to Jane Cunningham Croly, a professional journalist, who in 1868 had attempted to attend an all-male press club dinner honoring novelist Charles Dickens. Denied admittance based on gender, she formed a woman’s club called Sorosis. Across the nation other groups of women who had organized, attended a convention in New York City in 1898 to discuss the causes of their gender. From that cam the official General Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1890.
The General Federation of Women’s Clubs of North Carolina dates to 1902 when seven clubs held a convention in Winston-Salem. North Carolina’s Sallie Southall Cotton was a leader in the movement to provide for the women of our state. From their meeting came the state federation with 20 clubs in 1903.
Our Varina Woman’s Club voted to become a federated club in North Carolina Federation in 1927. Amorette Ballentine Judd was a charter member. She and her husband, Dr. J.M. Judd gave the Varina Woman’s Club a lot on Ennis Street, where Dr. Judd supervised the building of a clubhouse in 1936. The clubhouse has seen a few updates over the years, but it still has the original pine paneling and original windows. The FV Woman’s Clubhouse and the Wallace Woman’s Clubhouse are the only two found to have been built for this purpose in NC and still open today. In 1938 there were 31. In 2007 the clubhouse was designated on the National Register of Historic Sites. It received Landmark Recognition Wake County in 2010.
The Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club has organized two Fuquay-Varina Garden Clubs, the first in 1954 and the current one in 2007. A senior citizen organization, the Sippihaw Pioneers, was set up in 1971 and remained in existence for many years. One of the outstanding projects of Women’s Clubs was founding of the United States Public Libraries. The Fuquay Public Library was originated by the club in 1954 and remains a proud project of the club women, now under the Wake County Public Library System. Mrs. Helen Gunter, a club member, was the first librarian. The special education program was originated at the high school, glee clubs were created at the high school, a ceramic center existed in Falcon Park at one time, beautification and street lighting were led by the club, and the FV Theatre Arts Guild was organized. The FV Woman’s Club advocated for the Cultural Arts Center for decades. Scholarships have been provided annually at Fuquay-Varina High School, Harnett Central High School, Southern Wake Academy, and now Willow Spring High School. The FVWC administers the Fuquay-Varina Mini Grants for teachers and the FV Technical Scholarships in partnership with the Town of Fuquay-Varina. An annual Arts Festival, dating from the 1950s has been a proud program for club women and for students, now reaching 23 schools. The FVWC is also sharing its historical information with the FV Museums so that the records can be kept in perpetuity.
Federation Day for the GFWC is celebrated each April 24th. On that day in 1890, 63 clubs officially formed the GFWC. Today, we are one of nearly 3000 Woman’s Clubs. We strive to keep the motto of “Service” to this day through our Community Service Projects that benefit our town.