Idea on the Porch

In 1960 a group of seven friends sipping iced tea on the porch of Nancy McBride’s home on Wood Ibis Road in Sea Pines thought it would be a good idea to form a group to beautify Coligny Circle (then a larger area than we know the Circle to be today).

As a result, the Hilton Head Island Garden Club, the mother of the Women’s Association of Hilton Head Island (WAHHI), was born. The Club organized in January 1961 with McBride as its first president; and the planting of Coligny Circle, its first project. The seven women recruited enough friends to begin with 23 charter members. Annual dues were $1. There were five standing committees: telephone, membership, publicity, horticulture, and project.

The women set their work time at the Circle from 10 a.m.-noon on Mondays, recording 87 work hours that first year. They marked trees for removal, cleared vines and undesirable undergrowth, and cleaned up and burned trash. Then they convinced The Sea Pines Company to provide manpower and machinery for cutting and hauling away the marked trees, trimming dead limbs and filling low places. The Hilton Head Company ran a water line, and the Hilton Head Water Company offered a free water supply. The club’s small signs that first summer kept out cars and their occupants that had previously used the area to park, build fires, picnic and dress for the beach.

The Club’s original objectives were “to promote the natural and cultural beauty of the Island, promote the love of gardening among amateurs, encourage civic planting, and protect native flowers, birds and trees.” Every member was to donate labor and a plant for the Circle garden.

During that first year, the women also distributed Sea Oats Conservation cards, completed a sign survey to aid the Chamber of Commerce in keeping the roadsides beautiful, held a Christmas luncheon that included a plant exchange, toured the Tetley Tea Company and Dixie Sugar Company in the winter months, and considered developing an additional project on the Island’s north end.

Charter members of the fledgling organization in addition to McBride included: Mrs. W. H. Branch, Mrs. Theron Caudle, Mrs. John Duane, Anna Edwards, Mrs. Lawrence Fennell, Mrs. W. H. Graves, Mrs. D. G. Harrell, Mrs. Wade Hines, Mrs. Fred Hack, Mrs. C. J. Jones, Mrs. H. A. Kackley, Mrs. Albert Kemsley, Mrs. R. A. McGinty, Mrs. J. G. Newhall, Mrs. James Neidlinger, Mrs. Wallace Palmer, Mrs. C. S. Sergeant, Mrs. Ray Speaker, Mrs. S. S. Usher, Mrs. E. R. Wilde, Flo Wade and Mrs. John Whitton.

The Garden Club Grows

During the next four years the Garden Club planted more than 100 azalea plants in Coligny Circle, adopted a landscape plan including paths and lagoons, shared “nosebag” lunches at members’ homes after “vigorous” work sessions, awarded prizes for Christmas-decorated homes on the Island, began beautification of an old cemetery on the former site of the antebellum Zion Chapel of Ease in cooperation with the Historical Society, formed a yearbook committee and started a newsletter. In addition, they made visits to Beaufort’s First Flower Show School, Charleston’s Middleton and Magnolia Gardens and the Savannah Wildlife Refuge and held a joint meeting with the Bluffton Garden Club.

A summer project involved each member planting seeds from the same package of marigolds with a prize for the best bloom given at the fall meeting. At one session it was suggested that deer-rope be used to control one of the Island’s “most troublesome garden pests.” (Some things never change!) By 1965 the Garden Club boasted 56 members.

The Year of Transition

The idea for the many interest groups offered by the Women’s Association was born in 1965 along with the organization.

Ruth White, 1965 and 1973-74 president, had moved to Hilton Head Island in 1962 and joined what was then the Hilton Head Island Garden Club. By 1965 the club had grown to 56 members, and the women were concerned that the rapid growth of the Island would make the group too large to continue meeting in members’ homes.

Ruth, who had traveled with her husband for years during his military career, borrowed the idea of special interest groups from the Army wives’ clubs to which she had belonged and suggested them as a solution for the rapidly growing organization.

Consequently, in May 1965 at a luncheon of the Garden Club in the William Hilton Inn, WAHHI was officially formed. Its goals were set “to promote the natural and cultural beauty of the Island and to encourage civic projects of benefit.” 1965 was dubbed “the year of transition.”

The first meeting of the newly-structured Association was held October 7, 1965, at First Presbyterian Church with Billie Hack as the new president. Initial interest groups included a Welcoming Committee, Cooking Club, Bridge Club, Garden Club, Arts and Crafts Club, Literary Group, and a Service Volunteers Committee. The organization quickly grew to 90 members.

