On the surface it’s a simple monthly luncheon attend by women, mostly from Bloomington.
And as of this month, it’s a group that has 50 years of history, and community service, to look back upon.
The Bloomington Federated Woman’s Club held its monthly luncheon Nov. 14 at Minnesota Valley Country Club. Beyond the usual monthly business of the club, it was a time for reminiscing, as more than 80 club members and guests gathered to commemorate the organization’s 50th anniversary.
Founded in November 1962, the club was a spinoff of a now defunct Richfield club. Virginia Stockwell, a founding member of the Bloomington club, was a member of the Richfield group and wanted to belong to a chapter closer to home. As a matter of fact, the first meeting of the club was held in her home, according to Betty Bradshaw, a member of the Bloomington club since 1970.
Bloomington is part of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, founded in April 1890. Women’s clubs throughout the country, and internationally, support local organizations through fundraising and donations.
The Bloomington club has a long list of organizations and efforts it has supported through events such as its recent style show. One of the many benefitting organizations has been Bloomington-based Cornerstone, a domestic abuse resource center. The club will collect things needed by residents at Cornerstone’s shelter, such as towels, sheets or wrapping paper for Christmas gifts.
“You help us do the extra things,” Executive Director Susan Neis told the club.
Each year the club also provides scholarships to a Bloomington girl attending one of the city’s public high schools. In addition to the annual $2,000 scholarship, the group also gives $500 to a girl who will be attending Normandale Community College following high school, member Joan Petroff noted.
The club was formed with 37 charter members, and years ago had a waiting list, as its membership was capped at 100 members. Today there are about 80 members, many of whom are retired, but the club had a very different look to it in its early years. Many of the members were stay-at-home mothers, including Joan Wilharm, one of five charter members still active with the club. “Most of us still had children in school,” she said. “Some of us were still having babies.”
Through the decades fewer women stayed home to raise their children, resulting in today’s club, composed of mostly seniors. “We want to encourage a younger membership,” Bradshaw said. “We don’t want to be known as just a group of retired women.”
Besides the monthly luncheons, the club organizes special interest groups for members who are interested in activities such as playing bridge or knitting, and coordinates special events to fund its scholarships and other donations, Bradshaw noted.
“We do a lot of little things to raise money,” Petroff said.
Kay James, president of General Federated Women’s Club of Minnesota, congratulated the club on its achievements in “working together to make a difference in our communities and the world.”