Woman’s Club: helping others since 1920

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
Anna Lawton, president of the Woman’s Club of Bloomfield for the past 17 years, at the Historical Society of Bloomfield Museum.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — It may not be generally known that there is a club for women in Bloomfield, but there is, and it has been around for a long time.
Organized in 1920, the Woman’s Club of Bloomfield has a history of community service and accomplishments. Federated the year it was organized, the club is a member of the state and national woman’s club organizations.

Begun following World War I by a small group of women who had helped with the civilian war effort, the club has provided assistance to the needy during the Great Depression, sold war bonds during World War II, presented lectures by eminent people and sponsored Bloomfield Public Library, to name a few activities. It has also initiated township beautification projects and continues to provide volunteers for Bloomfield functions. But it also provides assistance to those living outside the Bloomfield community.

There are currently 48 active members and the club president is Anna Lawton, of Glen Ridge.
“The club gives an opportunity to meet with women with the same goal of doing service in the community,” Lawton said recently at the Historical Society of Bloomfield. “The state federation also offers projects.”

Lawton became active with the club in 1991 and has been its president since 2000. She says matter-of-factly that when she was elected, that was the last time there was an election for club president. Since then, the membership has reasoned that she was doing a good job, liked what she was doing, and that it would be good for her to remain president — so why bother with an unnecessary election?

“In order to keep a club surviving, you stay on,” Lawton said. “The federation does not want to see a club’s demise. Once the club had an evening division, a junior division and a daytime division.”
At that time, members remained in the junior division until they were 38-years-old. They were then asked to join the daytime division.

Lawton said there are about 7,000 federated club members in the state and about 260 clubs. The president of the national federation, Mary Ellen Brock, is a former Woman’s Club of Bloomfield Junior member and township resident. Lawton said Brock moved up through the ranks and had served as president of the NJ Federation of Woman’s Clubs.

“When you get involved, you love it,” she said. “We have some committees, I cannot imagine the women not being involved with, especially the Domestic Violence Awareness Committee.”
The Woman’s Club of Bloomfield provides support to an Essex County safe house for abused women and their children. This is a statewide initiative.
“We give them towels, wash cloths, hand towels, new or gently used,” Lawton said. “But our signature project is that we adopt all the children at Easter and present them with a multitude of gifts.”

A committee of four or five club members “adopt” the child.
Lawton said if there are not enough club members for all the children, friends and family members are asked to help and address the child’s needs. Adopting the children was an idea Lawton brought to the club when she became president.

“No organization gives them anything at Easter time,” she said. “That’s why we developed that project. It’s been tremendously successful.”
The Bloomfield club also sponsors a housewarming shower for women who are leaving the shelter to settle into their own apartments.

In a township activity, two Bloomfield High School junior girls are sponsored by the club each year to attend a four-day seminar on career building. The seminar is held at Douglass College. Lawton is one of 14 house mothers providing guidance to 174 girls from around the state.
“Douglass College was founded by the NJ State Federation of Woman’s Clubs,” Lawton added.

When she arrived at the Woman’s Club, she said its membership was an older and smaller group of women with few causes.
“When causes disappear, the club members became complacent and it turned into a social club,” she said. “They gave a scholarship. It was $25. When I found that out, I nearly fell over. Twenty-five dollars won’t buy you a book.”

Currently, the club provides BHS seniors, girls and boys, with three scholarships totaling $2,100.
Lawton feels she has energized the club by keeping it focused on service. It recently became involved with Camp Marcella which gives children with visual impairments a summer-camp experience.

To become a club member, a woman has to be sponsored by an active member. Introduction to the club is in November during the annual membership social. A potential member must then become involved in three projects.

“How do you know if you want to be a part of the club if you don’t know what’s going on?” Lawton said.
Club induction is in April. Lawton said if a woman does not have a sponsor, but shows interest, she will be the sponsor.
“The club will continue, the club will prosper,” she said. “We have a wealth of things to do and we have good mentors.”
For more information, Lawton may be contacted at 973-783-7358.

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