Welcoming the Newcomers

Reaching out to Island newcomers has always been a major thrust of the Women’s Association. The first welcoming committee was formed in 1965 as an interest group with members calling on new residents to acquaint them with the services and information available to them. In the early days the committee was virtually the Island’s “welcome wagon.”

From the beginning, get-acquainted coffees or get-togethers were held for newcomers, usually five or six such functions a year. By 1973 “several hundred women” came to the welcoming coffee held at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. In 1984, 79 interested women jammed a member’s home to attend one. And in 1992, with help from local jewelers, the Association purchased the silver tea set, punch bowl and glassware that are still ceremoniously used at welcoming coffees today.

A newcomers club was formed in 1990, and a newcomers chairperson was named in 2002—both to help assimilate rookies into WAHHI. Today the Hospitality Ambassadors, comprised of 55 representatives from the various residential areas of Hilton Head and Bluffton, aid the hospitality committee to identify and welcome new residents and members.

Spreading the News

The Women’s Association was once the main distributor of news on Hilton Head Island.

“We all missed a local newspaper so much in the early years,” recalled Corinne VanLandingham, 1967-68 president. “The biggest news place in the 1960s was the very large bulletin board on the side of the Bank of Beaufort building at Coligny Plaza. Everyone was welcome to attach notices of things for sale, wanted notices, meeting announcements or rooms for rent, etc. I remember seeing one that said “Eddie—Sorry I couldn’t make it at 2 p.m. See you Friday, same place.’”

Eventually, some of the WAHHI members typed up a sheet with Island news and distributed it. The first informal Island newsletter was published in January 1965, just before the Garden Club decided to become the Women’s Association. By 1967 the Island Bulletin was being produced and distributed weekly and mailed to subscribers for $3.50 a year. A new interest group that year to facilitate the task was called Reporters.

When The Island Packet came to town and replaced the bulletin in July 1970, The Packet’s first customers were the 362 newsletter subscribers on WAHHI’s mailing list. Editor Jonathan Daniels recruited VanLandingham to write a regular column, “Sand Dollars,” for the fledgling newspaper, a task she nervously took on and continued for 20 years. A collection of some of her columns, many of which highlighted Women’s Association activities, was later compiled into a book. Several other “alumnae” of the WAHHI newsletter were also contributors to The Packet through the years.

The Pink Paper, the Women’s Association’s organizational newsletter today, was started in August 1999 as a four-page publication to replace the president’s letter, which had previously been mailed to members to tell them of the upcoming luncheon program. The Pink Paper became an online publication in 2007, and the mailing piece once again became a meeting notice.

Meeting & Eating

From the beginning, the Women’s Association has held four organization meetings annually, usually a luncheon with a program but sometimes digressing to a brunch or tea instead. In 50 years 200 different programs have been offered with attendance sometimes running as high as 1,000. During 1985-86 the crowds were so large that WAHHI members commandeered the men’s rest rooms as well as the women’s at the Marriott (now the Crowne Plaza). In the 1980s the programs were often televised.

Meeting topics have run the gamut: a year of all-music programs culminated by an outdoor music festival, another year highlighting area educational institutions, a “Women in the Arts” panel discussion, Nickelodeon stars Ron and Natalie Daise, an antique road show, women in politics, suspense writer John Maxim, South Carolina first ladies, cookbook author Nathalie Dupree, Gullah artist Jonathan Green, Lowcountry novelists Anne Rivers Siddons and Dorothea Benton Frank, and lots of style shows.

Some of the more unusual programs included:

  • In May 1972 as more than 100 women attended the spring luncheon at the Plantation Club in Sea Pines, they left their seats and delayed the meeting to celebrity-watch when someone spotted then Sen. Edmund Muskie and South Carolina Gov. John West teeing off on the Ocean course outside the meeting room window.
  • In February 1973 J. M. Pearlstine & Sons provided a wine-tasting program. The women enjoyed it so much that they invited them back the following year for a repeat.
  • In December 1983, 380 women took part in a Victorian Christmas open house in the antebellum plantation house at Rose Hill and enjoyed—according to The Packet—the Women’s Association “Christmas punch.”
  • In December 1984 the open house Christmas meeting was held at the brand new Plantation House in Hilton Head Plantation.
  • In February 1985 an “international intrigue” luncheon was served with those attending dressed in authentic costumes of 15 different countries.
  • In December 1988 WAHHI joined with the Junior League of Savannah to bring in homemaking diva Martha Stewart to present holiday programs for both organizations. Women’s Association members hauled Stewart’s books to the meeting for sales, squired her around the Island and then drove her to Savannah, where she was to present the Junior League program the next day. No one on either side of the river remembered hearing a ‘thank you.’ It is said that the Savannah group followed up her visit by sending her a primer on etiquette!
  • In 1992 author Eugenia Price made a repeat appearance (earlier one in 1974). She and her secretary enjoyed dinner prepared by the Happy Cookers interest group. More than 600 attended her program, and there was a waiting list.
  • In 1994 former model/actress Joanna Yarbrough, owner of 600 hats, presented “Le Chapeau de la Femme,” a history of hats.
  • In September 1995 folksy pianist Emma Kelly, dubbed Savannah’s “Lady of 6,000 Songs,” performed for 750 women. After the meeting she graciously stayed for two more hours, chatting with members and autographing Savannah’s “book,” John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, in which she was featured.

