The International Women’s Club of Bermuda was founded in 1981.
Mrs. Rosella Hutchison arrived in Bermuda in December 1979. Discovering a beautiful island and many interesting, well-educated women, she conceived the idea of starting a Women’s Club in Bermuda. On Friday May 15th, 1981 a meeting was held in her home. Ten women were present at the meeting: Mrs. W. Roy Adams, Mrs. Robert Baker, Mrs. Bruno Gabrynowicz, Mrs. John Gilmour, Mrs. Renwich Martin, Mrs. Joseph Mill, Mrs. Frank Mulderig, Mrs. John Swift, Mrs. John Newton and Joanne Moody. This group voted to form a club that should be International in scope, so that women of all nationalities residing in Bermuda would be welcome. The club would be American in concept so that it would bring together women from all over the world to share a common goal. Thus, it was decided to name the club “The International American Women’s Club – Bermuda.” The purpose of the organization would be to promote intellectual growth, to encourage social fellowship and to provide service to the community.
An opening tea was held on Monday, June 22nd, 1981 at “Chelston”, courtesy of the American Consul General. Forty-eight women joined and the International American Women’s Club – Bermuda was officially on its way. In 1981 under Mrs. Hutchison’s presidency, the Club grew in membership and expanded in ideas. Executive committees were formed, and moneys distributed to Bermuda charities.
In 1983, during the Presidency of Vivian Stephens, the Club published a monthly newsletter, planned a cookbook, and expanded the executive committees. Membership reached its maximum of 200 this year. Plans to join the General Federation of Women’s Clubs were put in motion.
In 1985, during the Presidency of Ruth Anderson, the Club’s Cookbook was printed. New guidelines were established for membership in the club. The membership would consist of 100 members who were resident guests in Bermuda, 75 members who were permanent residents and 25 members from all the Military stationed Bermuda. In January 1985 the Club was formally accepted into the General Federation of Women’s Clubs as an International Member.
In 1986, during the Presidency of Pamela Ferreira, the computerization of the Club took place. The newsletter and yearbook were transformed into a more professional composition. The Club’s Constitution and By-Laws were updated and 25 Amendments and four Standing Rules were adopted. New Members’ coffees were introduced.
In 1988, during the Presidency of Christine Popper, our Philanthropic efforts continued to be financially rewarding and a Christmas Open House was introduced.
In 1989, during the Presidency of Vivian Stephens, the Club year began with the President’s Coffee at Government House through the kindness of Lady Langley. A valuable service was rendered to ladies who were made welcome in Bermuda through the tireless efforts of the newly formed New Islanders Committee.
In 1991-1992, during the Presidency of Virginia Jennings the Club voted to increase the membership limit to 275 and redefine the membership categories.
In 1992-1994 Cheryl Shane held the Presidency. The Constitution was again amended to remove all restrictions and limits on membership. The objectives were also altered to reflect the main purpose of the Club – assisting newcomers’ adjustment to the Island. Ten thousand dollars each year was donated to Bermuda charities.
Heather Conyers held the office of President during 1994-1996. As President, Heather witnessed a number of Constitutional changes. Among those changes, was the clarification of the Club privileges to New Islanders and the granting of unlimited sponsorship and proposer ship privileges to the members of the New Islanders Committee. An annual social event, the Members’ Tea, began as a way of bringing the Club membership together before the end of the Club’s calendar year. In addition, a new special interest group, the Leisure Artists Committee, was established during Heather’s Presidency. This group, although established in mid 1995, became one of the fastest growing Club activities. The group was so successful that it had its first showing at the National Gallery in 1996 and donated the proceeds to the philanthropic purposes of the Club.
In 1996-1998, during the Presidency of Susan Basch, the Club became a registered charity and the membership reached an all time high of 295 members. The sum of $22,500 was donated to Bermuda charities.
During the Presidency of Jane Kline 1998-2000 the Club celebrated the arrival of the year 2000 with a Millennium Fair at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.
During 2000-02, Wendy Gray, following the unexpected departure in 2000 of the newly elected President Melanie Feller O’Neill, held the office of President. In 2001 the Club celebrated its 20th anniversary with a dinner and dance at La Coquille, which was attended by the Founding President, Rosella Hutchison.
Jennie Lee O’Donnell served as President from 2002-2004. As President, Jennie Lee oversaw the constitutional change of the club’s name from International American Women’s Club to International Women’s Club as well as significant modifications in application procedures of new members in an effort to streamline the membership process. Modifications in the club’s publications were made to bring the club further into the electronic age with many members electing to receive the club’s newsletter via email and work begun for the launch of an IWC website. The scope of the IWC philanthropic donations was expanded to include both domestic and international recipients of IWC philanthropic funds. While maintaining its focus on Bermuda’s community needs, the IWC has also begun donating to international charities for women and children, appropriately reflecting Bermuda’s privileged position in the global community. The total sum of $31,500 was donated during the 2002-2004 IWC club years.
