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The Woman’s Club of St. Matthews Benefits Members & Community

Writer / Jessica Able
Photography Provided

For more than eight decades, the Woman’s Club of St. Matthews has inspired, educated and lifted up women in St. Matthews and the greater Louisville area. Formed in 1938, the purpose of the Woman’s Club of St. Matthews (WCSM) is to promote charitable, social and cultural opportunities for women.The Woman’s Club of St. Matthews

In 2023, that same mission remains at the center of the organization. Mary Jo Nay, former WCSM president from 2017 to 2019, said since the earliest days of the club that members have been concerned with promoting causes close to the hearts of women.

Nay explained that in the early years of the group, women raised money and campaigned to establish the first St. Matthews branch of the Louisville Free Public Library. Within another couple of years, women lobbied to establish a kindergarten at Greenhouse School, the building that now houses St. Matthews City Hall.

Throughout the years, clubwomen — as they are known — have championed many causes and charities. They sold war bonds to support the war effort, promoted the use of seat belts, provided outreach to local senior citizens, knitted blankets for babies and nursing home residents, raised funds for domestic violence victims and have supported visually impaired children and their families.

The WCSM is a federated club, meaning they are part of the larger General Federation of Women’s Clubs. The GFWC, Nay explained, is one of the largest and oldest women’s organizations dedicated to community improvement through volunteer service by its members. The WCSM is one of six such clubs who comprise the third and fourth district in Kentucky. The others include: Beechmont, Fern Creek, Leitchfield, Okolona and Radcliff.

“Today, the WCSM primarily focuses on three areas: service, scholarship and educational programs and workshops,” Nay says.

Perhaps its biggest contributions to the city of St. Matthews, and the greater Louisville area, is the club’s commitment to service. Throughout the years, the organization has taken part in a vast array of service and fundraising opportunities on the local, national and international level. In recent years, the group has been committed to assisting several local ministries both in time, talent and treasure.

“Our club members continue to support numerous organizations and charities because it’s part of who we are,” Nay says, who is also a councilwoman for the City of St. Matthews.

The WCSM donates $600 per month to the services provided by the St. Matthews Area Ministries. Clubwomen also regularly volunteer with SOS, previously known as Supplies Over Seas, and support causes such as the Kentucky Humane Society, Kentucky Veterans Affairs (addressing the needs of women veterans), the Ronald McDonald House and Operation Smile.

In 2019, the group partnered with St. Matthews Elementary School to collect plastic bottle caps. Women and children collected the caps, which were ultimately exchanged for three resin-type park benches that now sit in the garden at the St. Matthews Eline Library.

Each spring, the WCSM presents five $3,000 scholarships to one student graduating from Ballard High School, Sacred Heart Academy, Trinity High School, Waggener High School and Walden School. Additionally, the club awards a $3,000 scholarship to a local adult woman who is returning to school to better her career.

Members and guests can also attend a wide variety of educational workshops and community field trips. Past workshops have included estate planning, domestic violence awareness and talks about women veterans.

“We also have social opportunities,” Nay says. “From luncheons to book clubs, to Bridge and Mahjong groups and Christmas and Derby parties, club members regularly gather for fun and fellowship.”

Penny Pearson has been a member of the organization for more than three decades. Her mother was a long-time member, so it was only natural that she would eventually join.

Pearson laughed when she recalled her mother’s days as a clubwoman.

The Woman’s Club of St. Matthews“My mother joined in the early 1950s–my daddy was even an honorary member,” Pearson says. “He did so many things at the club to help mother out. She was a die-hard member until she died.”

Pearson noted her sister is a member as well and a big reason she remains involved with the Woman’s Club of St. Matthews, other than the social element, is because it’s a way to give back to her community.

“I stay because I like being able to help the community,” Pearson says, who served as the organization’s president from 1992 to 1994.

Jackie Brooks, a current member and past president from 2004 to 2007, said she’s proud of the impact the club has had on the community, particularly among women. “We try to address issues that are close to the hearts of women. It’s women helping women really. We are community-minded and want to develop members by educating them,” says Brooks.

Brooks noted she’s proud to be a clubwoman. “I’m certainly a wife, a mother and grandmother first, but I’m also very happy to be a clubwoman.”

When reflecting about membership, Pearson acknowledged it is harder to attract woman to join nowadays than it once was. When her mother joined in the 1950s, there was a waiting list for women who were interested and at the height of the club’s popularity, there were about 400 women involved in the club.

In the early 1990s, when Pearson was president, there were about 140 women involved. “As they aged, that figure kind of dropped. Young people weren’t joining because they were working, and we met at 11 a.m. and then had lunch every Monday,” Pearson says. “We kind of had to recruit people after they retired.”

Today, Pearson said that’s still pretty much how it is. Women who are interested typically approach the club in early retirement. Some may still be working but have more flexible schedules.

“When I took the helm of the Woman’s Club of St. Matthews, there were about 37 members. Nearly two and half years later and at the end of my term, the club’s roster stood at 63 members,” Nay says. “We welcome any woman who wants to join, regardless of age. The Woman’s Club of St. Matthews meets twice a month on the second and fourth Monday, excluding July. Any woman, whether they are a resident of St. Matthews or not, is invited to join.”

Nay added that dues are $35 per year.

“I’m very proud to be a member of this organization because of the opportunities it gives me to be of service, not just to the local St. Matthews community, but the community at large,” Nay says. “I’ve met a lot of great women and made wonderful friends. I just think it completes you to be able to participate in an organization that has such a variety of opportunities.”

In a speech honoring the club’s 80th anniversary in 2018, Nay noted the various contributions of the women who had laid the groundwork of what is the Woman’s Club of St. Matthews today.

“We do not just congratulate the clubwomen of today, who are carrying the torch forward and creating Woman’s Club history for future generations of women, but we celebrate the fore thinking, courageous and strong women of the first 80 years, who passed forward to each new generation this torch, the torch of responsibility of service to community and to country,” Nay says.The Woman’s Club of St. Matthews

For more information on the Woman’s Club of St. Matthews, visit wcsm.org or call the WCSM membership chair at 502-553-6481.

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