The Style Show

It has been rare in the 50 years of WAHHI that the annual program list did not include a style show. The fashion show first made its appearance in the 1968-69 club year. In 1972 the runway event featured clothing stitched and modeled by individual members. (Some said afterward that they would never sew again!)

For several years the show was coordinated by Millie Lewis, former international model and owner of five modeling schools, and involved all the women’s shops on the Island. In 1985, for instance, husbands and children served as models along with members, and the show also included offerings from Kirschner Furs of Savannah. The December event was so popular that it had to be held in two sessions, a luncheon for 600 and, later in the day, a dinner for 400 more.

A doubleheader style show was again necessary to accommodate everyone in 1992, resulting in a mid-morning brunch and a 1:30 lunch staging of fashions from Signe D’s.

In more recent years members were wowed in 2006 when students from the Savannah College of Art and Design brought their annual fashion show of original designs to WAHHI’s luncheon.

Celebrating the Holidays

At the very first “Christmas party luncheon” in 1961, the holiday celebration included a plant exchange among members. By 1964 the women presented four awards for Christmas decoration of Island homes, and in 1965 they coordinated a December showing of oils at the William Hilton Inn by Island artist Walter Greer.

Later in the ‘60s, the Arts & Crafts group made holiday table decorations to send to the South Carolina State Mental Health Hospital in Columbia. The Garden Club crafted holiday wreaths and decorated the Christmas tree at the branch Bank of Beaufort in Coligny Circle. They also started a community tree lighting program there with the children from Sea Pines Academy bringing cranberry and popcorn treats for the birds and singing carols. The annual carol sing by the students became a tradition that lasted many years. In 1967 the “Christmas lunch” was held at the Plantation Club with “sherry at 12:15; lunch at 1.” Cost was $2.75, including tip and tax!

By 1978 members were still bringing gifts for the patients at the mental health hospital in Columbia to the annual luncheon. “Punch and lunch” by then had risen to $7.25.

In 1985 the Crowne Plaza (then the Marriott) played host to undoubtedly the largest style show WAHHI ever held. The noon session sold out with 600 women attending, and the evening repeat (which also permitted men to attend) drew 400 attendees.

By 1995 the Sea Pines Montessori School was still returning to sing holiday songs—this time to warm up the audience of 600 for Sea Pines legend Gregg Russell. Viewing Hilton Head Prep’s Festival of Trees in the Hyatt lobby (now the Marriott Resort & Spa) before or after the luncheon was also a tradition in those days.

Happy Anniversary!

The Silver Anniversary gala luncheon of the Women’s Association was held January 31, 1986, at the Marriott (now Crowne Plaza) with 750 attending. The day began with Willard Scott on the “Today” show wishing WAHHI a “Happy Anniversary!”—but only after he mistakenly wished it to Myrtle Beach first. He had been gifted with a green T-shirt sporting an alligator and the saying, “25—and still full of vim & vigor.” It was said that “in 1961 there were more alligators on the Island than women.”

The luncheon featured a fountain of silver ribbons, an individual birthday cake on each table, black and white balloons, sparklers, champagne, and door prizes provided by each of the 23 interest groups. An historical slide program was screened by Allyson Harden, 1986-87 president, who also masqueraded as Abigail Alligator for the occasion. Beverly Cotton, 1985-86 president, presented the town with a $1,000 gift to landscape the planned Town Center and awarded life memberships to all past presidents.

The 30th anniversary year of 1990-91 honored talented Hilton Head Island women in music, theater and voluntarism and was highlighted by another popular Millie Lewis fashion show/anniversary party in January. The 35th year brought the Hallelujah Singers to the February luncheon and honored WAHHI’s past presidents.

