Venice

Spring 2016

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THESE WOMEN'S WORK IN RETROSPECT The Fort Lauderdale Woman's Club enters a second century of stewardship. BY JOANN SMITH THE FORT LAUDERDALE HISTORICAL SOCIETY RETAINS ALL RIGHTS TO THE REPRODUCTION OF THE IMAGE The Fort Lauderdale Woman's Club predates the city's own founding: It was created as a service organization in January 1911, two months before Fort Lauderdale was officially incorporated. It began with a mission to engage the women of Fort Lauderdale as volunteers who could make a recognizable difference in addressing civic, educational, cultural and humanitarian needs in their community and beyond. One of the club's early luminaries was Ivy Cromartie, the city's original schoolteacher. Cromartie moved to Fort Lauderdale from Lemon City (now part of Miami) in 1899 and the following year, married local entrepreneur Frank Stranahan. The clubhouse still sits on land that the couple donated. Under Cromartie's leadership and ensuing directors, the Woman's Club members knew no bounds. The organization founded the city's first library; it raised money to start the city's first fire department and to purchase land for the first YMCA and Dillard High School; it funded the first hospital to serve the African-American community; and it created a welfare agency for women. Additionally, Fort Lauderdale's first Red Cross was run from the clubhouse, which also served as safe haven for many locals during hurricanes. The FLWC began advocating on behalf of the Everglades and even went to Washington, D.C., in 1934 to fight for Native American rights. The club has achieved other stellar accomplishments, including one little-known fact that during World War II, it raised $80,000 in war bonds to purchase a fighter plane that bore the club's name. Today, the FLWC promotes philanthropic and educational activities, which includes awarding scholarships to deserving high school senior girls, coordinating activities with fellow Woman's Clubs and other local groups, and supporting local, national and international charities. "We have a legacy of great women who have shaped the city of Fort Lauderdale for women, children, racial equality and the environment," says club treasurer, Jeri Pryor. "Most of it happened in the charming old clubhouse that stands where it always has—in its little oasis among all the towering buildings that surround it. Having to maintain such a structure with limited funds is a tremendous responsibility, but we don't plan to let our founders down." Currently, the FLWC is focused on creating an interactive outdoor children's reading garden at the Main Library. "The garden will give the children a place to see nature at its best while listening to the readings of old and new classics," Pryor says. And, it just might inspire a new generation of girls and women. v AHEAD OF THEIR TIME Built in 1917, Fort Lauderdale Woman's Club's clubhouse still sits on its original location, now bordering Stranahan Park and the Main Library. 204 Venice

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