Eve Finnbogason held the office of President from 2004-2006. During Eve’s term, the Directory and subsequently the Club database were converted to new electronic formats, which greatly assisted in compiling and using the data. Also on the technical front, e-mail communication became the norm with many members receiving electronic Newsletters only and members receiving regular e-mail reminders of Club luncheons and activities. Eve instituted annual planning meetings for the Board to provide an opportunity for detailed discussion of policy and strategic issues facing the Club. She also initiated the development of an IWC Board Handbook to detail the responsibilities of every Board member and to facilitate the transition when new women join the Board. Finally, Eve oversaw the move to a variety of new venues for Club luncheons, which proved very popular with the membership.
Sonja Golinski served as President from 2006-2008. During Sonja’s term, the position of Membership Chairperson and Database Chairperson were combined. Due to increased technology and to help facilitate better communication, the two positions were merged to better serve the Club. This also brought about necessary by-law changes and while in the process, much of the language of the by-laws was “cleaned up”. On the philanthropic front, Sonja initiated the concept of service days and food drives. In addition to giving our dollars to charitable organizations, we also donated our time. Our first service day, included providing and preparing 150 lunches to the Senior Islander Group and our food drives helped to provide much needed assistance to families during the Christmas holidays. She also helped to oversee the continued expansion of our lunch venues, which proves to be very popular with the membership. Finally, the Club celebrated its 25th anniversary with a dinner and dance in November 2006 with the highlight of having some of the original members in attendance.
Jennifer Collum-Glassman served as IWC President from 2008-2010. During Jen’s term the club went green and launched a new website. The enhanced online presence enabled the club to provide an online Membership Directory saving the club over $3000 in hardcopy directory printing costs. Through the year 99% of club members were brought online, newsletters published online and online renewal of dues was offered. A new Executive Board position of Webmaster was added. The club was honoured to have the President and Philanthropy Chair invited to a luncheon at the Commissioner’s House to personally meet Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip during their visit to the island in November 2009. In May 2010, after much consideration, a colourful new and personalized IWC – Bermuda logo was chosen by the membership.
From 2010 to 2012 Nancy Frith served as IWC President. During her term the IWC celebrated it’s 30th anniversary with a Gala Dinner Dance held at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess. The Gala was attended by four IWC Past Presidents and many long serving members several of whom came from off-island to share in the festivities. At the monthly luncheon in October 2011 the club was pleased to host the Premier of Bermuda, the Honourable Paula Cox JP MP. Through Nancy’s term the club continued the tradition of generous annual philanthropic giving and days of service to multiple island charities.
Patrice Blue-Williams served as President for the 2012/2013 IWC year. Under her presidency, Jennifer Carnegie took on the role to review the current By Laws and Standing Rules. After much Board discussion it was felt that the IWC Bermuda was now an independent club and no longer needed to be part of the General Federation of Women’s Club, USA. Gillian Kersse, as the Philanthropy Chair started the first Art and Photographic Exhibition for two local charities raising a total of $4500 on the night with the IWC matching the amount raised. The IWC gave $17,863 in total for this year.
Jennifer Carnegie served as President for the 2013/2014 IWC year. During this year the By Laws committee continued their work, reviewing and amending to bring them in line with other charities/non-profits in Bermuda. Unfortunately, Jennifer had to leave the Island before the end of her full term, passing the reins to Gillian Kersse for the remainder of the year. The IWC gave $16,718 in total to local charities this year.
Gillian Kersse served as President from 2014/2015. By Laws continued to be reviewed, however, with more changes to the economic climate, further amendments needed to be made, and this will continue now into the next IWC year. The tennis group was brought back to life, and with the changes in the demographics of the IWC a mommy and me group was started to give the younger members with young children the chance to meet up. This year, thanks to Darlene Fortin ,Publicity chair it was an honour to have Premier Dunkley attend the Art and Photographic Exhibition. This gave him the chance to meet and talk to some of the ‘artists’ from the IWC and the charity Phenomenal Women. Also, As part of the America’s Cup celebrations, the Premier’s wife, Mrs Pamela Dunkley, attended our America’s Cup luncheon. The IWC gave $18,419 in total to local charities this year.
Alison Watson served as President from 2015/2016. During this time, we continued to work hard on the bylaws but unfortunately still ran out of time to complete them, as new regulations meant more changes. We, also, recognised the need for younger women to meet with others their own age where they could make friends, support each other, and explore the islands in a more adventurous way. So the Young Explorers was born. It has been great to see this group grow and include young mums and babies. The very popular ‘beach days’ which filled a gap in the summer schedule also started and have continued each summer. We introduced the end of year party for all members, bringing together the new islanders and general membership parties into one well attended extravaganza held at the zoo. Our art exhibition was held once again generating $12,000 for local charities. We sent 11 large laundry baskets of goods to the Family Centre for distribution to those in need at Christmas. We also introduced the Christmas presents for the elderly in need scheme. Everyone was given a Christmas tree ornament with a gift idea attached. These were wrapped and delivered to some of the seniors homes where they were very gratefully received.