In the Spring of 1948, wives of local Jaycees members decided to participate in projects sponsored by their husbands’ club. Eight women began volunteering in various Jaycees community programs. The popularity of the group quickly spread. In a year’s time the women had recruited 60 other members. The Club membership was then limited to 100. In 1951 the membership limit was raised to 125. At the time, annual dues were five dollars.
In March 1949, the Young Woman’s Club of Williamsburg received its official charter from the General Federation of Women’s Club of Virginia and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Seventy-five members carried on the mission of implementing programs designed to augment various charities. The Club’s public services included making holiday favors for the trays at Eastern State Hospital, donating time to the “Servicemen’s Center,” collecting comic books, magazines, and playing cards for use at the Fort Eustis Hospital, collecting and distributing books for local hospitals, working with the Youth Center, and transporting children to Richmond for medical treatment.
Growth eventually forced the group to split along age boundaries. In 1954, the Junior Woman’s Club, with 22 charter members, began catering to women younger than 35, and those over 35 joined The Woman’s Club of Williamsburg. The division had no adverse effect on either group.
In 1956, the Bicycle Licensing Ordinance and Safety Program for children and adults, proposed by the Club, was endorsed and supported by civic and social organizations, the police department and approved by the Williamsburg City Council. For its achievement in traffic accident prevention, the National Safety Council of Chicago awarded the 1957 Carol Lane Award, The Certificate of Merit, to The Woman’s Club of Williamsburg.
In 1959, each club member donated one dollar toward the GFWC Virginia’s request that the clubs provide $25,000 to the Medical College of Virginia as “seed money” to purchase a cancer treatment machine called “Maxitron.” The Federation exceeded its goal.
In September 1960, The Woman’s Club of Williamsburg established a college scholarship program. Initially the program offered an annual award of $100 to a qualified high school senior at James Blair High School, Walsingham Academy, York High School or Bruton Heights High School, who were residents of Williamsburg, James City County, or Bruton District of York County. The schools recommended students for the award, and the recipient was chosen for scholastic record, good character, and need. The scholarship could be applied to a student’s tuition, books, room and board, or laboratory fees. The first scholarship award of $100 was given to Miss Margaret Minier of York High School to be used at Duke University for the academic year 1960-1962.
In 1961, Ways and Means projects included a grocery booth at the Lion’s Club Jamboree, bake sales, selling balloons on the street at the William and Mary homecoming parade, rummage sales, and a talent table at club meetings. Club members also crafted puppets and happy faces to give to the children’s wards at local hospitals.
In 1964-1976, the Club helped man the Virginia Museum of Art’s mobile unit in Williamsburg, donated to Eastern State and Patrick Henry hospitals, assisted with the open house of Tidewater Mental Health Clinic, furnished a model for the Junior Woman’s Club Fashion Show, distributed posters for the Heart Fund and Tuberculosis X-Ray drives, contributed a book to the Williamsburg Regional Library in honor of National Education Week, donated to the Wednesday Morning Music Club to help sponsor a concert by the Peninsula Symphony Orchestra, and donated to the SPCA.
In 1969, the Club honored the General Federal of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) request by contributing toward the purchase of “Clinic 6,” a cancer treating machine for use at the Medical Center of Virginia.
With the increased growth in the area’s population, the Club saw the need for a community center to provide a place for youth activities and a meeting place for 22 community organization. The Club’s Community Calendars for 1965 and 1966 raised $2700 to retire the loans for the community center and the mortgage was burned.
In 1972, the Club supported the Equal Rights Amendments for Women. In 1977, the Club assisted with the Channel 15 Great TV Auction, and donated $1500 to the fire department for the purchase of two frequency-transceivers.
In 1978, the Club influenced the Virginia Department of Transportation to widen Longhill Road leading to Lafayette High School and was awarded a Silver Tray Safety Award by the Tidewater District.
Starting in 1984, the Club supported Avalon, a center for women and children, by planting trees, supplying linens and toiletries, and celebrating children’s birthdays with a monthly cake and gifts. The Club helped women residents to learn skills that would enable them to enter the work force. Today, the Club continues to provide supplies needed by Avalon residents.
In 1985-1986, members’ initiatives united the efforts of the College of William and Mary, the City of Williamsburg, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and city residents in resolving the parking problem around the college and side streets.
In 1988 and continuing, members have supported FISH with annual food drives and our members volunteer many hours to FISH. Our members worked at Busch Gardens, earning thousands of dollars for the Club over the years to support numerous Club projects. In 1989, the Club contributed to the Arthritis Telethon.
In 1991 the club participated in World Food Day, contributing money to CARE. Members continue to collect support local schools through grocery store purchases and the collection of Campbell labels for the schools to use in acquiring needed equipment.
In 1994, members attended the GFWC of Virginia Legislative Rally Day at the General Assembly in Richmond. Centerpieces were provided for the GFWC “Tree of Knowledge” conference. Members joined with other organization to prepare lunches for volunteers working on construction of the Kidsburg playground. For years the Club, the League of Women Voters and the Williamsburg Library have co-sponsored the Great Decisions meetings held at the Williamsburg Regional Library. Our Woman’s Club has been honored as a Five Star Club in the Federation.
In 2000, the Club honored those who served in World War II by interviewing veterans and preparing a book featuring their stories. The book is now in the Library of Congress and Swem Library at William & Mary. By 2008, the Club had 98 members, who worked on 71 projects, gave 10,000 hours of their time, and raised over $10,000 that was distributed to needy organizations.
The Club currently has 55 members and continues to raise thousands of dollars, serve thousands of volunteer hours, and donate countless items to many needy causes and programs. The Club donates more than $10,000 each year. From the early days of $100 scholarships, the Club has increased the amounts and numbers of scholarships awarded. Lately, we’ve awarded two to four scholarships of $1,000-$1,500 each.