The 40th anniversary observance was a bit more involved. During the 1999-2000 club year, a committee was formed to work forward toward the 2001 anniversary. In an effort to provide a visible gift of the Women’s Association to the Island, the committee brainstormed, worked with town officials on possible locations and options, raised funds, and finally decided on the $5,000 Walter Palmer bronze pelican sculpture, “Tales of Hilton Head,” to be placed in Shelter Cove Community Park. The statue was ultimately dedicated there with an outdoor ceremony—in a bit of drizzle–on November 12, 2002. The statue is the precursor of the town’s current efforts to create an Island “arts in the parks” program.

The Interest Groups

The Women’s Association interest groups provide the diversity and camaraderie of the organization. Back in 1965 five groups were initially formed: Gardening, Flower Arranging, Literary Study, Bridge, and Cultural Affairs. Arts and Crafts, Civic Affairs, Cooking Club and Welcoming soon joined them. Through the years hundreds of specific topics have been offered—in sciences, languages, arts, sports, self-improvement, music, exercise, home improvement, literature, history, games, gardening, women’s issues, and food. From the early five groups, the number has grown—to more than 50 in the mid-‘90s and settling to 30-40 annually today. Many women have gone on to build local “fame” after initially leading a WAHHI interest group: people like Island Packet gardening columnist Betsy Jukofsky and interior decorator Joni Banks of J. Banks Design, who led interest groups around 1990.

Some of the interesting topics that perhaps revealed the times: Smart Women Finish Rich, Fishing, Lamp Shade Design, Slimnastics, Anthropology, Lost Art of Letter Writing (1990), Furniture Refinishing, Decoupage, Music Boxes.

The Evening Group was started in 1971 to appeal to young mothers and professional women who could not get away in the daytime for meetings. Their first get-together was held at the Red Piano art gallery. The women were asked to bring pillows “to relieve the seating problem.” In 1972 they enjoyed the Island’s “singing chef” at one meeting and heard a book review on “sexual politics” at another.

In the early days before the proliferation of golf clubs on the Island, Golf included a weekly tournament.

  • The original Arts & Crafts changed their name to Bell Ringers, but their main mission all along was to make Christmas gifts for patients at the state mental hospital in Columbia.
  • Bridge has always been on the interest group roster although it has had a lot of different names attached to it: smoking, non-smoking, duplicate, party, lessons, contract, brush-up, Friday social, or first and third Tuesday social.
  • Members often bring their noteworthy expertise from pre-Hilton Head lives to create new interest groups—offerings such as Personalized Beauty led by a former well-known model or Tap Dancing taught by a couple of former Rockettes.

The More-Than-Basic Food Groups

Food has been a popular interest group topic almost from WAHHI’s beginning. Cooking Club was available in the late ‘60s. Gourmet Cooking was first offered in 1972. Later it changed its name to Wooden Spoons, and still later it expanded to become several groups, adopting a French flair: Capers, Bon Appetit, La Cuisinere, and Savoury Society.

In 1985 new members Julie Whelan and Lea Weiner suggested the Couples Gourmet group and set out to establish it. Limited to 40 couples each year, the group is still going strong.

The Happy Cookers began in 1990 and quickly expanded to become multiple groups, as did the Cooking Crew. Add to these Out-to-Lunch Bunch, Thai Cooking, Vegetarianism, herb groups, and even Happy Hour and Movie & Dinner. WAHHI members like to cook and eat!

The Gadabouts

Cultural Affairs was one of the original interest groups in 1965. Their initial mission was to make Association members aware of cultural activities that were going on in the area. But by 1969 they changed their name to The Gadabouts and essentially became the WAHHI travel agent during the 1970s.

They made a $12.70 theater trip to Savannah in 1972, traveling by limousine, dining Dutch treat at the Pink House and viewing a play. They also visited the Georgia Governor’s Mansion that year, where Lillian Carter, mother of then Gov. Jimmy Carter, welcomed them. They boarded the Nancy Hanks, a train that traveled between Savannah and Atlanta, for a two-day girls’ trip to Atlanta for “dogwood time.” Later the Gadabouts became more adventurous, enjoying a train tour to see Blue Ridge autumn foliage, organizing a New York theater trip, cruising the Caribbean, and jaunting to New Orleans, London and Paris.

The Bookmarkers

Another of the original 1965 interest groups was the Literary Group, which began with fewer than 10 members who took turns reading and reviewing books at their meetings. They later changed their name to the Literary Guild; and in 1972, to the Bookmarkers.

