100 years ago, the Woman's Club of Key West came into being through a unique evolutionary process. A series of organized efforts by small groups contributed directly to its becoming a federated organization. The Club's heritage can be traced to a small group of public-spirited men who, on April 8, 1892, organized the "Key West Library Association." In 1896, "The Annex," an auxiliary to an Improvement Society started by some of the forefathers of Key West took over the small library association. With the books and the name, they inherited a debt in excess of three hundred dollars. Mrs. May Coleman Kemp was its first president. Another early officer and an ardent supporter of the library was Mrs. Sophia Curry.
On January 14,1909, the "Mothers Club," an affiliate of the Hargrove Institute (a Methodist School), was organized by Miss Marion Wells with Mrs. C. H. Ketchum as its first president. Two years later on March 22, 1911, "The Ladies Civic Organization" was organized with Mrs. Florence H. Dobbs as President. On May 3, 1915, Miss Marie Cappick, with the help of a few friends, organized the "Woman's Club of Key West." The first president of the new Club was Mrs. Laura Morreno, paternal grandmother of Betty (Mrs. Toby) Bruce, local historian.
Learning that the "Library Association" was experiencing financial difficulty, the "Woman's Club" assumed the operation of the library as its foremost project. For forty-four years, the Club maintained and operated the only public library in the city. It was housed in several locations in the community from 1915 to 1941. The last eighteen years of its existence as a Woman's Club project from 1941 to 1959 were spent in the Club home located at 319 Duval Street. On July 10,1918, Mrs. Haydn llingsworth, president of the Woman's Club called a meeting with the two other Key West Clubs, The Mother's Club of the Hargrove Institute and the Ladies Civic Association. The three groups voted to merge under the name, "The Woman's Consolidated Club Corporation of Key West." Mrs. Stephen Lowe served as first president of the new organization.
On December 20, 1929, the present name, "The Key West Woman's Club," was adopted. Mrs. William Warren was president at that time. During Mrs. Warren's administration, the Club purchased its first home located on Truman Avenue. In 1941 this building was sold and the present Clubhouse was purchased. Mrs. Frederick Knapp was president during this change of location. Mrs. Dan Navarro served as president of the Club from 1943-1948. During her administration, Mrs. Navarro provided the leadership for the organization of the Community Concerts and sponsorship by the Key West Woman' Club. She and her board of directors cooperated with the Barn Theatre Players by permitting them to use the Woman's Club without charge.
In 1947 Mrs. Navarro appointed her first Vice-President, Mrs Leland Goddard, chairman to compile a Cookbook of Key West recipes. The committee selected to serve with her was Mrs. Frank E. Bowser and Mrs. Oliver Griswold who later was replaced by Mrs. Cyril Marshall. The major part of the work was done under Mrs. Navarro's administration and was completed during Mrs. Goddard's term as president.
Mrs. Goddard was elected president of the Club in March 1948. Her main project was the completion of the Key West Cookbook. The president wrote the foreword and she financed the first printing of the book. Mrs. Goddard worked tirelessly to reactivate the Key West Garden Club, an organization in prewar years, which had attained distinction with its Flower Shows and beautification of Key West. Mrs. Goddard was the guest of the Woman's Club of Havana, Cuba where she spoke about the Key West Cookbook.
The paying and burning of the Club's mortgage in 1954 highlighted Mrs. Wallace Kirke's presidency. Under Mrs. Kirke's direction the Key West Youth Center was organized. During this administration, the "Tropical Luncheon" was revived and once again a delicious menu of famous Key West dishes was served to two hundred women in February with Lillian (Mrs. Aquilino) Lopez, Jr. as chairman.
Under the administration of Mrs. Ray W. Burns, Mothers and Daughters Luncheon was revived. The Club also during her term sponsored a scholarship concert by Key West's young and gifted pianist, Miguel Mariscal at the Convent Auditorium on March 13, 1956, Restoration of the Club kitchen was started and new china and fifty tablecloths were purchased. The Hospitality Committee presented the Club with a beautiful silver tea service. The Club purchased a painting by Robert Eugene Otto, renowned artist and native Key Wester, which hangs above the mantle in the assembly room.
During Mrs. Orion Russell's four years as president of the Club, the exterior of the building was painted and renovated. The grounds were beautifully landscaped and a brick patio was built across the front. The driveway was hard surfaced and the front yard was lighted for evening affairs. Financial aid was received from the Junior Woman's Club, Key West Players, and the Garden Club,
In December 1957,Mrs. Norberg Thompson and Miss Ileen Williams presented the Club with a handsome silver tea service.
In April 1957, the Woman's Club under it president, Mrs. Orion Russell, sponsored a countywide meeting to organize a drive to raise funds for a public library, The drive of two months duration produced approximately $35,000 with the Monroe County Board of Commissioners giving $25,000 in the 1957-58 budget. Mr. Karl Thompson, a retired businessman, community leader and member of a prominent Key West family presented a site for the building in December 1957. The gift was made as a memorial to his mother, Mrs. Mary M. Thompson.
In January 1958, the Monroe County Library Association was formed with Mr. Thompson as Honorary President for life, and Mrs. Orion Russell as President. Captain O.A. Sandquist, First Vice-President, was appointed Chairman of the Planning Committee. William H. Merriam of Miami, Florida was chosen as the architect. In April 1958 plans were approved and construction of the building was set for the summer of 1958.
On September 2, 1958 construction of the new library was begun. The contractors were Johnson and Curry. Captain Sanquist (retired) made daily supervision visits of the project at no cost to the Association. In June 1959 a beautiful, pink Bermuda-type building with white slate roof was presented to the Monroe County Commission complete with deed to the property. In the same month, Governor LeRoy Collins appointed the following members to the first Monroe County Library Board: Mrs. William R. Warren, Miss Mary Trevor, Mrs. Nan Mayhew, Mrs. Orion A. Russell, and Karl O. Thompson.
In October 1958 the Key West Woman's Club started a project to raise funds for the furnishings of the new library. The Club assisted by the Juniors and SubDebs raised sufficient funds to furnish the children's section.
On September 10, 1959, the Woman's Club's ten thousand volumes of books were moved by members of the Jaycees into the new library building, thus ending forty-four years of Woman's Club library service to the community. The Club is deeply indebted to Mrs. Lewis H. Schuck for her faithful service to the library as librarian and custodian for fourteen years. Mrs. William Stanfield assisted us also.
On November 15, 1959 the Monroe County Public Library was dedicated and opened to the public. During the impressive ceremonies, Mrs. Dan L. Navarro, a past president of the Woman's Club, made a presentation of the Woman's Club Library to the new institution. Mrs. Orion Russell, President of the Monroe County Library Association, presented the new building to Mr. Gerald Saunders, chairman of the Monroe County Commissions. The guest speaker for the occasion was State Senator Travis A. Gresham, Jr.
In May 1960, Mrs. Frank Modderno was installed as President of the Club but resigned in February 1961 to accompany her husband on an overseas assignment in Italy. Mrs. Moddeno's main project was "Youth Conservation."
Mrs. Walter R. McCook was then elected to the Presidency. Mrs. McCook pursued the needs of children in Monroe County. The Club year closed with a workshop culminating in the results of a six months survey of children's needs. The workshop included professors from the University of Florida and Florida State University. This survey pointed out a great need for a Guidance Clinic for both parents and children.
In May 1964, Mrs. Raymond Felton succeeded Mrs. McCook as Club President for a term of two years. During Mrs. Felton's administration the Club's rooms formerly used to house the public library were restored. Handsome chandeliers were installed and the rooms redecorated, recalling the splendor of Key West's 1890's. A Gene Otto painting of tropical fruits indigenous to the island was purchased and hung. Mrs. Felton's committee for the restoration project was Mrs. William R. Warren, and artist Gene Otto. The restored tea room was given the name, "Ruby Room," by the President matching the Tiffany red etched glass doors through which the sun rays cast a brilliant red, ruby glow.
