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The General Federation of Women’s Clubs of South Dakota

South Dakota Historical Society

The General Federation of Women’s Clubs of South Dakota was organized on January 16th, 1900.

The national General Federation of Women’s Clubs was founded in 1890. Its roots can be traced back to Jane Cunningham Croly, a professional journalist. In 1868, she attempted to attend a dinner at an all-male press club honoring British novelist Charles Dickens. Croly was denied admittance based on her gender. In response, she formed the woman’s club, Sorosis.

In celebration of Sorosis’ 21st anniversary in 1889, Jane Croly invited women’s clubs throughout the United States to gather in New York City. A few months later, 63 clubs officially formed the General Federation of Women’s Club by ratifying the GFWC constitution

One of the major initiatives of the GFWC in South Dakota came in 1940 in conjunction with an exhibit of Ada Caldwell’s artwork. It prompted the idea of a permanent art museum. The South Dakota General Federation of Women’s Clubs is credited with acquiring artwork, promoting a permanent building and location, and being a force in funding raising for what we know as the South Dakota Art Museum in Brookings. The SDGFWC continues to be an essential supporter of the Museum and donated funds toward acquisitions in recent years.

The South Dakota State Historical Society holds early records of the SDGFWC, which includes accounts of early female pioneers and settlers. The Pioneer Daughters Collection is the result of another statewide GFWC effort. It includes the stories of female pioneers in South Dakota and many of the collections records are accessible digitally through history.sd.gov.

The South Dakota General Federation of Women’s Club was established on January 16th, 1900.

Production help is provided by Doctor Brad Tennant, Professor of History at Presentation College.