The Jackson County Democratic Women’s Club celebrated 25 years of service with a ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 1 at the Ravenswood Community Building.
In 1992, Janey McDowell of Ravenswood, contacted Margarette Leach of the West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women in regards to forming a Democrat Women’s Club in Jackson County. After receiving the information she needed, McDowell was able to establish a local club, having the first meeting at the Jackson County Courthouse in Ripley on Feb. 17, 1994. Eight women attended the first meeting
In order to form a club, they were required to have 25 members. The group ended up with 27 charter members, giving them what they needed in order to form the Jackson County Democratic Women’s Club.
The club has had five presidents in their 25 year history. McDowell held the role of President for a total of eight years. She was the very first President, served four years, then Joyce Creel stepped into the position. Following Creel, McDowell took the position once again for an additional four years.
After McDowell completed her second four-year term, Creel was elected for a second term and served another four years as well. Following Creel’s second term in office, Betty Totten assumed the role. Lucille Cox became President following Totten and currently the position is being filled by Linda Monk.
During their 25 years, they have hosted fundraisers, donated to many different charities, and worked tirelessly on many democratic campaigns.
The first big event hosted by the Jackson County Democratic Women’s Club was a Meet the Candidates and spaghetti dinner in May of 1994. McDowell said if it were not for the generous donation of then Senator Oshel Craigo who donated the spaghetti, the event would not have been possible. This fundraiser gave the club the funds they needed to continue their work in the community.
Another fundraiser they host each year is the Brown Donkey Auction. This event allows them to be able to pay their operating expenses as well as lodging for representatives of the club to attend the National Federation of Democratic Women’s annual conference.
McDowell contacted Senator Robert Byrd to request a lithograph for an raffle before they began doing the Brown Donkey Auctions. To her surprise, he gladly donated one. It was so well received by the public that he donated an additional four paintings that became a staple piece at the auctions in the following years.
The club sent a letter to Byrd after each lithograph was sold, advising him of the amount received from the sale as well as expressing their appreciation for Byrd’s lithograph donations. Byrd would always send a letter in return to the club indicating his appreciation for all they had done.
Emma Lou Bowling, a friend of McDowell’s from Logan County, wrote a poem about Byrd titled “Reflection of A Summer Afternoon.” The poem was copied in calligraphy by Trudy Wendell, then framed and mounted with a brass plate at the bottom. Several members from the Jackson County club took the lithograph to Byrd’s office and presented him with the poem. He was so impressed with the gesture, he informed the group it would be hung in his office in Washington D.C. It remained there until his death.
In 1996, the Victory Bus Tour rolled through town. The club provided refreshments and set up a stage for candidates running for office to speak to members of the public.
Senator John “Jay” Rockefeller IV was one of the speakers from the bus. He expressed his appreciation to the club for their efforts in making them feel welcome.
Other than attending events and hosting candidates, the ladies of the club have also hosted receptions for political figures. One in particular was for Governor Gaston Caperton. They hosted an appreciation reception and citizens from all around the state attended the event.
The ladies of the club have sold T-shirts, sweatshirts, and political jewelry to raise money for their efforts. The items had printed sayings such as Proud Democrat and one for Byrd that pictured a violin with the state of West Virginia with the letters BYRD for Because You Really Do make a difference.
Members of the club were honored to be able to attend the Inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1997.
During Clinton’s administration, the club traveled to Washington D.C. They took Clinton a sweatshirt and received a letter from Clinton himself expressing his appreciation for the gift as well as their continued support.
According to Creel, two national events have been hosted in Jackson County by the group.
Members of the club sell ads for a booklet to raise money for the West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women. The Jackson County club has won first place for ads collected almost every year since it began and they have been the only club to get a presidential candidate to purchase one. McDowell contacted Hillary Clinton’s office when Clinton was running for President of the United States. Clinton’s team ended up purchasing a large ad in the booklet.
Several members of the club have won prestigious awards themselves. The Camelot Awards, in honor of the Kennedy family, began in 2003. McDowell was honored as one of four winners from the first year. Creel and Totten were recipients in later years.
A Hall of Fame also exists for the Democratic Women’s Club. McDowell, Creel, and Candy Good are three members of the Jackson County club that have held that honor.
The West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women have recognized the Jackson County club as being one of the best county clubs under the West Virginia Federation of Democratic Women’s Clubs.
Creel and Good have both been the recipients of the Eleanor Rosevelt Award which is presented by the West Virginia State Party.
Three Jackson County members have been honored with positions on the state board. They include Creel and Totten as well as Sharon Pickens who will assume the role of District Director in January 2020.
In 2018 the club began a new tradition. President Monk proudly presented a $250 scholarship to a student from both Ravenswood and Ripley High Schools. This is a tradition that the club wishes to continue in years to come.
Both McDowell and Creel said the club would not have been able to do what they do without the help the club members and so many wonderful people over the years. They wish to extend their sincere appreciation to all those who have had a part in their success.
The Jackson County Democratic Women’s Club meets the first Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. at the Ravenswood Community Building also know as the MacIntosh Building. Any Democrat woman who wishes to attend a meeting or to become a member, may contact membership chairperson Joyce Creel at 304-372-9259 or Linda Monks at 304-273-5443.