Mrs. Felton's administration was marked by the celebration of the Club's Fiftieth Anniversary. Although the anniversary date was May 3, 1915, the General Federation ruled that the occasion could be celebrated on any date within the year. The date set for the observance was April 26, 1966. The affair was well attended with Mrs. William H. Warren giving the address of varied accounts of the Club's history.
In May 1966, Mrs. Paul E. Newhouse was elected to the office of President of the Key West Woman's Club. The theme selected for her administration was "Tune In To Channel FFWC Faith, Facts, Work Cooperation!" By June the new president was off to the General Federation of Women's Clubs Convention in Chicago for its, seventy-fifth anniversary. Miss Minnie-Porter Harris, Mrs. W. Curry Harris and Mrs. Walter McCook accompanied her. Miss Harris served at least seventeen years in official capacity on the board of the General Federation and with the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs.
In October, the Club year was launched with a sample fair, which netted $1,300.00. Mrs. Stacy Rowell was chairman. During Old Island Days, the Club scheduled an old fashioned box social. Club members as hostesses, wore beautiful gowns of Key West's early era. Mrs. Stacy Rowell, Finance Chairman was in charge, followed in the spring of 1967 by a Kiddie Fashion Show staged for the benefit of the Old Folks Home (now called Bayshore Manor). Mrs. Robert Dopp's Youth Orchestra furnished music.
In March, the Senior Woman's Club of Key West with the cooperation of the Monroe County Health Department, the Monroe County Board of Public Instruction, and the Monroe County Council of PTAs sponsored a Community Health Seminar. Also in March, the Club co-sponsored a Reading Conference with the Monroe County Public Library, the Monroe County Reading Council (with Dr. Richard L. Carner, Director) and the Reading Clinic, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida called "Reading is for Everyone."
On March 7, the Woman's Club honored Mrs. William I. Martens, Director of District 11 at a luncheon held at the Clubhouse. In May the Woman's Club co-sponsored the dedication of an historic marker citing South Florida's first public library and the celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the early institution. Mrs. E. D. Pearce, president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, delivered the main address at the ceremony held in the library garden. John Pennekamp, a director of the board of Florida's Parks and Historical Monuments, presented the marker to the Honorable Gerald Saunders, Mayor of Monroe County. Mrs. Paul Newhouse, current Club President, and Mrs. William H. Warren, past president, unveiled the marker with Mrs. Dan Navarro and Mrs. Orion A. Russell. They are credited with having found the proof that Key West held the significant honor of having established the first library in South Florida.
During the early summer of 1967 the historic little building located on the Club property and known to many for years as the Barn Theatre was restored under the direction of Yehuda Guttman, a concert pianist of renown from New York, and our tenant. The little building was transformed into a miniature concert hall complete with handsome red draperies and a crystal chandelier. The receipts from the first concert were presented to the Woman's Club to be used for one of the charities.
Program highlights in November included the observance of "American Education Week" and an Arts Festival under the direction of Mrs. Harold Campbell with Dr. John Sylvester Smith, president of the Florida Keys Junior College as the featured speaker. A bazaar and luncheon were the outstanding activities in December. The chairman of this project was Mrs. Stacy Rowell. Receipts amounted to $1,307.36. In January, Mrs. Edgar Stark reviewed the booklet, "Prayers to Pray Without Really Trying," by Stuchen.
February was marked with a number of activities. The American Citizenship Department under the chairmanship of Mrs. B. W. Zurhorst presented Juvenile Judge Mrs. Ann Dion Sobieski on February 6 in a talk about the problems of juvenile delinquency At this meeting Miss Annamerle Zwitman delivered her essay, "Why I Am Proud to be an American." For this literary achievement Miss Zwitman received an award and a check from the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs plus a second check from the Key West Woman's Club. In recognition for having the winning contestant a Certificate of Merit for Outstanding achievement was received by the local Club from the American Citizenship Division of the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs.
Old Island Days participation included a "Conch Supper" planned by Mrs. W. Curry Harris and her committee, Mrs. Orion Russell and Mrs. Paul Newhouse.
On February 19, the Club co-sponsored with the Monroe County Public Library a beautiful program, "A Danish Festive Evening". Mrs. Charles Addison Post, a native of Copenhagen, Denmark was featured in a lecture, "How to Have Fun in Denmark". The library was resplendent with flags of the United States and Denmark, pictures of the King and Queen of Denmark, colorful roosters and red shawls, the hallmark of the Old Island Restoration Foundation of Key West. The handsome framed shield of the General Federation of Woman's Clubs was displayed with a framed history of the home of the Key West Woman's Club.
On March 6, the Club was honored by a visit from the Director of District 11, Mrs. William I. Martens. The Club participated in the observance of National Library Week in April and served with the Junior Woman's Club.
The Club established a new project, a scholarship fund for a student at the Florida Keys Junior College, with Mrs. Ethea Stricker, Education Chairman. Funds are made available by contributions from Club members on birthday anniversaries.
The Woman's Club was enhanced by the addition of several pieces of antique furniture of 18th Century, English, Chippendale, Sheraton and the Adams period. Mrs. Claude W Freeman, Club member, and accomplished decorator served as chairman of the project with Mrs. William R. Warren and Mrs. A.J. Mills. Among gifts presented to the Club during the year were ornamental plants by Mrs. William R. Warren, a handsome Chippendale settee and chair by Mrs. Claude W. Freeman, two fine old china plates to be displayed on the secretary in the newly decorated sitting room and the beautiful chairs for the meeting room by Mrs. Samuel Golan. Mrs. Newhouse's administration closed with 41 new members. A National Citation for its Civic Improvement Program for the period of 1966-1968 was received.
The new president, Mrs. W. Curry Harris, was installed May 25, 1968, and the theme, "Let's Get Involved With Our Community," announced.
A symposium, "Reviving Family Unity" was held in April 1969. The meeting was coordinated with the Monroe County Parent Teacher's Council and the Monroe County Health Department. In a concerted effort to educate the youth of the community to the dangers of drug abuse, the Key West Woman's Club brought to the city a reformed drug addict, Mrs. Florrie Fisher, who addressed the student body at Key West and Mary Immaculate High Schools.
The Mother-Daughter luncheon closed the Club year with two outstanding women being honored. Mrs. William R. Warren was presented with an inscribed miniature gold book pin, the hallmark of the outstanding women of the Key West Woman's Club. Miss Minnie-Porter Harris was presented a fifty-year pin, a gift of Mrs. Mildred Alhgren, Public Relations Director of the General Federation of Women's Clubs. Mrs. Warren devoted many years to community betterment while Miss Harris served in the Florida Federation since 1940 and in the General Federation for twenty years. In the latter organization, she served as aide to three General Federation presidents. She is currently serving the Florida Federation as a hostess to speakers.
"Operation Crime Stop" and box suppers were carried into the second year of Mrs. Harris' administration. At the October meeting the Chief of Police showed a film on safe driving directed at the youth of the community.
In March 1969 on the occasion of the District Director's visit to the Club, the mortgage contracted in 1964 was burned.
In April 1970, the Key West Woman's Club sponsored a drive to raise funds for an addition to the Monroe County Public Library with Mrs. Paul Sawyer and Mrs. Orion Russell on the steering committee.
In April 1970, the State President at the State Convention in Sarasota appointed Mrs. Paul E. Newhouse to the Board of Environmental Health. Mrs. Orion A. Russell was presented the Business and Professional Women's "Better Woman" award at their installation banquet held in May 1970 by Wilhelmina Harvey.
At the May luncheon of 1970, a new group of officers was elected with Mrs. Mario (Lanor) Borras as President. The theme chosen for the administration was "A Better Understanding of Our Community Through Cooperation with All It's Agencies."
In June 1970 the Club entertained visiting wives of Florida Sheriffs who were holding their convention in Key West. Mrs. Paul E. Newhouse with Mrs. Roy (Barbara) Anderson in charge of entertainment arranged the affair. It was held at Martello Gallery.
A "Bucket for Books" games night was held in September 1970 to raise funds for the state project scheduled by the Environmental Health Division of the General Federation of Women's Clubs. The funds raised were for drug commercials on national television.
