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A Female Force of Friendship and Service For Over 100 Years

By Pamela Sosnowski

For over 100 years, the St. Petersburg Woman's Club has helped its members learn new skills, make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and provide hands-on assistance to the surrounding community.

The club owes its success to its founder, Nancy Greene, who relocated to St. Petersburg from Illinois in the early 1900s and soon found herself missing the camaraderie and friendship of her home state's Federated Women's Club. Her early attempts to start her own women's club in her adopted city were initially rebuffed since St. Petersburg already had its own Women's Town Improvement Association. After Greene gave a series of town talks on Mormonism, however, she was encouraged to expand her speeches to wider topics.

In 1913, she founded the St. Petersburg Women's Club with 14 other chartered members. "In 1924 (the members) joined the General Federation of Women's Clubs, the largest international women's volunteer organization in the world," says Judy Zamanillo, the club's PR Chairman. "The club was also incorporated the same year, thereby paving the way to enable them to own property."

Some of the club's earliest community projects included inspecting bakeries for cleanliness, and working to have spittoons installed on streets to prevent spitting on the sidewalks. In 1917, Greene called for a meeting that eventually became the local Red Cross, and the following year St. Petersburg club members enlisted 150 young women as members of the National Patriotic League. That sub-group formed the city's YWCA in 1919.

Today, group members are involved in a variety of community outreach projects from collecting and donating gently used prom gowns to the Fairy Dust Project to volunteering at local museums, hospital gift shops, and the Salvation Army. A sewing group meets every Wednesday for members to share their skills with one another and to create a variety of projects such as bibs and stuffed animals that are donated to hospitals and nursing homes.

The club's headquarters, on Snell Isle Boulevard, was declared a state historic landmark in 1993. Built in 1929, its waterfront setting, 2500-square foot ballroom, and manicured lawn with statuary makes it the perfect venue for weddings and other special events. "Over the years, the clubhouse frequently has been booked for weddings, receptions, parties, meetings and seminars," says Zamanillo. "The booking of the facility became a necessity to offset the considerable expenses in maintaining an aging historical building."

St. Petersburg Woman's Club has been the gathering place for women to learn, make new friends, laugh with old friends and provide hands-on service to the community since 1913.

The rules for being a member are simple: other than wearing a smile, members must be female and pay $50 annual dues. "Our doors are open and our welcome mat is out!" declares its website. No doubt the friendly attitude and club's successful history will attract members for centuries to come.

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