In the early ‘70s they were reading about hot topics of today: The Greening of America and Stillwell and the American Experience in China. In later years the group changed its format, bringing in area authors to speak about their writing experiences at monthly meetings and awarding an annual scholarship to a local high school student. When membership dwindled in 2007, the Bookmarkers were disbanded.

Moving On

Some interest groups outgrew their Women’s Association status and became independent efforts. An early herb group, formed after a WAHHI program in 1974, branched out to create the Hilton Head Herb Society in 1978. The Opera Study group went out on its own after several years with WAHHI.

But probably the most notable group moving on was Genealogy. Starting as Finding Your Family Tree in 1972, its members later changed their name to Genealogy and then became independent in 1983. Today those roots have become the well-equipped, 4,000-volume Heritage Library Foundation with hundreds of members.


From the first 23 charter members of the Garden Club, the Women’s Association rapidly expanded as the Island grew.

By 1965, when WAHHI as it is known today originated, there were 56 members. Two years later the number had almost doubled to 120. By 1974 membership topped 400, even though dues were raised to $5. In the early ‘80s there were about 600 members. That was until the silver anniversary year of 1985-86, when the total jumped to almost 1,100. The peak came in 1996 at just over 1,300.

WAHHI through the years boasted that it was the largest group of women on the Island, and for many years, it was. But as the Island continued to grow, so did the number of organizations offered to women. In the late 1990s many plantations formed their own women’s clubs, resulting in a drop in WAHHI membership. By 2000 membership was under 1,000. Today it hovers between 500-600.

When WAHHI began, it included Bluffton in its membership. In the late ‘80s, due to meeting space limitations, the boundaries were pulled back to include just Moss Creek and Rose Hill. Then as membership declined after the ‘90s, the boundary was again extended to include all women as far out as Island West.

The Association today continues to welcome area newcomers and integrate them into the 30+ interest groups—helping them to adapt to their new homes.

Benefiting the Community

Thousands of dollars, as well as volunteer hours, have been donated to almost all area organizations by the Women’s Association through the years. Charitable efforts receiving monetary awards have run the gamut from the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina to the libraries to Volunteers in Medicine and everything in-between. The largest single gifts were probably the 1996 donation of $5,000 to fund a study carrel at the newly built Hilton Head Branch of the Beaufort County Public Library and the 2002 presentation of the $5,000 “Tales of Hilton Head” bronze Walter Palmer statue to the Shelter Cove Community Park.

Annual donations depend on how much money is in the treasury by year’s end, but holiday contributions rely on the largesse of individual members at the December luncheon—usually benefiting children’s organizations with cash of several hundred dollars and myriads of brightly-wrapped Christmas presents for kids who otherwise might not receive them.

The Civic Affairs interest group was the impetus for community aid in the early years. In the late ‘60s the women led a fund drive for the mental health association, sponsored a legislative seminar on South Carolina health and education problems, advocated health exams for domestic help, worked on banning fireworks and leashing dogs, completed a check of voter registration and get-out-the-vote campaign, and advocated starting a home nursing service on the Island. In 1967 they were instrumental in securing a building (an old night club on Mathews Drive) for the Island’s first day care center (today The Children’s Center) and making one of the first donations for its rent.

In the 1970s Hilton Head Elementary School was a major recipient of WAHHI’s efforts, with members (and their spouses) cleaning and painting the school and purchasing library books. The Island School Council was formed, and the women sponsored a Girl Scout troop. The rescue squad, Child & Youth Development Center, Toys for Tots and the Hilton Head Island Health Project (later DeepWell) also received their help. A few years later WAHHI took their concerns to Beaufort County Council, demanding that it improve the Island’s only health clinic for the poor. “Those who use the clinic endure embarrassment, discomfort, and dangerous conditions,” they told Council representatives.

Some later community service projects included:

In 1982 WAHHI began distributing “Love the Beach” brochures to all hotels to encourage tourists to preserve the attractiveness of the beaches by protecting sea oats, loggerhead turtles and sand dollars. This project lasted well into the ‘90s.

In 1984 the women made the first $1,000 contribution to the Hilton Head Cultural Center, an organization that ultimately became the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina. The following year a $1,000 gift was made to the Child Abuse Prevention Association.

In 1986, at WAHHI’s silver anniversary celebration, $1,000 was presented to the town to landscape the planned Town Center.