A Fashion Fair held at the Holiday Inn in November 1971, with Mrs. Roy Anderson and Mrs. Joseph Langr as Co-Chairmen raised $1,400.00.
In December 1970, Yehuda Guttman presented a concert at the piano with Eleanor Backus reading her own poetry.
Mrs. Paul E. Newhouse was appointed Environmental Health Chairman for 1970-1972 by FFWC. Environmental Health held two workshops in 1970 and 1971, which won a State award.
Senior citizens at the County Home were entertained at Christmas in 1970 and 1971.
In January 1972, in observance of Key West's Sesquicentennial, the Club feted descendants of families settling on the island before 1872 at a Reception. On display were many photographs of early Key West, maps and prints loaned by the Monroe County Public Library and the Art and Historical Society. Mrs. Samuel L. Golan and Mrs. Lester M. Morrell landscaped the old fountain in the front patio, which enhanced the entrance of our fine old building. Mrs. Paul E. (Eva) Newhouse, Mrs. C. B. (Wilhelmina) Harvey, and Mrs. Ronald H. (Mona) Chase were the committee who arranged and directed the affair. Forty-four new members were added.
The Key West Cookbook was again printed in New York. This was the fourteenth (14th) printing for this famous little book. Farrar, Straus & Company did twelve of the printings while Peacock Publications (Mr. Cross Sidare) did the other two printings.
Mrs. Charles J. (Annice) Curry presented the Club with several pieces of beautiful old furniture for the Ruby Room. The family of the late Mrs. William R. Warren presented a handsome old china cabinet to be used also in this room in memory of Miss Gen, a dedicated community leader and lifelong member.
The 1972-74 administration began with Yolanda (Mrs. W. Curry) Harris as the new President. The theme chosen for the two years was "Restore Honesty, Integrity, Morals and Truth".
The first event was a "Fashion Fair" held at Holiday Inn under the direction of Barbara (Mrs. Roy) Anderson and Chris (Mrs. Joseph) Langr. The affair was most successful with $2,000 net realized.
December 1972, was a busy month with a Christmas Party scheduled for underprivileged children with Margo (Mrs. Samuel L.) Golan presenting two giant stockings filled with toys. Early in 1973 the Club made a major effort locally and statewide toward legislation for a hitchhiking law. Appeals were made to County Commissioners and legislators. Representative Van B. Poole of Broward County proposed the bill and Senators Poston and Gruber agreed to support it. A certificate of achievement was presented to the Club by the General Federation of Women's Clubs and the Sears Roebuck Foundation in recognition of the effort made in this project.
In November 1973 another Fashion Fair was staged at Holiday Inn. Eva (Mrs. Paul E.) Newhouse and Chris Langr were Co-Chairmen. This event netted approximately $3,000.00.
The restoration of the Club building occupied much time and effort of Club members during the two years. It was necessary to negotiate a loan of $6,28000 from the Florida First National Bank for the project. The work included painting of the exterior and interior of the building, a new stairway to the second floor on the front side; a second stairway from the rear and a new roof (1974) was installed over the pantry. Margo (Mrs. Samuel L.) Golan gave a handsome blue carpet for the tearoom and to complete the decor presented the Club with a gift of $1,000.00 for draperies in the meeting room, the formal reception room, and the tearoom.
Another gift presented by Mrs. Golan which was Club related was a $10,000.00 check to Monroe County Public Library in memory of her husband, Samuel L. Golan. The gift was used to furnish the new East Wing at the library.
Professor Carl F. Bergman of the Florida Keys Community College gave an informative talk on inflation.
Eva Newhouse was named International Hostess in the Florida Federation of Woman's Clubs. For the 1974-76 administration of the FFWC, Eva received appointments as Chairman of International Policy and the United Nations.
In May 1974 the Installation Luncheon led by Emily (Mrs. Leland H.) Goddard introduced the incoming President Wilhelmina (Mrs. C. B.) Harvey. The "Outstanding Award" was presented to Mary (Mrs. Edward) Graham in recognition of her many years of devoted and constructive service to her community.
The following members were recognized by the General Federation of Woman's Clubs with citations in achieving "firsts" in their community: Mrs. Edward Graham, Mrs. C. B. Harvey, Mrs. Maurice C. Kivel, and Mrs. Orion A. Russell. The outgoing President, Yolanda Harris, had reduced the Club's indebtedness to $3,684.64 plus interest.
With Wilhelmina G. (Mrs. C. B. Harvey) as the newly elected president, another precedent was set when Wilhelmina served for six elected consecutive years. After serving the first two (two year) terms, the membership voted to change maximum consecutive serving from 4 to 6 years, thus the service years 1974-80.
With the theme "From Sea to Shining Sea" Wilhelmina had the Club prepare for the nation's 200th birthday as our Bicentennial Celebration. Members proved every bit as public-spirited as the group of women back in 1892 to which the Club was indebted for its beginnings. The events held for all citizens of Monroe County resulted in our Club being declared "First in Florida" in Citizenship (American Heritage). Bicentennial certificates were given out July 4, 1976.
For the first time Club members taped stories of the county's pioneers and senior citizens, which were transcribed for reading as well as listening pleasure. "Key West and Monroe County As It Was In Years Gone By" produced thousands of words recorded, which could have been lost to history. The late Mary (Mrs. Frank) Malone and Maggie (Mrs. Maurice) Kivel proved excellent chairmen and the old fountain at the front of the Clubhouse was dedicated in Mary's memory. Tapes and histories are available at all public libraries of Monroe County.
Old Island Days 1975 found our Club's doors and gardens open to the public. Members, in white with red shawls, scurried around serving guests. We had our building placed on Old Island's recognized list of "old and historic" buildings. Our drawing (assembly) room was air conditioned, as well as other rooms, for the first time, and hand fans used before became tomorrow's antiques. The octagonal (green) room, which had not been used for years, was cleared of stored debris and made usable again under Barbara (Mrs. Roy) Anderson.
Bridge games, round robins and other games were begun under chairmanship of Mary (Mrs. Ralph) Bates and have continued each Monday for years now. The annual Tropical Luncheons with home cooked food, which had been discontinued, were held again and have continued getting better with each passing year.
Mrs. Margo Golan (Mrs. Sam), the famous Innkeeper of the local Holiday Inn and the Club's fairy godmother, together with Mrs. Connie Freeman, Mrs. Thelma (Vernon) Page, Mrs. Annice (Charles) Curly, the late Mrs. Genevieve Warren, and others, all benefactresses, proved to be "Woman's Club Angels" again and again!
We hung plaques relating the history of the Club building on both inside and outside the building.
A Court 0bserver Program with members serving as volunteers at different court sessions was begun to help reduce workload of courts and reduce the excess number of prisoners being held in jail.
The "Woman's Club Cookbook", first printed in 1948 under Emily (Mrs. Lee) Goddard, President, and planned for and begun under Eva (Mrs. Dan) Navarro was given world-wide coverage under Miss Minnie Porter-Harris, long-time appointed hostess to each new National (General) President with her travels abroad. Although the cookbook sales increased (Mrs. Goddard loaned money to the Club for its initial printing), each year the Club barely had enough receipts to cover the costs of renewed printing. This changed under Wilhelmina Harvey's administration (particularly with the help of members Maggie Kivel, Peggy McClain and the late May Hill Russell). When Wilhelmina completed her term, she had amassed the sum of $15,000 net profit balance in the Cookbook Fund. By this time, it cost about $3,000 to publish a new supply of cookbooks. Fashion Fairs at the Holiday Inn with Barbara (Mrs. Roy) Anderson as chairman brought "raves" from the public and adulation from the membership. Barbara and Chris (Mrs. Joe) Langr with their ideas and professionalism proved as creative as the late Ernie Seiler did to Miami's Orange Bowl Parade. The "Salute to the USA" included many school children saluting Wilhelmina who was serving as chairman of the Monroe County School Board.
A Victorian Christmas Bazaar found Emily Goddard as Chairman bringing out the hidden talents of such members as Elena (Mrs. William) Albury, Urilda (Mrs. Mark) Follmer and others. Many dollars were raised from this project, to such an extent that once again we began our annual Christmas parties in cooperation with the Oldest House (across the street) and the City of Key West in lighting our tree citywide.
