Get Inspired by GFWC women of the past.
General Federation of Women’s Clubs
“Living the Volunteer Spirit”
Membership in GFWC is first and foremost about volunteerism. In all 50 states and more than a dozen countries, our members work together to create global change. GFWC clubwomen are mothers, wives, daughters, doctors, teachers, and community leaders who are dedicated to enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.
The greatest benefit of membership is being part of a world-wide volunteer movement of women working to better the lives of countless men, women, and children all over the world. The collective impact of GFWC clubwomen working together to assist those in need demonstrates the true power of Federation.
GFWC Rhode Island was founded in 1895. As a member of GFWC Rhode Island you will have the opportunity to work with women on the international, regional, state and local levels to serve the needs of your community. As a member of GFWC of Rhode Island you will have opportunities for leadership, socialization, and networking.
Women’s Clubs and Libraries
The earliest women’s clubs, from 1847 to 1889, were developed around prevailing interests of art, history, literature, and travel. Many became known by name as reading and study clubs. Self-improvement appeared to be an underlying theme and a good starting point for women eager to reach out. Recognition of the need for education for themselves and their communities helped propel a keen interest in providing library services to their communities and beyond. Eager to ensure that even isolated areas had access to literature, clubwomen prepared travelling book collections, or book wagons, and sent them by rail and horse, and later by car, to areas beyond their communities.
By 1904, 11 years after the earliest traveling libraries, there were 4,655 traveling libraries with 340,951 books in 34 states where GFWC Federations existed. Books were brought to rural neighborhoods, mining camps, ranches, granges, and mountain districts. Of the 4,655 known traveling libraries, 1,016 were owned and controlled by State Federations and GFWC clubs.
By the turn of the century, 18 state library commissions had been secured primarily through the influence of clubwomen, and clubs had established 474 free public libraries. Clubwomen themselves often served as librarians and fundraisers. The establishment of such community libraries became one of the fastest growing areas of club activities. In 1933, the American Library Association credited GFWC with establishing 75 percent of public libraries.