Young Gulfport, at first thought of as an upstart among ancient coastal cities, created its own social ways. One of the leaders became the Woman's Club of Gulfport, which in 1915 joined the Greater Federation of Woman's Clubs, or GFWC. |
Think of teas with silver and china and members whose names popped into social news a lot. But that is far from a complete picture. These women organized for community projects, and the socializing at monthly meetings was a bonus.
GFWC's main goal is still to unite member clubs and encourage women to improve their skills, expand their rights and apply their abilities and sensitivities to help the local and national communities.
Conservation, education, the arts, home life, international affairs, legislative action and other public affairs activities carried the women through years of Gulfport growth. This club also became a contributing member to the Mississippi Federation of Woman's Clubs.
Then came Hurricane Camille in 1969 and their clubhouse near the Markham Hotel was washed out. William Rich, bachelor brother of a member, donated land at 1804 East Beach Blvd., and built and furnished a new clubhouse.
As has happened with so many women's service clubs, the younger set, now often in the workforce, stopped replenishing the ranks. Still, the Gulfport club continued its impressive roster of service work, donating more than 10,000 project hours a year.
"There are a lot of older women who've been in the club a long time," said Kathleen Gott, ways and means chairman. "There wasn't the membership base to keep up the amount of insurance that should be on a building near the beach."
When Hurricane Katrina hit there were 35 members; 18 of them lost their own home to the storm.
The hurricane took the clubhouse and washed away the vintage silver and china used during monthly luncheon meetings. Only a few battered pieces were found.
"We had flood insurance but not enough to rebuild on the beach," said Gott. "We're looking around for something north of the tracks that we can afford. We have made no plans on selling the East Beach land and won't consider the idea for at least a year. Everything is just too raw right now and we don't want to do anything in haste."
- KAT BERGERON