Mother-daughter luncheons continued to be enjoyed with Gertrude (Mrs. Sandy) Sandquist, Ingurtha (Mrs. Luther) Pinder, Mildred (Mrs. Raymond) Felton, Mrs. Susan Morris, Dr. Shirley Van Meter (Mrs. William) Freeman, Ruth (Mrs. Lester) Morrell, etc.
Maggie Kivel was the first county woman to be chosen as Foreman of the Grand Jury, while Eva (Mrs. Paul) Newhouse was again chosen as the state's International Policy Chairman of the Federation and Wilhelmina Harvey was selected as the state's chairman on Beautification.
A tree was planted in the Club's garden in memory of its long time treasurer, Virginia (Mrs. William) Gamble.
The Woman's Club membership was raised to an unprecedented number under Dr. Shirley Freeman and Mary (Mrs. Don) Myers. When Wilhelmina took office there were 110 members and at the end of her term of office (1980), the Club boasted of 260 members.
The old dilapidated wrought iron fence (with red-bricked bottom) was replaced, the wrought iron fountain was restored and the back garden was red bricked to match the front yard.
November 1980 found the Club's president, Wilhelmina Harvey, being elected as the first woman to be elected to the Board of Monroe County Commissioners in the 157-year history of the county. A Commissioner's job was always considered a man's job but not anymore because Wilhelmina was already hard at work.
Mary Willard was elected president for 1980 to 1982, however, Mary was called back home to Miami after serving a short one and one-half years. During this term, a first was accomplished since Mary and her committee worked and achieved a Tax Exempt status for the Club. Other accomplishments during this administration included helping clean the City of Key West, Tropical Lunches, Christmas parties, etc.
Nancy (Mrs. Cohn) Jameson completed the remaining months of the previous president and also served two terms of her own from 1982 to 1986. A great first under Nancy was the formation of a Bahama Village Drill Team with young people being drilled by the US Armed Forces at Key West. This team performed in many of the local parades. Another decided accomplishment was the addition of a second bathroom downstairs. The Clubhouse was being rented out for private functions and two bathrooms were in demand. A Fund Drive was successful in a "Save the Baby" project and sufficient monies were raised to purchase a baby respirator and donate it to the local hospital. Nancy continued with Tropical Lunches, participation in parades in which trophies were won. General repairs (roof and porch) were made to the building.
With the year 1986 came a new president, Peggy (Mrs. Roy) McClain and some of the greatest accomplishments, if not the greatest, were ordained to happen, history-wise, Club-wise, community-wide, state and national-wide.
Peggy McClain was chosen by the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs as the "Number One Club Woman of the Year for 1986-1987". Peggy's exemplary leadership shows responsiveness to the ideals and aims of our State Federation, which is a part of our International Federation. Not only did Peggy lead us well but also the general Woman's Club Federation chose our local Key West Woman's Club as leading the entire nation in our "Help With Aids Program".
With our local Woman's Club building being almost one hundred years old, our President received the help she needed for her Executive Committee, Board of Directors, and Membership to focus on the restoration of this historic building. Several years ago we were selected to be on the National Historic Record of Buildings. A total of $35,000 was received in grants and donations.
Other reasons why our President, Peggy was awarded First Place in our State's Federation Leadership Division was the thousands upon thousands of dollars she had raised as Fund Chairman for Hospice, Aids Help, Helpline, and many other deserving causes.
As if the foregoing were not enough to keep 200 members busy, with Chairmen Petronella Collins and Amanda Kesar, our President saw to it that an entirely new Woman's Club Cookbook was printed. Sales have been astronomical to say nothing of the wonderful dishes that have graced all of America's tables as a result.
Back from the State Convention in Orlando, Florida found the Key West Woman's Club with seven awards for even different programs such as those already mentioned with two prizes from the Home Life Division, Aids Help, and Fund Raising.
Peggy McClain, Club President, not one to bask in having been selected as "Club Woman of the Year for 1986-87" by the National Federation was determined to exceed the past years' accomplishments. The Key West Woman's Club raised an estimated $144,172.00 in the year 1988. This is a phenomenal amount in comparison to what Clubs in very large cities have raised.
Peggy McClain proved to be the greatest of fund-raisers and her leadership was constantly sought by other organizations. The $144,172.00 moneys raised were not all for the Woman's Club but included funds raised with the community for other worthy causes and charities. Funds raised and retained by the Club were placed in the Clubhouse Restoration Fund. Naturally, the raising of such funds could be accomplished only by the cooperation of our Club members. Thousands of volunteer Hours are broken down into individual Annual Club Reports.
Club Programs throughout the year have been outstanding. Among these were Meg Moore, Realtor Extraordinaire who spoke on selling and buying real estate. A Candidates Forum where county, state and national candidates spoke of their platforms for members' enlightenment. David Tackett, President of Southeast Bank spoke about "Trusts, Wills, Probate, etc.". Joe Barker of Wesley House Child Care Center spoke about the Center's work on which our Vice President, Amanda Kesar, served as President for eight years. Amanda Kesar was awarded "Club Woman of the Year" while Eva Newhouse and Dorothy Reddoch became Honorary Members. Margaret McQuillan was "saluted" on her 90th birthday, an international concert artist also entertained at our meeting while three members were honored with birthday parties namely, Ethea Stricker, Ingurtha Pinder and Wilhelmina Harvey.
Among other outstanding events participated in 1988-89 by the Key West Woman's Club was entering floats in various parades whether military, patriotic, fantasy or fun and usually winning First Prize within the category entered. Under Peggy McClain's "reign", many young women have joined our Club's ranks. There seems to be a job for everyone - an Open Door Policy where quality exists. The Club even sponsored boats in regattas. Michele Hardin Kieldsdon, our PR member, volunteered her husband's yacht and again, the Club came out a First Place Winner.
Each year at Christmas the Club salutes the Community, including the Florida Keys, and Christmas 1988 found our most prestigious hotels decorating one room in each in our almost century-old building. Prizes were awarded, and needless to say, each room won an accolade of some sort. Foods typical of their select dining rooms were served each guest while dear ole' Santa led us in the singing of carols. This Club really belongs to the community irrespective of status or age. The Founder's Society, a support group for the Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center, shares some of the same members who raise funds and pursue programs.
Past local President and State Beautification Chairman of Florida Federation Wilhelmina Harvey called on Peggy McClain and members to assist her in helping to keep Bayshore Manor (an elderly Care Center) open. Due to members efforts this convalescent home was granted a year's reprieve.
Peggy McClain, President, was invited to speak before two workshops at FFWC Convention April 29-30, 1989.
"Sharing" is our Club's middle name. For example, two volunteer days each week were allotted for "Aids Help". Volunteer hours in the thousands have been given to Blood Drives, American Red Cross, Helpline, Hospice, Special Olympics, Convalescent Home(s), Saving Historic Buildings, etc, Wesley House, MARC House, area hospitals, Founder's Society, Hacienda Girls Ranch, Festival of Continents, and the Tennessee Williams Fine Arts Center.
The fiscal year 1989-1990 under Mrs. Roy ("Peggy") McClain's stewardship brought still more unprecedented accomplishments to the Key West Woman's Club. Namely:
(1) $263,120.00 proved the final count of Funds raised for the YEAR for which the Club had worked and/or received in grants.
(2) The coveted Chevron (CIP) Civic Improvement Program Award to the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs ($150.00 check) went to the Key West Woman's Club, which was unprecedented, and a first such award to the Club.
(3) Awards and more awards were received from the Florida Federation
Ten (10) "First Place" Federation Awards
Three (3) "Second Place" Federation Awards
Two (2) "Third Place" Federation Awards
Two (2) "Appreciation" Awards
For the second time in the history of the Key West Woman's Club, the President was re-elected for a third term (6 years). The previous Club's six-year President, Wilhelmina Harvey was chosen by the Florida Federation as First Place Winner for being the Most Effective Elected Member Holding Public Office as Mayor, Monroe County Commissioners.
