Book Lovers spotlight historical women heroes

“Women Heroes from the Past” was the title of the GFWC Book Lovers Study Club February meeting. Cheri McCain and Patricia Cox were program presenters.

The program recognized everyday women who have made a tremendous contribution to our world in the fields of nursing, fire protection and law enforcement.

Florence Nightingale fought in the Crimean War 1853-1856 between Russia and an alliance of France, United Kingdom, Ottoman Empire (Turkey) and Sardinia. She had no formal training in nursing, but she reduced the death rate of soldiers by improving their hygiene and living standards. She was nicknamed “The lady with the lamp.”

Clara Barton was named the head nurse for one of Gen. Benjamin Butler’s units during the Civil War. She had no normal medical training, but thanks to her kind and helpful efforts, the soldiers nicknamed her “the angel of the battlefield.” She founded the Red Cross in 1881 and led this organization for 23 years.

Mary Eliza Mahony was the first African-American woman to complete formal nursing training. Of the 42 students that entered the nursing program, Eliza would be one of only four to complete graduation from the training in 1879.

The first notable female firefighter was Mollie Williams, an African-American slave. She worked at the New York City Engine No. 11 Station in 1815.  During the Blizzard of 1818, Mollie became famous, as she was seen pulling the station’s water pumper through the heavy snow. Her efforts in getting the water pump through the snow saved lives, homes and businesses.

The first female to be sworn in as a police officer was Lola Baldwin in 1908 in Portland, Oregon. Female officers faced discrimination in the male-dominated field until the 1970s, when discrimination laws were established.  Today about 73,000 women serve in some capacity in law enforcement.

I presented the institute on the GFWC Women’s History and Resource Center, which was opened in 1984. It is located at the GFWC Headquarters in Washington D.C.  The research library consists of nearly 5,000 publications that provide a broad context for researching the history of GFWC and women volunteers.

This month’s meeting was held at the Chamber of Commerce. Gayle McAlister and Ponda Gordon served as hostesses.

The February projects were a silent auction for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and giving Valentine cards and treats to the residents and staff of Country Cottage Assisted Living.

Proceeds from auction will be mailed to St. Jude, and Valentine cards were delivered Valentine’s Day.

President Brenda Oliver announced that Book Lovers Study Club had been nominated for the Franklin County Partnership Volunteer of the Year Award for the Walking the Road to Wellness/Breast Cancer.  Members approved to reserve a table for the banquet, which will be held March 23 at the A. W. Todd Centre.   

Information and registration forms were given to members for the GFWC Alabama North District meeting that will be held in Decatur Feb. 25.   

Book Lovers Study Club members nominated me for the GFWC Jennie Award, which will be presented at the GFWC Convention in 2024.

Other business consisted of approving the January minutes and discussing ideas for fundraising projects. The fundraising committee will give report in March.

The meeting adjourned with the reading of the Collect led by Patricia Cox.


Malone is lifestyles columnist for the FCT.

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