130 years ago a spurned female journalist started a woman’s organization, and the Homemakers of Hickman Mills soon joined her cause

Kathy LaFrensen joined after a neighbor begged her to attend a meeting. “She kept telling me it was a worthwhile organization, After I went there, I thought ‘Wow! They do a lot. It really is worthwhile.” 

Women’s clubs such as Homemakers of Hickman Mills are part of a bigger volunteer organization 

By Kathy Feist

In 1945, the Homemakers of Hickman Mills, which was founded in 1914, decided to become something bigger than themselves. They joined the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), a growing organization comprised of hundreds of smaller clubs that are “dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.”

Jane  Cunningham Croly

The GFWC was founded on April 24, 1890. Its roots can be traced back to 1868 when Jane Cunningham Croly, a professional journalist, attempted to attend a dinner at an all-male press club honoring British novelist Charles Dickens. Croly was denied admittance based upon her gender, and in response, formed a woman’s club—Sorosis. In celebration of Sorosis’ 21st anniversary in 1889, Jane Croly invited women’s clubs throughout the United States to pursue the cause of federation by attending a convention in New York City. On April 24, 1890, 63 clubs officially formed the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.

This year, the organization celebrates 130 years and can boast a membership of 80,000 members worldwide. 

GFWC is one of the largest women’s volunteer organizations in the world. By living the volunteer spirit, as its slogan says, GFWC clubwomen transform lives with hands-on projects and donations of time and money. There are numerous local GFWC clubs from the surrounding communities, including Grandview, Lee’s Summit, Kansas City, etc. GFWC clubs work with Operation Smile, Missouri Girls Town, Heifer International, Domestic Violence Awareness, American Library Association, to name a few. 

Former First Lady Barbara Bush served as Honorary Chairman of the GFWC Lilteracy Program. President Ford applauded GFWC starting the “Hands Up” program. In the early 1900s, members such as Alice Lakey’s campaign led to the Pure Food and Drug Act and Jane Addams headed the Child Labor Committee advocating for restricting child labor. 

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Fran Cousins and Gayle Heller, members of the Homemakers of Hickman Mills, collect hats, scarves and gloves collected for the Community Assistance Council. Photo by Kathy LaFrensen 

Homemakers of Hickman Mills Co-President Kathy LaFrensen joined after a neighbor begged her to attend a meeting. “She kept telling me it was a worthwhile organization,” recalls LaFrensen. “After I went there, I thought ‘Wow! They do a lot. It really is worthwhile.” 

She stresses it is not a group of women that get together to exchange recipes. It’s a group that sees a need and meets it. 

The local club helps out with Missouri Girls Town, collects books for Della Lamb, donates items to the Community Assistance Council to name a few,  provides meals for Hospice House, and other worthwhile deeds.GFWC-VolunteerSpiritLogo2018 (1)

Homemakers of Hickman Mills meets the first Thursday of every month at various locations. A speaker from a nonprofit organization is often invited to speak. Refreshments are served and friends are made. 

To raise money to donate to special causes, the Homemakers have garage sales, silent auctions and Dining for Dollars. They also rely on the annual dues of $35 a year. 

The club invites the public to attend their Arbor Day celebration, April 24th, at the Hickman Mills Community Christian Church, 5809 E Red Bridge Rd. 

For more information, call 816-500-1057.


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