1991-92 leaves the Woman's Club with only one additional year of President Peggy McClain's third term, which explodes with still greater accomplishments. In fact, every year of Peggy's term as President witnessed outstanding results that were never before accomplished. Some of these accomplishments were:
(1) Money raised in Club Year $256,698.00. (2) Volunteer hours involved during year: 15,139 hours on seven projects with 228 members (100% of Club membership) being involved. (3) Three new fund-raisers were added: Hemingway House, Haunted House and Christmas Bazaar. These added $17,100.00 to aid in restoration of our elegant and historical Club.
We honored one of America's late and greatest writers who maintained a home here. We transformed our Clubhouse into a Community Haunted House that adults loved as much as the kids. Tombstones, bloody surgery, fanatic doctors, corpses, dungeons and Miss Haversham of "Great Expectations." Patrons paid $10,000.00, which included $2,000.00 from donor. Our Club President was presented with another $10,000.00 from friends to help with restoration.
This year, we won FIRST Prize again with our Fantasy Fest FLOAT with twenty young members on it as beautiful as ever. We under spent by $2,000.00, which was made possible by the contribution of a sponsor. Boy, our leader surely saves our money.
We set up a REFRESHMENT BAR in the Club's front courtyard on Duval Street (Main Street). With so many contributions from the city's large hotels and businesses we took in $10,000.00 of the thirsty "parade-watchers" pocket money, declaring a profit of $9,000.00 while we quenched thirsts, thousands of them.
This Club year even the printing of our YEARBOOK brought a profit of $197.00. (Total cost was $1,153.00.)
Another $100.00 was raised by the auction of a TV given by a member. $4,020.00 was raised from rentals of Clubhouse and Red Barn and parking places. We used this fund for "Dollars for Delegates" with pride.
$19,032.00 resulted from the rental of two upstairs apartments of the Clubhouse.
A 55-year tradition, our Club's annual "TROPICAL LUNCHEON" during "OLD ISLAND DAYS" cleared $1,650.00 while folks talked about the luncheon fare for months.
Our Woman's Club cookbook, which has traveled over the world, brought us $19,032.00 in sales plus demand galore.
During Christmas 1990, an unheard-of fantastic sum of $13,400.00 was amassed from Clubhouse Tours; decorations of each Clubhouse room by local hotels and refreshment bar. All the while, the Club's annual Christmas Party was held for the communities of Monroe County. What a jolly evening with the good-humored Mayor and Santa, himself (Joe Lizka). Another $3,000.00 must be added to this $13,400.00 figure for raffle monies. An additional $2,800.00 was raised through the raffle of an ingot donated by the owner of the famous wreck "Atocha", Mr. Mel Fisher. Peggy makes sure our Key West Woman's Club is included in everything going on.
Our 2nd annual "Feather Your Nest" Auction witnessed the largest amount of funds with $45,000.00 the last total count.
Our 3rd year for the "Jack Baron Art Show" to raise funds for restoration brought in another breath taking exhibit as well as $35,000.00.
The State of Florida awarded a $25,000.00 Matching Grant that was used to air condition our Clubhouse. In 1989, the state had awarded a Historical Restoration Grant of $177,000.0.0 but had to cut the amount in 1990 to $133,000.00. The restorations included interior rooms, the roof, electrical and carpentry work leaving the Clubhouse once again elegant and an example of exceedingly good taste.
Among Clubs that "do and donate to others" the Key West Woman's Club must rate highly since we contributed over $61,000.00 to numerous charities.
In 1990, four Key West Woman's Club members were particularly honored for their service to the community:
Mary Spottswood is the "Lady of the Year" as the Chamber of Commerce saluted her on behalf of the community that she has loved and served so well. Her sweet, loving, giving, and caring nature has endeared her to everyone she knows. Even those who do not know her personally, but have benefited from all her philanthropic work hold her in high esteem. Mary is especially active in the Red Cross, the Heart Fund and the Easter Seal Association.
County Mayor Wilhelmina Harvey was given an award at FFWC 1990 State Convention for being the Number One Woman Member in Government. Mayor Harvey was the first woman elected to the Monroe County Board of Commissioners and has been chosen twice to serve as Mayor. As a Commissioner, she was instrumental in development of Monroe County's Fine Arts Program; a leading force in installation of the TV Translator System to bring television to isolated areas of the Keys and to those who cannot afford cable. Wilhelmina was on the Monroe County School Board for eight years. She led the battle to allow women to serve on Florida juries and became the first woman in Monroe County to do so. She has been a member of the FFWC and Business & Professional Women's Federation for 50 years. When women have been discriminated against for age, sex, or any other reason, Harvey has led the way for women.
Key West Woman's Club member Sandra Taylor ran unopposed and became the first woman Circuit Judge in Monroe County. While other judge's races had several candidates, Sandra's lack of opposition verifies the respect with which other lawyers hold her. Judge Taylor has been Monroe County Judge, after being in public defenders office, counsel to the sheriffs office and in private practice. She has been president of Hospice of the Florida Keys and Visiting Nurses Association, 1989 Woman of the Year of Key West Woman's Club, member of Zonta and numerous community and civic organizations.
Key West Woman's Club President Peggy McClain led the Woman's Club to new heights in fundraising and was acclaimed by the Chamber of Commerce and by Florida Keys Community College's Founders Society for her community service efforts. While Peggy's project of the Restoration of the historic Woman's Club Clubhouse was given great attention, she worked heroically for years to raise funds for Hospice and Founders plus constant support of Helpline, AIDS Help, Wesley House, School of Performing Arts and Fantasy Fest. The business community strongly supported her charity efforts. These ladies set beautiful examples of leadership.
Four members attended the Florida State Convention and our President, Peggy McClain, attended the National Convention in New York City. We won 21 Awards, an amount unprecedented in the history of the Key West Woman's Club. We are sure she is joined by each and every member of our Club who will attest to the fact that such accolades were earned by the Club because of Peggy McClain's leadership. Despite the fact that Peggy has not been in the best of health she has shown the greatest and most far-reaching vision; showing earnestness of accomplishments (with Peggy performing much of the arduous work) and such tenaciousness that she would never let go of a project, no matter how difficult.
1991 to 1992 witnessed the sixth year of our Club with Peggy McClain as President. Cheers and laughter greeted the announcement that the Key West Woman's Club had tied for the title, "Florida Federation Woman's Club of the Year for 1991" (Category V, Clubs with 151 or more members). Under the leadership and direction of Peggy McClain, President, we also brought home twenty-seven other individual State of Florida Awards. Thirteen of these awards were First Place Awards. It is inconceivable that one Club should win so many awards but the Club had raised $292,411.25 in 1991 and netted 11,098 volunteer hours ( $7O,OOO.OO was given away to other nonprofit organizations). During this year, Peggy McClain, President, had as her main project the Literacy Program. The community is most proud of its Key West Woman's Club.
Two hundred and fifty-one Member's hearts went with Peggy McClain to State Convention so great was their love for her. Peggy was quick to give credit to an officer, Jackie Keevan, who for six years had completed a masterful job of recording and preparing fabulous reports revealing the outstanding achievements of leader Peggy McClain and members. What was most astounding and miraculous about these years, witnessing the best work of this Club, is that the Club's leader (Peggy McClain) had become ill with a terminal prognosis. Yet, plod and plod; work and work; lead and lead; accomplish and accomplish still more was the Club order for the hour, for the day, for the week, and for years. We members believed that attitude can defeat Peggy's illness and Peggy's attitude shall win out.
Our newest Honorary Member, Peggy McClain was nominated by incoming President Amanda Kesar and shall always be endeared and remembered by the community. A bronze plaque was delicately chiseled into the old Georgia red bricks of the historic Key West Woman's Club building commemorating the six devoted years of Peggy's life to restoring this classic, majestic over one hundred year-old building.
Benefactors of our Club, and outstanding citizens continued to be entrepreneurs Lou Petrocelli, AI McCarthy, Ralph Wright, Charles Munroe, Paco Archilla, Mary Spottswood, and many others.
