Wheeling Woman’s Club Marks 100th

The Woman’s Club of Wheeling will celebrate its 100th anniversary when club members meet at historic Monument Place in Wheeling at 1 p.m. Friday, April 8.

Organized exactly a century ago, on April 8, 1911, the club has a long and illustrious history of service to the Ohio Valley.

The centennial celebration will focus on the historical highlights and numerous achievements of the club through the past century. Included will be a salute to the club’s founders – those dedicated women who, in 1911, saw their dreams become reality.

During the celebratory event, club members will become “time travelers.” Dressed in period costumes, members will be surrounded by portraits of women representing various decades from 1911 to the present. Drawn by Rosemarie Billie, a club member, each portrait will depict a woman dressed in the”fashion of the day.”

On display will be the club’s historical documents, including the original, handwritten minutes from 1911, the signatures of the charter members and the constitution. Artifacts and photographs will provide a timeline of the club’s achievements. Of note will be the 25th, 50th and 75th anniversary celebrations.

Refreshments, provided by the club’s hospitality committee, will be served. The committee, under the chairmanship of Betty Gresak, also will be responsible for table arrangements and decorations.

Members will be welcomed by Jamesie Beecroft, club president. After an invocation given by Alberta Huggins, a past president, recognition will be given to all past presidents and special guests. A special guest will be Babs Condon, the first vice president of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. Condon will bring greetings from the federation’s international headquarters in Washington, D.C., and will offer congratulatory remarks to club members.

Other federation guests will include Rita Lynch, president of the state federation, and Ina Polsinelli, Northern District president. Additional guests will include state and district officers and the presidents of the eight other Northern District clubs.

An overview of the club’s history will be given by Nancy Ellen Rice O’Leary, chairman of trustees. O’Leary will then introduce the guest performer, Judi Hendrickson, who is a first-person presenter of significant women of Wheeling.

In addition to historical characterizations, Hendrickson is the special events coordinator and volunteer liaison for Crittenton Services, Wheeling. She is involved in many local organizations and is secretary for the Wheeling Symphony auxiliary and a board member of the YWCA Wheeling.

For this event, Hendrickson will portray Lydia Cromwell Hearne, the first official president of the Woman’s Club of Wheeling. The portrayal will include biographical information and will highlight the role Hearne played in the history of Wheeling and the club.

Lydia Herts Cromwell, born in 1874, was a native of Bedford County, Pa. She became a resident homeopathic physician with the Galen Hall Sanatorium in Atlantic City, N.J. After marrying Julian Green Hearne in June 1900, she returned with him to reside in Wheeling.

Although listed as the second president of the Wheeling club, she was, in fact, the first to serve after the club was formally organized. She was elected president in 1912 and held her reception at the Hearnelee Mansion. Her first term ended in 1914. She was re-elected and served from 1918 to 1920.

She was the only member to ever serve four years in that position. She then was elected president of the state federation from 1930 to 1932. Hearne was presented a life membership in the Wheeling club in 1960, a year before her death.

She also was president of the Children’s Home of Wheeling and the first woman in West Virginia to carry the state’s electoral votes to Washington, D.C. Her husband was a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates and a member of the state Senate in 1910.

Her son, the late Army Col. Julian G. Hearne Jr., was the only man ever honored with a life membership in the Wheeling club.

He attended the 75th anniversary celebration of the club in 1986. His handwritten thank-you regarding that event will be shown on Friday.

“The spotlight on Heame’s life exemplifies the spirit, foresight and determination of the early members of the Woman’s Club of Wheeling,” club officials said. “In fact, the history of the club is the story of many outstanding women who have volunteered through the last 100 years in order to improve their community and the lives of others.”

The club’s history begins with the story of one woman’s persistent efforts. In 1911, Wheeling had several small women’s groups, each focused on one area of interest and limited in membership. Carrie Zane, who possessed some of the vision and determination of her pioneer forebears, thought it only logical to combine these groups into one.

After two planning meetings held by Zane and other interested women, an article appeared in the Wheeling Register on Saturday, April 8, 1911. All area women were invited to a meeting that day in the Board of Trade rooms. During that meeting, a constitution was finalized, bylaws adopted and 96 women signed as charter members.

Among those signing were Zane, Dr. Harriet Jones, Helen de Vries, Mrs. Guy Allen, Mrs. Edward Stifel, Mrs. R.B. Taylor, Mrs. A.U. Wilson and Mrs. Edward Franzheim. Allen was a past state federation president and Wilson was chosen as the first acting president of the Wheeling club.

This was to be a corporation that would “have not chief” works, but would be a department club that would bind small clubs together and focus their scattered strength. The first two departments chosen were arts and civics. Dues were set at $2 a member.

Immediate application was made to the state federation and the Wheeling club was admitted on May 17, 1911. Admission to the General Federation occurred on June 30, 1913. The Woman’s Club of Wheeling became incorporated on Aug. 9, 1933.

“Through the years, the Woman’s Club of Wheeling’s key to its success and longevity has been its ability to adapt to the times and address the needs of the community,” officials said. “Its strength has been its membership in federation. This is exactly what the founders envisioned.”

Departments have been added or changed in keeping with federation guidelines. At present, there are six community programs: arts, conservation, education, home life, international outreach and public issues. The standing committees of the club reflect its priorities. This year, there are 15 committees, with an additional one for the centennial celebration. One of the standing committees is child welfare, which began in May 1917, and is one of the oldest private community service projects in Ohio County.

“The number of projects and programs of the Woman’s Club of Wheeling, over the last century, are far too numerous to list,” officials said. “Whether campaigning for water purification in the early 1900s, buying Liberty Bonds during World War I, assisting the Red Cross during World War II or sewing gowns for Operation Smile in 2011, club members have always volunteered in order to better the lives of others.”

In addition to being a volunteer organization, the Woman’s Club of Wheeling is a lecture-forum club, as was planned by the founders. Through the years, the club has brought many famous figures from the arts, literary, educational and entertainment worlds to Wheeling. Erma Bombeck, Helen Thomas, George Plimpton, Mrs. Sinclair Lewis, Morton Dean, Elsa Maxwell, Ann Landers, Arianna Huffington, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Nanette Fabray, Julius La Rosa, Celeste Holm and many others have entertained and informed club members.

In 1919, the club added book reviews to the program lineup. Currently, three book reviews a year are given by club members and sponsored by the arts program.

The city of Wheeling and the Woman’s Club of Wheeling have played a significant role in the state federation. Four state presidents have been members of the Wheeling club and five state conventions have been held in Wheeling. The Woman’s Club of Wheeling hosted the first state enclave in 1904 and the 50th in 1954. A year later, The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs was chosen as the site of future conventions.

One hundred years ago, club members met at the Board of Trade building on Saturdays. As the membership grew and times changed, the meetings were held at larger locations, with the majority of years spent at the McLure Hotel in downtown Wheeling. It was often said then that Friday was Woman’s Club day in Wheeling. Today, members meet at Monument Place on the first and third Fridays from October through December and February through April.

“Regardless of changing times and changing formats, the Woman’s Club of Wheeling continues to play a leading role in the social, cultural and humanitarian activities in the community,” officials said. “Just like the founders, club members today, while honoring their past, are planning for the future. As long as women of vision have dreams to fulfill, there will be reasons to celebrate.”