THE HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF REPUBLICAN WOMEN AND THE OKLAHOMA FEDERATION
The story of Republican women’s clubs begins many years before women even had the right to vote. Inspired by the Republican Platform of 1872, which said:
[quote]The Republican Party is mindful of its obligation to the loyal women of America for their noble devotion to the cause of Freedom …[/quote]
This was all it took to get the Republican women’s clubs off and running. In fact, the oldest club on record was founded in Salt Lake City in the late 1800s.
Hundreds of independent Republican women’s clubs grew up around the nation in the years to come. By the late 1930’s in Indiana alone over 140 clubs were formed. So, in 1938 Marion Martin, assistant chairman of the Republican National Committee, called a meeting at the Palmer House in Chicago to organize these clubs into a national organization.
States in which Republican women’s clubs were organized on a “statewide” basis sent delegates and alternates to that meeting with a request to affiliate with such an organization. To be considered “statewide” at that time, a state or local club had to have members in 60 percent of the counties of that state. (Later this rule was changed to cover either 50 percent of the counties or 75 percent of the state’s congressional districts.)
The delegates adopted rules governing the establishment of a National Federation of Republican Women’s Clubs, with the following purposes:
“to foster and encourage loyalty to the Republican Party and the ideals for which it stands – to promote education along political lines – to encourage closer cooperation between independent groups and the regular party organization, which are working for the same objectives, namely sound government – to promote an interchange of ideas and experiences of various clubs to the end that the policies which have proven particularly effective in one state may be adopted in another – and to encourage a national attitude and national approach to the problems facing the Republican Party.”
Eleven states became the charter states of NFRW – California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
At the age of 31, Joyce Arneill of Denver, Colorado, was elected the first president of the Federation, and the organization began to grow.
At the time of NFRW’s founding, three states – Maryland, Virginia, and Alabama – had not even ratified the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting suffrage to women. And yet, the National Federation of Republican Women – born in a climate of defeat – grew in size and strength, providing a vehicle for women concerned with the direction of our government.
In 1940, the NFRW reported that, “Since the founding of the Federation, there has been a steady and consistent progress.” Thirty-four states, as well as the District of Columbia, were represented in the Federation through statewide federations and/or individual clubs.
In its earliest days, the Federation was a lobbying group. In 1940, NFRW enlisted the support of its members to urge their representatives in Washington to hold free and open hearings and a full investigation on the amendments to the Wagner Labor Relations Act. They wrote their representatives during National Debt Week to impress them with the fact that constituents were concerned about the national debt. And on June 10, 1940, NFRW President Joyce Arneill sent a letter to all club presidents urging their help in keeping Congress in session until the immediate crisis of the “foreign situation” was past.
By September 1, 1943, 23 statewide federations held membership in the national organization, along with 98 individual clubs from 16 states.
Today, the NFRW consists of over 75,000 active members in local clubs across the nation and in several U.S. territories. The goals of those women who met in Chicago in 1938 continue to be the goals of the NFRW – to encourage women’s participation in the governing of our nation, to elect Republicans to office at all levels, and to promote public awareness of the issues that shape America.
You have heard the saying that a mother and daughter look just alike. Well the NFRW is like our mother in that our bylaws must be in compliance with theirs and the NFRW even has the same structure of leadership as the OFRW. The National Officers run for election just like our state but the NFRW President must agree to live in Washington, DC during her 2 year term. The NFRW has Members-At-Large which work much like our District Directors.
OKLAHOMA FEDERATION OF REPUBLICAN WOMEN
Oklahoma, one of the youngest states in the nation, has a long history with the NFRW. In the wake of women’s suffrage, in 1920, Alice M. Robertson became the first Oklahoma woman elected to Congress. She served one term, 1921-1923.
Congresswoman Robertson subsequently founded the first Oklahoma Republican Women’s Club in Oklahoma City in 1921. There were few successes during the next 20 years, but the faithful few worked hard, served well, and grew with Oklahoma. In 1941, the Republican Women’s Clubs in Oklahoma were federated. Since that time the Oklahoma Federation has grown to 30 clubs with over 1300 members and celebrated its 70th Anniversary in 2011.
In 1995 OKFRW member Mary Fallin became the first Republican and first woman to be elected as the state’s Lt. Governor. After serving 12 years as LG, in 2007 Mary Fallin became the second woman in state history to be elected to the U.S. Congress from Oklahoma. Wanting to leave Washington D.C. and come “back home”, in 2010 Congresswoman Fallin made history by becoming Oklahoma’s first woman governor.
In January 2005 Republicans took control the House of Representatives with a 55 to 44 majority and elected a Republican speaker 84 years to the day since the only other Republican was elected to the post. The House also elected OFRW member Rep. Susan Winchester as the state’s first female speaker pro tempore. Today Oklahoma has 11 female Republican members of the State House, 2 senators, 2 statewide Corporation Commissioner, Secretary of Public Instruction and our shining star Governor Mary Fallin.
In 2022 the OKFRW collectively gave over $11500 to republican candidates, focusing on OKFRW members or spouses of members.
The OKFRW plays a vital and irreplaceable role in Oklahoma politics. The OKFRW offers information and programs to members while drawing on their collective talents, ideas and desire to participate. From career professionals, students, and teachers to small business owners, mothers and elected officials, we attract women from all walks of life. We welcome all Republican women, as well as Republican men as associate members.
What we do, as Republican women, is much larger than our local clubs or virtual club. By paying your annual dues, each person is a member of 3 organizations, their local club, the Oklahoma State Federation and the National Federation. We hope you will join our network and help us make a difference in our communities by becoming a member of the OKLAHOMA FEDERATION OF REPUBLICAN WOMEN in 2024!