New officers for the next two years led by the President, Amanda Kesar are recorded at the beginning of this yearbook and we, the members, are looking forward to their planned programs. This year's history ends with a toast for a Lifetime Achievement Award as recorded here to retiring President Peggy McClain's spirit of excellence.
This spirit of excellence continued with our new President for the 1992-1993 Club year with Amanda Kesar as more awards classifications were received from the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs, Inc., at State Convention than ever before in the history of the Club. The Federation presented a silver tray to our Club to honor this occasion.
The year certainly proved that President Amanda Kesar was a visionary with continued great goals for our Club. This banner year witnessed membership being increased to 285 members (35 new members in one year). The restoration of the exterior was completed with a new wooden hand-tooled carved sign in gold identifying the name of our Club. The Board of Directors voted to continue the renovation of the interior. The small second floor apartment was rented immediately upon its remodeling.
In keeping with the state President's theme, "Children-the Heart of it All, Amanda's programs continued support of Canine Companions, Hacienda Girls Ranch, Wesley House Child Care Center, MARC House, the Florida Keys Children's Shelter, the Roosevelt Sands Center (which includes a free infant clinic ) and the Literary Guild. The Children's Shelter and Literacy Volunteers received the proceeds from "Sally's Sale", with Member City Commissioner Sally Lewis, chairing this annually.
Several members of the Key West Woman's Club served on the Board of Wesley House including Sheri Smallwood as President. During a recent attempt to remove Wesley House from their leased facility in Bahama Village, Amanda Kesar, President, stated the Club members' position that subsidized children's care should remain in the neighborhood where the children reside. Amanda's plea was honored, along with others, and the attempt to move the children was voted down by City Commissioners.
Club members served on the Board of the Literacy Volunteers and as tutors. Once again, Woman's Club members Co-Chaired the annual picnic for the Hospice/VNA. More money was raised than ever before. Our Fantasy Fest float won a Prize and our Beverage Bar was a great moneymaker. Our Annual Christmas party for the Community was well attended. The Clubhouse was beautifully decorated and tours were held daily.
Our Annual Tropical Luncheon was a great success and well attended by members and guests. All had a good time and we made money too! Every spring the Woman's Club awards a scholarship to our local Florida Keys Community College and this year it was given to a single mother preparing to re-enter the workplace.
The Club's cookbook sales were astonishing, so another printing was ordered. The Club enlarged its program for renting the Clubhouse for private parties and some great parties and beautiful weddings have been held in it. The Club donates use of the Clubhouse free of charge to non-profit and qualified community-related organizations.
In spite of the economy and keen competition from other organizations in Key West, the Woman's Club r aised more money than ever and thus increased the Club's donations to charities and community organizations. The Club season ended with our Annual Awards Luncheon with our "Woman of the Year", Friday Limbert, being honored. Special presentations were made to several gentlemen who had been most generous with their time, funds, and expertise.
Many Club members including Marva Green, Mary Spottswood, Donna Harvey, Yleana Vurail, and Wilhelmina Harvey, raised funds all year in memory of Past President Peggy McClain. (Sorrowfully, we had lost Peggy McClain after a long bout with cancer.) Under the leadership of Club President, Amanda Kesar with professional assistance from Joan Higgs, RN for Peggy's project for posterity, a much-needed Examining Table was purchased for the Roosevelt Sands Center Clinic (which includes a free Infant Clinic).
Altogether the year 1992-1993 was most satisfying and productive with Amanda Kesar proving herself as a valuable leader. President Amanda Kesar, with half of her term served, continued her untiring leadership with the Woman's Club Board and her members deciding their endeavors and contributions on the local level. After all, "charity begins at home." Primary focus was on "our children", so First Vice President and Program Chairman Judge Sandra Taylor scheduled the Club's programs accordingly. It was said that the programs scheduled were probably the most interesting and well received in the Club's history. The Club continued its support of Helpline, Wesley House Child Care Center, Marc House, Florida Keys Children's Center, the Free Infant Care Clinic, Aids Help, Literacy Volunteers, Zonta Breast Cancer Awareness, Hospice/VNA and Scholarships to Florida Keys Community College. Participation in the various theater programs in the city and county was continued. Another "First" for our Club included providing funds for four prison inmates to take the GED tests, which could mean completion of high school if successful.
Like any hundred-year-old building in the sub-tropics, it must have continued repairs and renovations, so President Amanda spent many busy hours at the Club supervising and directing repairs throughout the summer. The results were breathtaking. Through the continued generosity of one of our "Angels", Charles Munroe, a "Men's Bathroom" was built - and it's a beauty.
Hospice/VNA activities were Co-Chaired by two of our members, Ann Eid and Donn Vechie-Campbell. Lisbeth Kern, Executive Director of Hospice/VNA and our Woman's Club members announced the tremendous success of this annual picnic surpassing any other in funds earned and civic participation. Members continued their support of Bayshore manor, a Monroe County Home for the ill and aged. Residents love the Woman's Club participation by taking them food, gifts, visits, and flowers.
President Amanda informed the members that the artist who had held art exhibits at the Club for years would be unable to continue. Thus, the "Ladies of the Club Art Show" was born with Candida Cobb as Chair. Patrons found the exhibit so fascinating and successful that it was decided to sponsor this every year. Our annual membership tea chaired by Esther Tupino was another great success. It seems that everyone wanted to become a member of our Club and the President Amanda says, "and rightly so". A local newspaper referred to this Woman's Club as "the lions of the community".
We were saddened by the loss of several longtime members but encouraged by the overall increase in new membership.
Donn Vechie-Campbell chaired the annual Christmas Party at the Clubhouse with great aplomb, another success. Attendance was unbelievable! Folks again attended from many of the Florida Keys-not only Key West. Besides the beautiful decorations, we gave the public, our guests, and members the opportunity to view and approve the refurbishing of the rooms. Our Clubhouse placed second in the Christmas contest sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. The House Tours, chaired by Friday Limbert, who was our 1993 Woman of the Year brought many compliments. The Tropical Luncheon with Sheila Sands as Chairman was a two-day event again and was a complete sellout as in past years.
Our annual Awards Luncheon was chaired by Cheryl Cates and was another sold-out event. Ethel Lucas was named Woman of the Year 1993 to her amazement and pleasure, and Lucio Petrocelli was acclaimed our "Man of the Year 1993. Special service awards were made to "Momy" (A. Ortiz-Benevides) and a special "Thank You" was presented to Alan Williams our dedicated steward at the Clubhouse.
A special mention must be made of the Club's cookbook sales. President Amanda Kesar (who was a member of the committee appointed by then President Peggy McClain for the new printing and updating of the cookbooks and provided the painting for the front and back covers) continued her efforts and sales continued to rise.
In spite of the drop in our economy in 1993-1994 our Woman's Club did not feel such drop because we experienced another very successful year with great leadership. Our intent to focus the Club's efforts locally was a wise decision. Our Club reaped the rewards of "the times" in funds, expertise, and comradeship among members.
It is hoped the internal difficulties of the State Federation have been resolved and we can once again participate in this great Federation of women in Florida .
As predicted in our 1994-1995 YEARBOOK, new goals were reached with our innovative, hard working, ever-present, lovely Ethel Lucas as President. More stepping stones for the future were laid when perhaps the greatest amounts o f monies were contributed throughout the city to deserving causes:
$125 to the Key West Art and Historical Society for sponsorship of a tree for THE CHILDREN'S TREE CELEBRATION, $150 to THE SOUP KITCHEN for the city's homeless, $100 to the local KEY WEST HIGH SCHOOL BAND, $52.22 to HACIENDA GIRLS' RANCH. (Gift from members at meeting-this was the State Federation's project), $150 to the KEY WEST GATOR CLUB, $1,200 to the Florida Keys Children's Shelter which were proceeds from Sally's Fabulous Yard Sale.
