North Carolina Federation of Women's Clubs On Steps of Capitol, 1909
The Twentieth Century Mother’s Club was organized October 18, 1918 by eighteen mothers of Clayton who met at the home of Mrs. I.D. Hinson. The name was changed to the Woman’s Club of Clayton on May 21, 1920, and on November 12, 1920, with a membership of twenty-seven, the club became federated. Mrs. D.J. Thurston served as the first president, and the club motto “Esse Quam Videri” was adopted. Interests included the local schools, welfare of the children, community and civic interests, cultural subjects, and home affairs. Music was a part of every meeting, usually provided by the talented club members. Meetings were held in the homes, with members taking turns as hostess.
As the membership grew, the dream of a clubhouse was born. During the 1923-31 period, under the leadership of Mrs. B.A. Hocutt and Mrs. Ronnie Ellis, the club purchased a lot. Using plans drawn by Douglas Ellington, architect, a frame building was purchased, moved to the lot, and remodeled. The clubhouse was a reality. In raising funds for the clubhouse, other club work was not forgotten. T.B. clinics were held, plays were performed, legislative measures were considered, Rotary dinners were served, the public library was begun, and the Lucile Ellington Hocutt Scholarship Loan Fund was established. In one year, over eleven hundred trees were planted. Many are still living.
Club members met the demands of the depression years, 1931-35. Red Cross supplies were distributed, hot lunches were served in both schools, and a soup kitchen was set up. In 1932, the club joined the General Federation. During WWII, members knitted, sewed, bought war bonds, provided space for service men on leave to sleep, and continued their support of the schools and community. Mrs. O.E. Longwell became President in 1947, and extensive club repairs and redecorating took place. A committee was appointed to work with the Rotary and Lions Clubs to develop plans for the young people of the community. Mr. and Mrs. Dwight Barbour donated a lot, and on September 24, 1948, the Youth Center building was formally opened.
Recognizing the need to involve younger women in the community, Mrs. W.S. Penn organized a Junior Woman’s Club. Mrs. C.H. Beddingfield, Jr. became president of the forty-six members club, with Mrs. Ben Duncan from the senior club as advisor.In 1958, the end of an era and a new approach to the work of the Federation brought departmentalization. Under the leadership of Mrs. E.W. McCullers, Mrs. Robert Winston and Mrs. T.R. Bass, Presidents 1958-1964, the club captured the Battle A. Hocutt District 13 Award as best all-round club for six consecutive years.
Formation of the Community Improvement Council in 1959, spearheaded by the Woman’s Club, influenced Dr. T.R. Bass to locate in Clayton. The Council also set up a Swimming Pool Corporation to sell shares of stock and to build a swimming pool, which is still enjoyed today. Competing in the General Federation-Sears Roebuck Improvement Achievement Contest, The Woman’s Club and the Junior Woman’s Club placed fourth in the state.
In 1967, a check from Mr. Walter Priddy founded a second loan fund, the Rena Beckwith Horne Scholarship Loan Fund, in honor of Mr. Priddy’s mother. The two scholarship loan funds and an annually awarded Woman’s Club Scholarship have been used to help high school seniors further their education. The fiftieth anniversary was celebrated in 1968 with the publication of a club history titled “Fifty Years of Courage.” In 1969, the club joined in the centennial celebration of the incorporation of Clayton.
Prior to her death, Mrs. B. A. Hocutt deeded her home and lot to the Town of Clayton to be used for a library. When the site was approved, a Friends of the Library Corporation was formed. In May of 1981, the Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library was officially opened. The Woman’s Club and individual members continue to support the library with gifts of money and volunteer time to assist in library services and programs. Between 1986-92, the club won the NCFWC Traveling Award for resolutions, the GFWC National Award for bulb sales, and the NCFWCCIP District Citation for improvements at the city cemetery. At the District level, the club won first-place silver trophies in Public Affairs, Home Life, Education, Arts, Yearbook, Club Woman of the Year, and Best All-Round.
The annual rummage market, the Ultrasuede clothing sales, and a very special fund-raising project which involved the sale of porcelain Christmas ornaments which were designed, made and donated by Don Hudson of D&K Pottery resulted in a total of $7,880.00 raised from club projects in 1990-92.
