Area Women’s Clubs Serve the Community for Nearly a Century

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By Wendy Migdal

When Susan Morabito moved to the Prince William area four years ago, she didn’t know anyone. She and her husband had retired to this area from New York to be near their children. Then a neighbor invited her to attend the Manassas chapter of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, and she found her tribe.

What Do the Clubs Do?

The tagline for the GFWC is “living the volunteer spirit,” and it’s easy to see why. The GFWC Woman’s Club of Manassas has completed projects with the young and the old, the human and the four-legged, and just about every area of life. They’ve packed boxes for Boxes of Basics, which collects clothing for children in
need. They’ve made lanyards and crocheted items for Operation Gratitude, an organization that supports the military. They’ve planted flowers at the senior center.

In addition to the hands-on work, which Morabito says are her favorite type of projects, another important part of club work is fundraising. You may have seen them selling tickets for raffle baskets at First Friday in Manassas. These and other fundraisers benefit various charities, such as Girls on the Run, an organization
that combines physical activity with leadership and character-building instruction for girls. This year, the GFWC Woman’s Club of Manassas was pleased to partner with the Prince William County Bar Foundation to provide a scholarship through the Foundation’s Beat the Odds program. This program supports at-risk children in the foster care or juvenile justice system. The club is looking forward to the return of its popular Christmas House Tour in December. The Woodbridge Woman’s Club just had a fundraiser in partnership with the Little Theater of Alexandria, a benefit performance of the musical Freaky Friday.

One of the strengths of the women’s clubs is clearly the fact that they’re not only good at getting things done, they’re great at working in concert with other organizations. Political scientists call this “social capital” and say it’s the key to accomplishing goals in society. And it probably explains the longevity of the clubs.

Making fidget cuffs for patient with dementia and police department to distribute to children.

A Bit of Background

If you’ve heard of women’s clubs before, or seen them in parades, and wondered if this is the same thing, the answer is probably yes. That is because the GFWC goes back to the 19th century. It all started back in 1868 when a female journalist was denied entrance to a dinner at an all-male press club. Not be to deterred, she started her own club, which went national in 1890. There are now clubs in every state, and states are divided into districts. The Manassas and Woodbridge Woman’s Clubs are two of the 20 clubs in the Northern District of Virginia.

The Manassas club dates back to 1926, and their impact can be seen around the community. In 1950, they helped establish the first public library, which moved out of two rooms in the high school to a building that is now home to the City Tavern Grille. The caboose behind the Harris Pavilion was restored with funds raised by the club. The Nativity scene at Nelson Park was a Women’s Club project.

There are about 25 members in the club. Some, like Susan Morabito, have only been involved for a few years (although she liked it so much, she became the president). A few have been involved for 60 years and remember the days of formal dances.

Some are much younger and are still working. There are regular meetings on the fourth Monday of the month, but as Morabito says, “You can be involved as much as you want to. People don’t have to do everything. If they just want to do one project, they can do that one project.” Members sometimes get together just for lunch, and they like to take prospective new members out for coffee to explain more about what the organization does.

As part of a national (in fact, it’s international) organization, there are opportunities to meet other members and be involved in other projects. The two local clubs meet with the others in the Northern District at least a couple times a year, and they are also involved in state-wide projects. For the past two years, the state project was raising money to purchase a bus for the Armed Services YMCA to help transport military children to and from day care, field trips, and summer camps. There are also annual state and national
conventions, the most recent of which was held in Louisville, Kentucky.

Goodies for First responders on 911 day of service

Looking Ahead

For Morabito, being part of the club has been important because “I was able to meet a group of wonderful, wonderful women. They’re very dedicated.” And in case all these examples haven’t made it clear by now, this isn’t a club where women put on pearls and play cards. As Morabito says, “I really like being able to get
out into the community and to help out locally.”

The group always has ideas for more projects, and one of the areas they’d like to get more involved with is the schools. They’ve donated art supplies and held an art contest but would love to do more. Maybe even start a Juniorette Club someday for high school girls to get started giving back.

For further information or to join visit for the Manassas Woman’s Club or for the Woman’s Club of Woodbridge.

Wendy Migdal is a freelance writer who has lived in the Northern/Central Virginia area since 2000. She enjoys history, reading, and all things dog.


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