Influential Ohio Federation of Women’s Clubs turns 125, celebrates in Springfield

Springfield’s Thursday Oct. 25, 1894, Weekly Republic praised the women who had arrived in Springfield the day before as being “endowed with the richest graces of culture and refinement, in a handsome and distinguished body representative of the best and highest type of womanhood.”

But those who came to the city to found the Ohio General Federation of Women’s Clubs were more than sparkling jewels in a Wednesday evening Arcade Hotel reception the paper deemed “one of the most brilliant events ever known in the social annals of the city.”’

The 300 representatives of women’s literary clubs across Ohio were people who, in the years to follow, would exert more and more influence on the unfolding of history in communities across the Buckeye State.

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As an early state president put it, they “became a galaxy of bright stars across Ohio’s sky.”

The Ohio Federation of Women’s Clubs will celebrate the organization’s 125 years of history Friday and Saturday at the Courtyard Marriott, which stands on the same grounds the Arcade Hotel stood when the organization was founded.

The event will include a Friday session on Roberts Rules of Order; Saturday district meetings and visits to the Woman’s Town Club; and tours of the Westcott House.

“And Clementine is going to make an appearance,” said Sandy Justice, a member of the Springfield Federation of Women’s Clubs who has worked with local clubs president Chris Zechman on preparations.

Clementine is Clementine Berry Buchwalter, a woman whose bronze statue stands in the garden at the Town Club and the woman who not only called the 1894 meeting to order but had traveled to Philadelphia months before to a national convention that cleared the way for the founding.

Springfield’s Marianne Nave will be portraying Mrs. Buchwalter during the Town Club Reception, which also will include period foods and a Power Point presentation on the Town Club’s history.

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Born and raised in Ross County, Ohio, Mrs. Buchwalter had married twice-wounded Civil War veteran Capt. Edward Buchwalter by 1873, when the two moved to Springfield and her husband went to work for James Leffel and Co., which manufactured water turbines.

Ten years later, the captain organized the Superior Drill Co., which he later grew into the American Seeding Company, making his name and fortune.

His wealth and her natural abilities offered her the opportunity at community leadership, at which she excelled . In addition to staging the state federation’s founding, she served as its president from 1904-1907.

Anna B. Johnson, another Springfielder, also played a prominent role in the state organizing work and was recognized by being named treasurer of the fledgling organization.

And the dramatic extent to which Buchwalter, Johnson and other club women widened their circle of influence into political, charitable and social service areas is obvious in Johnson’s report of the Springfield club activities in 1921-26, her years as president.

These included:

  • A campaign for the (post World War I) European Relief Fund, conducted by Mrs. Charles Bauer and Mrs. J.J. Hoppes.
  • At the call of the Superintendent of the Public schools, assisted in taking over of the under-fed children in two buildings of the public schools, supplying milk and food daily during the winter months of 1921.
  • Responded to a call from the public Health Director, with services and machines during the diphtheria epidemic.
  • Carried the first petitions that had ever been circulated in the city to place the names of two women on an election ticket and secured over 3,200 signers. Made house-to-house canvass for the election of those same women as members of the Board of Education. Mrs. Helen B. Garver and Mrs. Clara A. Fry rendered valuable service as Board members for four years.
  • Appealed in behalf of the Public Library, which appeal was responded to by the City Commission, and the Library budget was increased $1,000 for the year.
  • Made a complete survey of the physically disabled children of the city and county in response to a request from the Rotary Club, which conducted a clinic for crippled children at Memorial Hall, May 10, 1922.
  • Stood in the pouring rain on Dec. 17, 1922, "Forget-me-not Day," and gave to the disabled war veterans as a result, $1,205.
  • Stood for every measure in behalf of Public Health and the establishment of medical inspection of the children of our city schools which was first financed by the Public Health League.

But of all the accomplishments her report celebrated, Johnson said “the outstanding achievement of 1926 was the entertainment of the annual convention of the Ohio Federation of Women’s clubs,” which that year returned to Springfield for its convention for the first time in 42 years.

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The timing of the return was ideal for celebrating Mrs. Buchwalter, who had died in 1912.

Ten years after her death, a remarried Capt. Buchwalter made it possible for the Springfield Federation of Women’s Clubs to buy the former Buchwalter home at 805 E. High Street as a permanent clubhouse for the activities to which his wife had dedicated herself.

Four years later, it was in suitable shape to show off to the members of the Ohio Federation on its return.

This week members can see the beginning of the project to refurnish Clementine’s former sitting room and bedroom in period furnishings.

At the same time, the clubs can celebrate the great influence their movement had in shaping the communities they continue to serve as they open their 126th year.

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