General Federation of Women’s Clubs — Heeko Club Celebrates 100 Years!

Ed and Joyce Ward


The General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC)  – Heeko Club in Pawhuska celebrated 100 years on Feb. 14.

Member and current GFWC Oklahoma President Joyce Ward recently spoke to the local Kiwanis Club about the purposes of this service organization and high moments of the GFWC – Heeko Club.

The Pawhuska gets its name “Heeko” from the Osage word for learning.

To understand the GFWC, one must be introduced to its founder, Jane Cunningham Croly. Croly’s family emigrated to the United States from England and settled in New York.

In 1854, when Croly was 25, she moved to New York City in search of work after her father died. She took jobs at the New York Sunday Times and Noah’s Weekly Messenger, where she began using the pen name Jennie June, and wrote a column called “Parlor and Side-walk Gossip.”

In 1856 she married a journalist named David G. Croly, who as an editor is credited with originating the format of the modern Sunday newspaper.

In 1857 Jane Croly’s popular column became one of the first syndicated columns written by a woman.

Croly’s decision to form a women’s group stemmed from her being denied admittance to an 1868 press club dinner honoring novelist Charles Dickens.

After this unpleasant experience, she formed a club called Sorosis, which is a Greek word meaning “an aggregation; a sweet flavor of many fruits.” Croly invited women’s clubs throughout the United States to attend a ratification convention in New York City in April 1890. Sixty-three clubs attended and formed the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Perhaps because it was founded as a federation of women’s clubs, GFWC’s mission is broad. GFWC projects tackle many social issues.

Now an international organization, GFWC has had its hand in so many different projects that it would be difficult to list them all. Here are just a few of the U.S. projects: creation of responsible child labor laws, creation of fair laws for juvenile courts, the establishment of public libraries, support of the Pure Food and Drug Act, efforts to limit the workday to eight hours, assistance to soldiers wounded in war, the Indian Welfare Committee for disenfranchised Native Americans, education on home economics such as canning and storing food during periods of economic hardship, the Equal Rights Amendment, selling war bonds during WW II (which funded the purchase of 431 U.S. war planes), the seat-belt campaign, youth suicide prevention, a crime reduction program called “Hands Up,” the “Brighten the Night” campaign to bring street lights to communities, and programs to end domestic violence.

To learn more about GFWC and Croly’s remarkable life, visit the GFWC website

The moxie of the founder resonates through the GFWC – Heeko Club. In fact, Joyce Ward’s husband, Ed Ward, said that in one city council meeting some time ago the mayor at the time was heard to say, “If you want something done around here, get the Heeko ladies involved.”

To say that the Heeko club is involved is an understatement. The efforts of the GFWC – Heeko Club have changed the face of Pawhuska.

The GFWC – Heeko Club in Pawhuska spearheaded the effort to establish the Osage County Historical Society Museum, the Pawhuska Hospital, the Senior Center and the Step-on Pawhuska tour, to name a few.

GFWC is a generational tradition in Joyce Ward’s family, as it is for many members. Her mother, Rose Downey of Pawhuska, was president of the Heeko Club in 1966 when the GFWC – Heeko Club won a prestigious award — first place in the GFWC International Community Service Award, which awarded the Heeko Club a $10,000 prize.

The Heeko Club won the honor based on their two-year service project (1964-1966) called “Pride in Pawhuska.” This project focused on the Osage County Historical Society Museum, the founding of “Heritage Week” in Pawhuska and free vision and auditory testing for elementary school-aged children.

Most of the funds from this award were donated to the effort to convert the old Santa Fe Railroad train station depot into the Osage County Historical Society Museum, Ward said.

In 1962-1964, the GFWC – Heeko Club’s service project called “Boom Pawhuska” won fourth place and $1,000 for its efforts to improve Pawhuska.

Joyce Ward and her husband, Ed Ward, showed a copy of a 2001 GFWC magazine “Club Woman” article about their donation of a one-of-a-kind cookbook by the GFWC founder to the GFWC headquarters.

Ed Ward explained that he had inherited the books from his mother. When he was going through the books, he found this Jennie June cookbook.

Joyce Ward was delighted to find this single-edition cookbook, which had been published in 1867, in her possession.

Ed Ward said they had had the cookbook appraised, and learned that it was quite valuable.

Nonetheless, the couple decided to donate the cookbook in 2001 to the GFWC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

In addition to recipes, the cookbook contained helpful advice in the margins. One example is: “Eat slowly as if it were a pleasure you desire to prolong rather than a duty to be got rid of as quickly as possible,” or “Never wear anything during the day that you have worn at night, and never wear anything during the night that you have worn during the day.”

Joyce Ward surmises, “This was probably a cookbook for young brides.”

She went to visit the cookbook after the donation at the GFWC headquarters and was moved by the care with which it was being preserved. “It was very emotional – like seeing your child,” Joyce Ward said. Wearing white gloves, “[t]hey went up the ladder and pulled it out and showed it to me … That was the only copy they could ever find. Her family didn’t even know she had written one,” Joyce Ward said.

Joyce Ward is currently Oklahoma President of GFWC. Her two-year state project is to assemble school supplies donated by GFWC clubs throughout the state and deliver them to school children in Afghanistan.

The first shipment of 240 backpacks, and additional supplies for teachers, shipped out with the Oklahoma National Guard when they left for Afghanistan recently.

For more information about Oklahoma GFWC and donating school supplies to this cause, visit their website at

3 thoughts on “General Federation of Women’s Clubs — Heeko Club Celebrates 100 Years!

  1. Excellent article Rosanne. Heeko has been very active and involved in key programs to help Pawhuska and it’s citizens. I was glad to see them recognized after 50 years. Thank you and Peace and caring, Patti

    • That was such a fun story to write. The cookbook and its contents were an unexpected treasure that just underscore how special GFWC is. The review of the Heeko Chapter’s contribution to Pawhuska was certainly worth celebrating!

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