$ 5,000 for restoration of the Custom House, $250 to the Key West Pre-School Co-Op for their Spring Fair, $500 to the Lower Keys Heart Council with Member Mary Spottswood being honored, Member Wilhelmina Harvey was honored the previous year. $50 to Wesley House for Easter Concert publicity, $550 was donated to the American Cancer Society's "jail and bail" program to have our member Mona Santiago out of jail. $500 to Hospice/VNA for the July 4th Fund-Raiser.
The Key West Woman's Club not only "giveth" but also "receiveth" since the following monies were contributed to the Club:
$1,000 donated by Strunk Lumber Company for kitchen restoration, $ 500 donated by Member Mary Spottswood for the Kitchen Restoration, $3,000 (Charles Munroe's donation to Fantasy Fest expenses and Kitchen Restoration), $5,000 anonymous contribution from one of our "Angels", Dollars sufficient to entertain Bayshore Manor residents with a New Year's Eve Party (collected from Members at our meeting).
Some of the Club's greatest work was accomplished with members working with members to help solve some of the community's greatest problems in health, economics, the home, child problems, civic problems, etc. included in but not limited to the following:
DONNA HARVEY collected paperback books and magazines for the women prison inmates at the Monroe County Detention Center and Members continued to support the local soup kitchen programs. Members volunteered for MARC House Christmas Tree Sales and Members and guests from all over the world came to our Club's Annual Christmas Party. The Clubhouse is decorated by individuals and corporations-each room would fit in an old castle when decorated. A huge Christmas Tree was placed in the front garden with Christmas carolers, little dancing angels and of course Mrs. and Mrs. Santa Claus. The most beautifully decorated room of all rooms decorated was the winner, Ron Harrison, who did his magic work in the main hall of the Club. Ron is noted for his designs at La Te Da.
Members were relieved of worries and chores when Caretaker David Zeh came aboard. Business people of the community took notice of the Woman's Club on their main street, 319 Duval, by an award for outstanding Christmas Decorations (inside and out) and holiday spirit for 1994 Christmas.
Club members enjoyed celebrating two old-timers' birthdays Ingurtha Pinder, 93 (in 1995), and Wilhelmina Harvey, 83 years old.
"Astounding" is the one word used by patrons of our Club's Annual Tropical Luncheon. Our theme led by Goddess Member Sheila Sands, Luncheon Chairman, paid homage to Venus, the Goddess of Love and her beloved son, Cupid. Guests were serenaded by our "songbird of the south" and talented pianist, Bobby Nesbitt, of International fame. Following the induction of six new wonderful members, the mansion of the daughter of our first millionaire, now the home of the Key West Woman's Club came alive with Skipper Kripitz Band, cocktails a la Hemingway, dinner and dancing. This was the Club's first "Thank You, Gentlemen" party in our almost 100 years of existence. We women are the first to acclaim that many of our accomplishments are due to the gentlemen of Key West and the fabulous Florida Keys.
our woman's Club boasts of Judges, Mayors, County Commissioners, City Commissioners but we have only one Florida State Representative and that is Debbie Horan, newly elected State Representative. Debbie is someone of whom we are justly proud. She has already made waves in our state and created some "firsts". Club Members can see a woman sitting in the main chair of the White House now. Debbie chaired our Annual Luncheon at the Reach, at which time Donn Vecchi Campbell was chosen as the Club's "Woman of the Year" while Lars Nilsson was selected as our "Man of the Year".
(11) Loss of members is always with us, however when we lost our beloved and talented member Vivian (Mrs. James) Land, we seemed lost in a huge sea of waves. Vivian was our fine arts painter, particularly of local scenes. She was a pianist, poet, and psychologist who reminded us that "even the sun had to set, but the sun would rise again the following day .. ". In the Clubhouse we are constantly reminded of her with many of her beautiful and lovely wall paintings given to the Club by Vivian's faithful and generous husband Jimmy Lang.
The many accomplishments of past years are but stepping-stones to the future. The challenge of the tomorrow will serve as the torch to inspire the womanhood of our community to create a better way of life and will fulfill the obligation to the small group who started the crusade in the long ago of 1892.
History written by:
Wilhelmina G. Harvey
Monroe County Mayor Emeritus
KEY WEST WOMAN'S CLUB Edited 8-28-06
Edited March 2011
Sarah Fowler President
1998 – 2002
I was the First Afro-American to be President of the Key West Woman’s Club. Men continued to be welcomed into the club as members. The bylaws changed to any reference to females to read person.
I attended every state and district General Federation of Woman’s Club (G.F.W.C.) meeting under my presidency. On three occasions I led the Sunday worship service at the fall boards. I was the scrapbook chairman for the G.F.W.C., and supported the G.F.W.C. charities – Boy Anchor House and Hacienda Girls Ranch.
Official Key West Sculpture Garden book dedicated the cover to our sculpture in the garden Ellen Mallory and a page on the history of the Key West Woman’s Club, which will be opened in 100 years. The cost of the bust for the sculpture was paid off by fundraisers and donation by member Ann McKee.
I liaised with the county tax assessor about ad valorem taxes for the Key West Woman’s Club and was successful in getting the tax figure reassessed.
There were many important fundraisers. The club raised enough money for new marching band uniforms for the Key West High School Band. This was via a fundraiser led by Gina Dietrich Soos who was the Key West Woman’s Club’s largest individual fundraiser with her donations for these uniforms. Special presentations were made to Gina and also to Ruby Carney who spent many years leading our “dress a bear” efforts for the Key West Salvation Army’s distribution to needy children.
Wilhelmina Harvey and Mildred Felton, former Presidents of the Key West Woman’s Club, were presented certificates for each having 50 years of membership in the club. Two life memberships were approved during my four years as President. These members were Audrey Seney and Dean Hoffman. There were seven ladies to receive recognition for each having served 25 years in the Club.
This was the first community Christmas party to have live animals.
The Key West Woman’s Club participated in the Island Roots Parade.
Ray Hartley, of New York, gave a concert as well as Yehuda Guttman to raise money for the Key West Woman’s Club.
A china cabinet was donated by Harry F. Knight and placed in the dining room.
Bob Cornell reset all the bricks in the front yard.
There was a critical need for the Bayshore Manor assisted living facility to be upgraded with a woman’s touch and the “Transformation of Bayshore Manor, A Woman’s Touch” upgrade committee was formed and the facility was improved and became a more personalized environment for the residents to reside.
Marva Green and friends of Peggy McClain collected money to replace the plaque that had been removed from the face of the Clubhouse.
I was guest speaker at the Naval Air Station Key West’s celebration of Martin Luther King Day.
The Key West Woman’s Club made it possible for the Take Stock in Children program to begin their first annual meeting at the Clubhouse.
There was a boundary dispute between the guest house next door and the Key West Woman’s Club. This dispute was resolved out of court.
The annual Christmas tree sponsorship by the Art and Historical Society was supported by the Key West Woman’s Club. A tree was donated to a charity of our choice.
Along with many others, I would like to thank Matthew Helmerich and the Helmerich Foundation, Michael Pelke, Gordon Ross, Bobby Nesbitt, Royce Morgan, Michael Gallagher, Ken Edwards, Roger Emmons, Peter Fressola, Dennis Beaver, and Bonnie Helms for all of their undivided attention and support for the various opportunities to decorate rooms at the Key West Woman’s Club, and they helped with other events the Club had in town. Each of these people was generous with their time and financial support to the Key West Woman’s Club during my tenure as President.
I would like to thank Dorothy Cash for her single- handed work in accomplishing record sales of the Key West Woman’s Club cookbook.
I would like to thank Edna Kerwick for her work as Secretary of the Club and attending both state and district meetings with me. In addition, she worked tirelessly on maintaining the beauty of the silver that is used and displayed in the clubhouse. Not only being a great secretary, but above all being a person who so greatly cherishes the importance of the clubhouse and maintaining the old historic building in its finest fashion.
Barbara Nilsson donated a silver coffee and tea service set allowing the club to use the replaced items as historic museum pieces.
An oversized portrait of Wilhelmina Harvey was donated to the Customs House.
I started attending Woman’s Club functions in 1995 as a guest of my friends Candida Cobb and Sandra Taylor. I loved the organization and the people so much that I became a member in 1996.
