The New Bern Woman’s Club is a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (an international women’s organization) and is dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.
The club was established in 1905, and its mission was to provide educational opportunities outside the home for adult women. In 1913 the New Bern Woman’s Club hosted the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs Convention, and at that meeting a permanent scholarship for young women desiring a higher education was established. That scholarship, in honor of NC resident Sally Southhall Cotten, a leader in the Women’s Movement and the 5th president of GFWC-NC, is still given out each year to a deserving student. The local winner then has the opportunity to compete for a district and finally a state-wide scholarship to the school of their choice.
In addition to the Sally Southall Cotten Scholarship awarded to a Craven County High School Senior, the club awards two other scholarships each year: NBWC Memorial Scholarship and the NBWC-Education Community Service Program Scholarship. Both of these scholarships are for non-traditional students, and most of the recipients have been students at Craven Community College.
While the creation of Union Point Park in 1932 and the building of the first clubhouse in 1933 are probably some of our most well-known projects, NBWC has been supporting the folks of New Bern for 109 years. Just a few items of interest about the Union Point Project – in addition to beautifying the city and putting men to work during the depression, women from NBWC were also on-site daily to support the workers by operating a soup kitchen and by distributing used clothing collected by the membership. They also oversaw the hiring of labors, supervised the work and purchased (or salvaged) the building materials. The park and the clubhouse were competed without one dollar of debt being accrued. Unfortunately Hurricanes Connie and Hazel in 1955 severely damaged the clubhouse and made it unusable. It stood vacant for many years after being purchased by the city and was finally demolished in 1998.
After the Great Fire of 1922, members of NBWC went door-to-door to collect clothing, blankets and food for those displaced by the destruction. In 1938 the Junior Division of the club raised money for the construction of a youth recreation center on George St. that is still in use today as the Senior Citizen’s Center. During WWII, the club set up a lunchroom in the New Bern Central School and served hot lunches daily to needy children. In 1972 construction of a new clubhouse in Trent Woods was completed, and once again NBWC could offer the community a convenient place for civic meetings, parties and receptions. In 1979 the club undertook the landscaping and beautification of Lawson Creek Park, and in 1982 the New Bern Woman’s Club took on the job of providing a Surgical Waiting Area for the Craven County Hospital. In September of 2004 the bandstand/gazebo at Union Point Park, built on the site of the old clubhouse, was completed and dedicated – the first seed money ($15,000) coming from the New Bern Woman’s Club.
In February 2013 and May 2014, the club collected over 500 “Precious Purses” filled with personal items to be distributed at the Coastal Woman’s Shelter’s Safe House, and donated over 200 pairs of socks to the Salvation Army for distribution to the homeless in Craven County. The annual fundraiser – “The Holly and The Ivy” Holiday Homes Tour – raised over $8,000 each year; all of which went directly back to the community in the form of charitable contributions.
NBWC is proud of our service to the community and especially to the women of Craven County. From our beginnings in the early 20th century, we have striven to be a community resource for women to advance their knowledge and involve themselves in the issues of the day while making their neighborhoods and city a better place to live and thrive. As we look forward to the future, we also look to our past to guide us and inspire us as we work for community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service.