When I arrived at the Maggie L. Page Memorial Clubhouse in mid-November, I was the only one driving a pickup truck. That wasn’t surprising since I was there to attend a meeting of the Byromville Woman’s Club, a still vibrant organization which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2018.
We talked about club history and some moments of interest, but what I found most compelling was their warm camaraderie. Friendly banter was interspersed with frequent laughter. The impact they have on their community begins, I believe, with the impact they have on each other.
The Byromville Woman’s Club was organized in 1918 and was originally called the School Improvement Club. Its purpose was, “to work for the upbuilding of the school and community.” Projects in the 1920s included landscaping a new park for Byromville and buying curtains for the stage of the local school. One undertaking, however, was noted far beyond rural Dooly County.
In 1929 the United States Flag Association partnered with Hearst Newspapers for the First Annual Flag Contest. Patriotic competitions in 48 states attracted 250,000 entrants. Participants were required to write an essay, give a speech, and answer 75 questions relative to the origins and significance of the American Flag. The School Improvement Club sponsored a local contest, which was won by Alma Groves, a 16-year-old student at Byromville High School.
Miss Groves went on to win the seven-state southern region, making her one of 38 regional winners from across the entire nation. Those 19 girls and 19 boys took a two-week patriotic pilgrimage of the eastern states. Their packed schedule included a reception hosted by President Herbert Hoover. Each of them was awarded a scholarship to the college of their choice. Miss Groves was further honored as one of four national winners. They received a four-month expense paid chaperoned trip around the world. For the small-town School Improvement Club, Alma Groves’ exceptional achievement gave testament to their making a difference.
World War II expanded the club’s focus. An early history notes the members knitted sweaters and scarves and helped with War Fund Drives. They also had projects involving the Red Cross, cancer, polio, Christmas Seals, and clinics for preschool children. It’s amazing how much can be accomplished when people have a heart for serving others.
Club history from the 1950s reflects an evolving role for American women. “The theme for the 50s was The Southern Woman – Her Place In This Changing World. Club members were reminded that a woman’s place was no longer limited to the home and classroom and that she is finding fulfillment in civil defense, safety programs, movies, television; and that women are participating in the United Nations and holding responsible offices in the shaping and initiating of the laws of our land.”
I don’t know if the men of Byromville knew such topics were being discussed, or if they thought those ladies were just swapping recipes and dress patterns. What I do know is that every community needs a group of women to help make good things happen. In 1918 the women of Byromville saw an opportunity for improvement. They chose to do something rather than ignore it.
The late 1950s presented a challenge for Byromville when its school burned. Helping build and furnish a new facility is where most of the club’s efforts were directed. They donated money for free lunches, provided a piano for the auditorium, and converted their clubhouse to a third-grade classroom.
The BWC is still involved in education. There’s no longer a school in Byromville, so they go elsewhere to give books to kindergarteners or read to impressionable young children.
One column won’t cover the accomplishments of 101 years, but maybe that’s not what’s most important. The rich heritage of the BWC is only part of a story that’s still being written.
I don’t know what the future holds for the Byromville Woman’s Club, but I know every community needs a group of women to help make good things happen. And I have no doubt the men of Byromville will join me in saying, “Thank you for making life better for the rest of us.”
(Confidential P.S. To be read by BWC members only. I appreciate you ladies teaching me how to make a table centerpiece for Thanksgiving, but please don’t tell anyone who drives a pickup truck I did that.)