  • In 1991 Hilton Head Elementary School was once again the recipient, this time of a $2,500 gift for a computer, part of a total $11,000 in donations that year. A letterwriting campaign to troops serving in Desert Storm was also initiated.
  • In 1994 the Hilton Head Island Recreation Playground Fund, Audubon Newhall Preserve, Hilton Head Dance Theatre and Habitat for Humanity shared more than $5,000 in gifts. The Women’s Association also sponsored a fire safety cadet for summer camp.
  • In 1996 more than $11,000 was distributed: $5,000 as the first group to donate to the new Island library building for a study carrel, $4,000 for Youth Awards, and $500 contributions to the Audubon Newhall Preserve, CODA, Hilton Head Island Beautification Association, Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry, and PEP (Programs for Exceptional People).
  • In 2003 at the first Art Market held by the Coastal Discovery Museum, WAHHI funded a $500 Palmetto Award that was given to an exhibiting South Carolina artist. And in 2004 the organization sponsored a summer education program at the museum.
  • In the mid-‘80s the Women’s Association was called “the Big Mama of Island organizations.” In 1999 it was recognized as the “1998 Organization of the Year” by the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

Youth Awards

The Women’s Association’s Youth Awards Program has probably been the organization’s most visible community effort through the years. Begun in 1980 as an idea of Carol Wolf, 1979-80 president, it was designed to reward Island students who, in those days, “had nothing much to do,” Carol explains. The first award was a $75 savings account earned by Peggy Carey, a junior at May River Academy.

By 1984 a pre-teen award of $100 and a teen award of $200 were presented. In 1986 the amount jumped to $500 and remained there until recent times, when it was raised again. Until 1994 the Youth Awards were given to students in various grades, from sixth graders to high school seniors.

In the 30 years of Youth Awards, the program has morphed into a recognition of area high school seniors who excel at community service and has moved into the college scholarship category. The number of awards presented each year depends on the amount of money available in the treasury at the time, but the highest number was probably in 1993, when 10 awards were given.

Well over 100 students have been recognized since the program’s inception in 1980, and thousands of dollars have been awarded.

Women’s Association Punch

There are many giggles over the supposed Women’s Association punch served in the early years. The intimation is that the punch was laced with liquor of some kind. Some long-time members remember that it was. Some don’t.

Early write-ups, however, seem to document that it was.

Corinne VanLandingham, 1967-68 president, writes in her Sand Dollars book of Packet columns, that the “famous Women’s Association punch was always served” at the WAHHI Christmas parties. A few Packet articles in the 1980s refer—in quotation marks—to the “Women’s Association punch.” One in 1983, when the women journeyed to the Rose Hill Mansion to celebrate the holidays, mentioned “champagne” as the secret ingredient.

Women’s Association punch, anyone?

Traveling the Island

Traveling the Island reveals some visible evidence of WAHHI community betterment projects.

At the Children’s Center new building site near Jarvis Park, one can remember that the Association was the first to locate building space for the day care center back in 1967. WAHHI also wrote the first rent check.

At the Hilton Head Branch of the Beaufort County Library, construction of one of the study rooms there was made possible by a $5,000 donation from WAHHI in 1996. Hanging in that carrel is the large “1998 Organization of the Year” Award, presented when the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce recognized the Women’s Association with its annual honor.

At the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, there are commemorative sidewalk bricks placed there through a WAHHI donation in 2000. At Shelter Cove Community Park one may sit a while on the bench that holds the Walter Palmer pelican statue reading a book—a Women’s Association gift presented in 2002 and the precursor of the town’s current efforts to create an Island “arts in the parks” program.

On down the Island, one passes the Heritage Library in the Savannah Bank building, begun by WAHHI as an interest group, Finding Your Family Tree, in 1972 and converting to an independent function ten years later.

Madam Mayor

Once they had finished their tasks for WAHHI, most of the Women’s Association presidents and many other members went on to do community service for other area organizations. Only one, however, became the mayor of Hilton Head Island. Martha Baumberger, 1981-82 president, served as mayor 1987-89. She also served as Beaufort County Council chair and acted as the town’s parliamentarian for many years.



Many thanks to the following for helping to gather the information for this history: Jean Applegate, Martha Baumberger, Lynn Boeke, Bea Boyd,* Beverly Cotton, Helen Fairchild,* Nita Furner, Allyson Harden, Jan Hilton, Helen Rush, Corinne VanLandingham, Ruth White,* The Island Packet, and those historians who compiled the scrapbooks that we were able to locate. Jacqueline Cordray, Author