Under the leadership of Lyn Austin, the clubhouse was reroofed, recarpeted, and fitted with new draperies. The sofa and chairs were reupholstered, and landscape plans were formulated. The clubhouse gleamed. Club members served as District 13 President, Vice-President, and Secretary/Treasurer during 1988-1994, and also held leadership positions from 1994-2002.
A special yearbook and luncheon celebration in October 1993 marked the Diamond Jubilee of the club. The book, “Reaching the Diamond Jubilee,” recording the club years from 1969 to 1993 was published bringing the club history up to date.
Support for the Harbor House, a shelter for battered women and children, became a new project during 1992-1994.
Improvements in the club house from 1994-96 resulted in new bathroom fixtures and redecorating, rebuilding of the side porch and steps, landscaping with an irrigation system and the addition of the Hocutt Taylor gazebo (dedication October 18, 1999). 1998 saw the kitchen renovation with new cabinets, countertops, sinks, dishwashers, new lighting, paint and wallpaper. Recessed lighting, interior painting of the rest of the clubhouse was completed in 1999.
Membership swelled. An additional fund-raiser “The Silent Auction” proved to be fun and lucrative with very little effort. NCFWC drew new district lines and Clayton became part of District 8. Clubwomen won many awards at the N.C. State Arts Festival in 1999.
2002, the centenary year of the GFWC, the Clayton Club celebrated wearing vintage hats to the May meeting. Club history was updated up to 2000, a shop window was decorated with vintage clothing and a reception was held to recognize outstanding women of the community. At the NC-GFWC State Annual Meeting, the Clayton Club received the pewter tray for the best centennial celebration in the state. A golf tournament at Riverwood raised $6,000 for Habitat for Humanity.
Lack of use of the funds prompted the decision to move the Lucile Ellington Hocutt and the Rena Beckwith Scholarship Loan Funds to the Johnston County Community Foundation to be named The Woman’s Club of Clayton Hocutt-Horne Scholarship Endowment. Frank Holding matched the amount deposited giving a total of $7,000.
The millennium saw changes in the membership. Recent population growth brought a number of young energetic members with many new ideas. The local Arts Festival was moved into The Clayton Center where the student entries could be displayed and the parents could participate in the recognition of the winning students.
The Education Department encouraged young mothers to read to their children with their “Books for Babies” drive. Working with Johnston Memorial Hospital and a local gynecologist, members made 225 bags containing books and information for new mothers. Seven members joined the GFWC-NC ESO program and began meeting monthly. The new money making project, "Taste of Carolina Cuisine" directed by Dianne Carroll was held at The Clayton Center in 2005. Local restaurants participated providing samples of their menus. A silent auction, a DJ, and a raffle were also included. Everyone enjoyed the evening and $14,000.00 was netted from the event. $6,000.00 was given to the Friends of the Library for their planned expansion and $2,500.00 added to the Hocutt-Horne Scholarship Endowment invested with the Johnston County Community Foundation. Frank Holding matched the $2,500.00 giving a total of $11,000.00 in the endowment.
Meanwhile the clubhouse needed extensive repairs. A natural gas heating and air conditioning system was installed. A new roof with ventilation ducts under the eaves, addition of attic fans, new insulation, new ceiling in the dining room cost around $12,000.00. Ronald Crowder, husband of Debbie Ragland, one of our members, painted the outside of the club house and the gazebo in 2005 at no cost to the club. A very successful program, a puppet show addressing and teaching character development was written by Patti Snyder, an Artist in the Schools for the Atlanta area. It was presented to the first and second grades students in all the local elementary schools. The performing puppeteers were at risk students at the Clayton High School, Men of Distinction. Members of the Clayton Woman's Club were mentors supervisors and directors. Embarq/Sprint donated five hundred dollars to cover the cost of the puppets stage and other supplies.
The bathroom in the clubhouse was recovered with tile, electrical outlets were replaced, fans replaced in the attic and other minor repairs were carried out. Chris Hill attended the LEADS (Leadership, Education and Development Seminar) as a District 8 candidate.
2008 -2010 Club members became more involved in the District and Federation. Five held offices at the District level and four at the federation level. May 2010, Ginny Smith from The Woman's Club of Clayton was installed as GFWC-NC recording secretary.
A very alive and energetic club with good leadership stands poised to face the challenges and responsibilities of the future.