WAXHAW – Since its founding in 1911, the Waxhaw Women’s Club has operated with three main goals in mind: help make Waxhaw a clean and safe place to live, preserve the historical heritage of the region and work with town officials in all worthy undertakings.
For almost 110 years, the members have never wavered from those goals and in turn, the town of Waxhaw has benefited from their efforts.
Gladys Kerr has been part of the Waxhaw Women’s Club since 1962 – serving as president from 1965 to 1966 – and is somewhat of a club historian. Her mother was also a member.
She said it all started with a group of concerned women who simply wanted to protect the town’s children “and clean up all the trash.”
They presented a petition to the town board requesting an ordinance to prohibit the sale of “bootleg” liquor to minors in the streets of Waxhaw. The board granted the request and it encouraged the petition makers to form a club, which was then called Civic League.
It wasn’t until 1916 when they became the Waxhaw Women’s Club.
As the club grew in membership, so did its efforts. During World War I, Kerr said they sold war stamps, rolled bandages, wrote letters and sent care packages to soldiers. They gave to the Boy Scouts and the fire department, hosted antique shows, supported the Waxhaw Historical Festival and Drama Association, served lunch to needy children and gave the school encyclopedias and a second-hand piano.
When North Carolina granted women the right to vote in 1920, the club encouraged women to register and even turned their meeting house into a voting precinct. That building is now home to the Waxhaw Creamery.
Kerr said one of the club’s most well-known members, a school teacher named Lois Sims, was among the first to vote in 1922. It was the first time women helped choose a United States president. Kerr said Sims never missed voting in a presidential election until she died.
Over the years, the women worked hard to see improvements in Waxhaw. They wrote letters to congressmen asking for more money for schools, health clinics, libraries and paved roads. They even bought, donated and borrowed books to start a town library and eventually got grants from the state and town to keep it going.
“They were very active in getting out there and trying to get women involved, which is the same thing we do today,” said Jane McNeely, who joined the club in 1990 and was president from 2015 to 2017. McNeely’s mother and aunts were also members.
The main principle the Waxhaw Woman’s Club was founded upon in 1911 was “betterment of the community,” or community service, and McNeely said that’s held true ever since.
Each year, the club awards college scholarships to high school seniors and gives at least $5,000 to local organizations. The money comes from donations, selling ornaments, events like Project Prom and Holiday Tour of Homes and renting out the club’s headquarters – the former Belk Building at 200 E. South Main St. – for weddings and private parties.
The club recently gave $2,500 to Turning Point and $2,500 to Union County Community Shelter.
“All of our fundraising we do just so we can give it back,” said Maggie Powelson, current president of the Waxhaw Women’s Club.
Members also participate in food drives, collect school supplies and give pet food to shelters. Last year, they made 30 blankets for Turning Point’s Treehouse Child Advocacy Center in Monroe. The club also sponsors families at Christmas.
“Any need we’re aware of in the community, this group of ladies tries to step up and help,” Powelson said.
The Waxhaw Women’s Club currently has 125 members and is always looking to grow. McNeely said members don’t have to be lifelong residents to join. In fact, she said new faces with outside perspectives can help bring unique ideas to the club.
They are currently working on new ways to diversify their fundraising efforts with virtual cooking classes and an online meat raffle.
As one of the oldest members, Kerr said she rests easy knowing the future of the club is in good hands and its members are still working toward the three original goals: make Waxhaw a clean and safe place to live, preserve the historical heritage of the region and work with town officials in all worthy undertakings.
Still, she said she would be remiss if she didn’t thank the women who envisioned those goals nearly 110 years ago.
“I am just so grateful,” Kerr said. “I admire them. They were all ladies I wanted to be and who I looked up to.”
Become a member
Visit www.waxhawwomensclub.org to learn more about the organization and how to become a member. Follow @waxhawwomensclub on Facebook and Instagram to stay connected.