FORT MYERS WOMAN'S COMMUNITY CLUB
"Steeped in tradition while meeting the needs of today's woman."
An excerpt on our founder adapted from 2015 News-Press article
Fort Myers Woman's Community Club was founded by Olive Stout in 1927 as the Fort Myers Woman's Club. Olive was a publisher with her husband Frank of the Fort Myers Press, and together with the first members of our Club began the serious work of cleaning up this town as it prepared to trade its cowboy hats for bowlers. With other women of courage and long-range vision, Olive gave us our first public reading room, precursor to the first Fort Myers library, and fought for our first hospital. Thomas Edison brought electric lights to Fort Myers, but Olive Stout, with other like-minded and vigorous women, put some elbow grease into the brawling cow town that Fort Myers was in her day and truly made it shine.
A Brief History of the Fort Myers Woman's Club
by Past President Mary Lee Mann
The Fort Myers Woman’s Community Club was organized August 8, 1927. The original by-laws state “The objects of the Club shall be: To furnish a place where its members and their friends can meet for mutual improvement and social entertainment, to promote a broader sympathy and better understanding among all women, mutual benefits to members, and to advance the civic and social welfare of the City of Fort Myers.”
Throughout its more than 90 years, the Club has continued to promote those objects, with particular emphasis on advancing “the civic and social welfare of the City of Fort Myers,” In 1929 plant sales were held, to assist with the beautification efforts of the city. Mrs. Thomas
Edison, Mrs. Henry Ford and Mrs. Harvey Firestone attended meetings and helped promote the club’s efforts. That same year they supported work on beautification of Terry Park and urged the clean-up of First Street before the arrival of the Philadelphia Athletics for spring training. In the following years the Club was instrumental in the inception of the City Park Board, beautification of the Harvie E. Heitman Park, the triangle which was once at the then Anderson Avenue, McGregor Blvd. intersection, and the establishment of an information bureau for tourists.
When a “new” hospital was built, the Club held fundraisers for its benefit for a number of years. In 1938 the first Edison Pageant of Light was co-sponsored by Community Club and we continue to be responsible for the Coronation Ball decorations and production. During the years of WWII, the Club worked with other groups to assist the many locally stationed service men.
After the war years, the Club turned its attention once again to activities for the winter visitors and beautification, including providing fresh flowers for the city owned Edison Estate. The “new” Fort Myers High School on Cortez Blvd. received their beautification attention and they renewed their financial assistance to Lee Memorial Hospital through its Auxiliary.
Woman’s Community Club met in various places in its early years, and was pleased to be able to begin holding its meetings regularly in the Exhibition Hall, starting in 1955. That same year the group started the Holiday House tradition, at first held in members’ homes, then builders’ model homes and finally for over 30 years at the city owned Edison and Ford Winter Estates. As Community Club’s gift to the city has now moved to the city’s Langford-Kingston and Burroughs homes, this tradition has been able to be continued. The Club and its members donate countless hours each year as well as providing monetary support in order to make the event possible at an affordable cost for every family who chooses to come and enjoy it.
The name remains the same, Fort Myers Woman’s Community Club, but it now counts members from all areas of Lee County. Membership in the early years was small, but now nears 300 each year. The activities have also changed over the years, including an emphasis on assisting non-profit organizations throughout the year, such as the Lee County Alliance for the Arts, Ronald McDonald House, Nations Association, Quality Life Center and Habitat for Humanity, as well as the Edison Pageant of Light and the Uncommon Friends Foundation in addition to our monthly Community Outreach projects. But we still meet for “mutual improvement and social entertainment” and strongly adhere to one of our original objects, “to advance the civic and social welfare of the City of Fort Myers.”