For a more complete history, including a list of past presidents in a word document format, please click here.
There are no records of how the Woman’s Club of Oriental got its start; however, women who were associated with the Club from its beginning have related that 8 local women, meeting in the home of Mrs. L. F. McCabe in 1914, organized the "Ladies’ Embroidery Club". By 1916, there were 20 members and the name had been changed to the "Women’s Improvement League". Once again, in 1917, the name was changed to "The Woman’s Club" and membership had increased to 27. It was then that Miss Love Ritch began the actions which took the Club to membership in the state and national Federations. Official records show that The Woman’s Club of Oriental, North Carolina, became a member of the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1916-1917, assigned to District 8, where it remained until 1925-1926 when redistricting assigned it to District 8. Redistricting in May 2000 assigned the Club to a new District 12.
Meetings were held on alternate Tuesdays until 1936-1937 when the present practice of meeting on the first Tuesday, September through June, became effective. An experiment in 2014 had meeting on the first Tuesday of the month in February, April, June, September, November, and December.
Until 1919, meetings were held in the homes of the members. In March 1919, Mr. W. J. Smith, Sr. gave the Club the use of a room on the second floor of the W. J. Smith & Sons Dry Goods Store where the Club met for almost 6 years. Early in 1923, as a joint effort of the Club and the Mount Vernon Lodge No. 359 A.F. & A.M. of Oriental (Masonic Order) plans began for a club building. Dr. and Mrs. J. J. Purdy gave the land (on Broad Street opposite the present Mariner Realty, Inc. building) and a two-story building was designed and constructed. The entire citizenry of Oriental contributed toward the purchase of the solid concrete blocks at ten cents a block, and members of both organizations worked on construction. By 1924-1925, though the building was still being finished, the Woman's Club held its meetings on the first floor and the Masonic Order on the second. Through the years, as funds were available, the building was improved with plumbing, a kitchen, carpeting, etc. The Woman's Club of Oriental was most generous in making its meeting room available, at little or no cost, to civic organizations, churches, schools, and to individuals for a meeting or other function.
In 1979, with the Broad Street building in need of repair, the Club sold it, divided the proceeds with the Masonic Order, and began the major project of building its own new and larger clubhouse on Gilgo Road on land donated by The Dolphin Company of Oriental. The building foundation was poured in the spring of 1980 and a Club bazaar was held in the shell of the building in November. By April 1982, Club meetings began there. As the years continued, the interior of the Clubhouse was furnished, decorated, maintained, and refurbished. In 1989, a storage building was added to the property to house furnishings and equipment. This has been a pay-as-you-go project and it is gratifying that there is no debt. Major renovation of the building, begun in 1998/99 was completed in 2001. A new sound system was installed. Other work included new ceiling, windows, kitchen flooring, lights in the meeting room, heating/air conditioning unit, two refrigerators and a freezer. In 2013, the kitchen was gutted. New stoves, cabinets, and countertops installed, and the building caulked.
The Oriental Woman’s Clubhouse is the only building in the area with appropriate facilities, furnishings, and off-street parking that can accommodate up to 180 people standing /120 seated for meetings and special events. The Clubhouse is made available at a reasonable fee to other organizations for their special events and to members of the community for private events.
In a program held May 3, 1987, with Rev. Gray Southern, pastor of the United Methodist Church officiating, the Gilgo Road building was dedicated. The Dolphin Company, the building’s designers, the Club’s building committee, the Club’s Past Presidents, and the Junior Woman's Club were appropriately honored.
From its beginning, the Club’s aim has been to be an asset to the community and to work for its betterment in every way. Priorities have always been youth and education, health and welfare, community improvement and beautification. The Garden Club, described on another page, grew from this last objective. Contributions to local educational institutions have included electric light wiring for the school building in 1918 and arrangements for a traveling library to serve Oriental and Pamlico County. The Club lobbied State Representatives to support numerous projects such as appropriations for the State public library and, in County schools, numerous projects such as "Better English Week", nursery school facilities, vocational training, and a mandatory eighteen credits for High School graduation. Monetary support to local students for continuing education has been a major emphasis of the Club. These, too, are discussed on another page.
Early Club minutes tell of the Club’s work with the Oriental Town Board toward community health and welfare. Trash receptacles at street corners, the hiring of a sanitation inspector, and the clearing of the harbor branch marshy area for mosquito control are just a few accomplishments.