Becoming involved with the Club very quickly, I volunteered for all kinds of events and fundraisers. In 1998 I was appointed By-Laws Chair by Sarah Fowler and in 2000; I was elected Second Vice President. In 2002 I was elected President and served four years in that position.
As the youngest K.W.W.C. President to date, I began my presidency with the “Revitalization Campaign” which sought to encourage younger applicants to join the Club. We successfully started seeing new members in the “under 40 group” who were anxious to participate in the Club events and become involved in the community.
Over four years many changes took place in Key West and the Club over all. A change in the economy and the price of housing resulted in many long term members selling their homes and leaving Key West for parts north. We witnessed the passing of several beloved long term Club members whose contributions to the Club were significant and long reaching, including past Presidents Wilhelmina Harvey and Nancy Jameson.
An active hurricane season in 2004 and finally the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Wilma in 2005 changed the face of Key West forever and significantly affected the membership and our season’s events. Many members lost their homes and were forced to relocate. Several of our parties and fundraisers were cancelled or postponed. For the first time the Woman’s Club was unable to host the annual Christmas party opting to operate our Fantasy Fest Beverage Booth since Hurricane Wilma caused Fantast Feast to be postponed until December.
Thankfully, the damage sustained by our Clubhouse during the storm was reparable.
Positive changes took place as well. The Red Barn Theater was completely renovated and the parking area in the back of the Clubhouse was bricked and a drainage system added. Our historic home became wheelchair accessible as a wheelchair lift was installed. Generous donations from the Kawaler Foundation allowed for the removal of dead shrubbery and the re-landscaping of the property surrounding the Clubhouse. Lots of much needed repairs were made to our historic home including renovations on the second floor, repair of the air-conditioning, repair of the kitchen and roof, the addition of a much needed freezer, and repair of the windows.
The Club also faced several legal challenges. The most significant crisis was with regard to maintaining our Fantasy Fest Beverage Booth. In the end, through the masterful pro bono contributions of Michelle Cates Deal, Esq. and the support of our members, the K.W.W.C. secured its spot on Duval Street during Fantasy Fest for several more years.
Over the course of my four years as President we were able to donate thousands of dollars to various charitable organizations in and around Key West including
Y.M.C.A., Hospice, Wesley House, Red Barn Theater, Womankind, Easter Seals, Literacy Volunteers of America, Take Stock in Children, the United States Coast Guard, Kids
Fighting Cancer, Samuel’s House, Key West High School, Steal Your Heart Band, Heritage House, Operation Smile, and Trinity Presbyterian Church.
The generosity and compassion found in the K.W.W.C. membership is unsurpassed. It was a pleasure serving as President of this wonderful organization. I am looking forward to actively participating on the Board of Directors and continue the good work that the K.W.W.C. is known for.
RAMONA [MONA] SANTIAGO
No one person is an island, and no one person can do everything alone.
To achieve greatness that person joins her forces with others to make their club become one of the largest fundraiser and community service organizations in the entire city. I would like to dedicate this page of my history to all the women that made me look like a damn good president. Starting with Joy Rodriguez, Eileen Kawaler, the Executive Board, Standing Committees and Committees.
These are just a few of our accomplishments:
Habitat for Humanity, Boys and Girls Club, Healthy Start, Woman's Hope Concert, Hospice/VNA, YMCA, Pace Center for Girls, Helpline, Samuel's House, Art Behind Bars, Cancer Foundation, Wesley House, HOB, Poincina School, Womankind, American Cancer, Hacienda Girls Ranch, Literacy Volunteers, Christmas Heart Fund, Guardian Ad Litem, Anchors A Weigh, Adopt A Classroom, Take Stock in Children, Just for Kids, Sew Much Comfort, Rural Health Network, Pocket Park, Key West High School, Christmas Bears, Bell Ringers, Bayshore Manor, Helmets to Iraq, Donated Refrigerator, Partial Roof, and Furniture for upstairs apartment; I could go on, but that's enough.
The most important accomplishment is Sho Lichtenstein, along with Gary. For two years they have run the streets of Key West with the sale of the ever so famous Restaurant Card. Sho is the Goose that laid that golden egg for the Woman's Club.
Without her hard work and love for our Club and along with all the other women that raised monies and donated their time, we could not have raised in two years 220,000.00 .
One small note, thank you for your trust in me. With this trust and love WE were able to bring the Woman's Club back to what is used to be. Much love and togetherness.
Faith, Hope and Charity, but the greatest of these is charity.
As I sit down to write about my tenure as President of the Key West Woman’s Club, so many thoughts and experiences come to mind.
I remember the first meeting that I attended and how awe struck I was on entering through the front door of our beautiful mansion.
It was an overwhelming experience to be surrounded by so many women, who were greeting each other, laughing and getting caught up on what was happening in their lives, especially as the only faces I knew were my two sponsors. Now, when I see a new face at one of our meeting’s, I try to greet them and explain what’s going to take place. I try to give them a little of the history of our Club and of the Mansion and it’s amazing how a few words can ease a person’s apprehension.
My first working experience at the Club took place at that first ‘Fantasy Fest” and I was hooked. The ladies showed me the “ropes” and at the end of the evening, I had no voice left, but felt that I had really made a difference.
Shortly thereafter I joined the Board and started to experience the inner workings of the Key West Woman’s Club. I discovered very quickly that our wonderful Mansion was in need of repair, both inside and out. The first project that my Husband and I took on was the removal of shrubbery that was undermining the foundation of the Mansion. We then re-landscaped a large portion of the yard. I soon found out however that landscaping the Woman’s Club is a never-ending battle and even with the installation of an irrigation system, it’s a battle that is difficult to win. When Mona Santiago became President in 2006, I became Membership Chair. Mona really campaigned hard to bring in new members and to bring back members who had dropped out. Our meetings took on a life of their own and members came up with new and novel ways to raise greatly needed funds. The Woman’s Club was then able to support more and more of the nonprofit agencies in the Keys.
My tenure as President of the Key West Woman’s Club began in the fall of 2008 and ended in the spring of 2010. It was at times exciting, overwhelming and probably the busiest two years of my life.
Thanks to my First Vice President, Roberta Spencer, we entered the 21st Century. Her vision of a Web site that would give our members up to date information, became a reality. She also designed a Member’s Handbook that was an immediate hit and she has continued to strengthen our organization through the recommendation of By-Law changes. She has my gratitude and thanks for always “having my back”.
My Second Vice-President was Maryann Westerlund, who was Membership Chair. Maryann was diligent in getting the members to pay their dues, not an easy task, but one done with style and grace.
The House Restoration Fund came into being during this time thanks to the wonderful theme parties conceived by Dee Johnson and Norma Gilmore, and assisted by Judi Gorman, Ruthanne Davis, Nita Bigelow, Gloria Windus, Vicky Shields and Helen Garcia along with many of our members who helped in the decorating process. They were so ably assisted by Larry Johnson, Chuck Gilmore, Jerry Gorman, Jon Davis, Vaughan Spencer, Tito Bigelow, and my husband, Justin Kawaler. Much thanks goes out to them and all of the members and their husbands who have pitched in to make the House Restoration Fund a successful fundraiser.
When you become President of our wonderful organization, “Thank You” is something you say on a daily basis, for there are so many women and men who give of their time and talent. Thank you to Sho Lichtenstein for her brainchild, ‘The Restaurant Tour Card” which has been one of our biggest fundraisers, to Kim Gordon for “The Woman’s Hope Concert” that she founded.
To all the wonderful women and men who give their time and talent year after year, to raise funds during Fantasy Fest, you have my sincere gratitude. Kudos go to our Domestic Goddess team of Ruthanne Davis and Diana Damewood for the fabulous “Tea’s” that we enjoy after the monthly meetings. The ladies put so much love into the presentations and it is so appreciated by all of us.
A very special, “Thank You” to my husband Justin who funded many projects in the House, such as the restoration of the original wood floors and the hall floor.
I was blessed to have a Board that was always there for me and members who encouraged me with their ideas and their smiles. I thank each and every one of you and I can only say that it was a pleasure to have been your President.