A writing group, ORIENTAL EXPRESSIONS formed in the early 1980’s and shared literary productions with Club members until about 1990 when it disbanded as a formal group. About the same time, a music group, ORIENTALAIRES, formed and provided vocal entertainment for Club events. Although this disbanded as a formal group, its members continue to sing for the entire
County through membership in the larger Pamlico Chorale, that was formed in 1989.
With the aid of a very successful fundraising project in 1985, the Club was able to offer financial support to other Town and County groups including the Oriental Fire Department, Hospice, Life Line, Rescue Squad, Human Needs Task Force, and 4H Campers. This support and aid to other community service groups continues. Outside the County, the Oriental Woman’s Club has supported numerous GFWC-NC and GFWC projects.
The care of the ORIENTAL CEMETERY is the longest on-going community-service project of the OWC. It began as a special project in October 1922, and in 1923, the Cemetery Committee became a standing committee of the Club. Relying on the public for donations to cover costs, the committee had its difficulties until, in 1935 a plan was devised whereby cemetery lot owners paid the Club for the upkeep of their lots. This plan proved very successful and continues today. A Perpetual Care Plan was established in 1980 whereby participants may contribute to an investment fund, the interest on which covers the cost of the upkeep. When it was created many years ago, the Oriental Cemetery served the needs of a community whose population lived secure in the belief that succeeding generations would live here and care for the graves. In recent times, life and careers have taken younger members of some of the families miles from their
Eastern Carolina home, and they rely on the Oriental Woman’s Club to care for the cemetery they left behind. The Club values the expressions of affection and thanks it receives from grateful relatives for the loving care it takes of family plots and family history.
In May of 1982, it was suggested that special interest groups within the Club might be formed, and the GARDEN CLUB was the first of these to organize.
The GARDEN CLUB has assumed responsibility for the landscaping and light maintenance of the grounds of the Clubhouse. Further; these ladies, through special projects, have funded much of the equipment needed for the work. Projects in the community have included trees planted on Arbor Day, landscaping and care for the County and Town welcome signs, and the decoration of Christmas trees for the Town Hall and the Post Office. For several years, the Garden Club decorated the clubhouse with poinsettias in early December that were sold to members as a successful fund-raising project. For many years the Garden Club has held a plant exchange and sale, and in 2014 it assumed responsibility for clean-up of a two-mile stretch of HY 55 through Oriental four-times a year under the NCDOT Adopt-a-Highway program.
Monthly programs take advantage of the wealth of horticultural knowledge in the area. County Agriculture Extension Agents, professional horticulturists, and many Club members have shared their expertise. Members have enjoyed visits to many private gardens in our area and to public gardens within easy travel of Oriental.
The Garden Club is a Division of OWC and membership is open to any Club member. Garden Club members are identified as (G) in the Club Roster.
The LADIES OF THE NEUSE are members of OWC whose home and career responsibilities keep them from taking an active part in the Club’s daytime activities.
The unit began as a Junior Woman’s Club in 1975, but in 1986, after the members passed the age limits set by GFWC for Junior membership, they continued to operate as a separate unit of the Club calling themselves the Ladies of the Neuse.
In 1980, the Junior Woman’s Club organized and sponsored the first Fourth of July Croaker Festival in Oriental. As the size and scope of the festival has changed over the years so has LON’s involvement. They continue to this day to make whimsical parade trophies, judge the entries, and help both financially and in other ways.
In addition to their ongoing support of the NC Caswell Developmental Center in Kinston, this small, but very active, group of women has funded a great variety of local programs with money realized from successful fundraising projects including tennis tournaments, golf tournaments, elegant or fun lunches or dinners, a Candlelight Christmas House Tour, and recently a biannual Fall Bazaar.
Ladies of the Neuse are identified as (LON) in the Club roster.
In 2000, a Logo was designed and a Theme adopted to capture the emphasis of the new millennium: "Women Together, Making a Difference". The motto, "Be What You Seem", was retained to honor the past. A history of the Club prepared by Katherine Spruill in 1987 was updated through 2001 by Marion Marsh.
Women together... making a difference
PO Box 515, 1007 Gilgo Road, Oriental, NC 28571