Herstory

1987-1989

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.

1980 - Now

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,” according to Carol. The first award was a $75 savings account earned by Peggy Carey, a junior at May River Academy…

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1960's - Now

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…

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1960's - Now

Interest Groups

The Women’s Association interest groups are the reason for the diversity and camaraderie of our organization. Back in 1965, five groups were initially formed: Gardening, Flower Arranging, Literary Study, Bridge, and Cultural Affairs. Through the years hundreds of specific topics have been offered…

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1986

Silver 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 from the “Today” show wishing WAHHI a “Happy Anniversary!”…

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1960's - 1970's

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…

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1960's - 1980's

Lunch in Style

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…

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1960's

Spreading the News

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

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1965

Welcoming the Newcomers

Reaching out to Island newcomers has always been a major goal 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…

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1965

The Year of Transition

The idea for the many interest groups offered by the Women’s Association was born in 1965…

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1906's

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…

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1960

An Idea on the Porch

One hot day 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, which, in those days, was a much larger area than we know the Circle to be today…

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Acknowledgments

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.

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,” according to Carol. The first award was a $75 savings account earned by Peggy Carey, a junior at May River Academy.

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.

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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.

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 for the Island’s first day care center, which is still around today as The Children’s Center.

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.
  • 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.

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Interest Groups

 

The Women’s Association interest groups are the reason for the diversity and camaraderie of our organization. Back in 1965, five groups were initially formed: Gardening, Flower Arranging, Literary Study, Bridge, and Cultural Affairs. 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 up to 40 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.

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.

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.

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.

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Silver 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 from the “Today” show wishing WAHHI a “Happy Anniversary!” 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.

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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 Luncheon 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.

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Lunch in Style

 

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. From 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.

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.

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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 named Reporters was formed that year to facilitate the task.

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.

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Welcoming the Newcomers

 

Reaching out to Island newcomers has always been a major goal 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 packed in a member’s home. 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 new members 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.

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The Year of Transition

 

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

Ruth White, 1965 and 1973-74 president, 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 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 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.

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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. They also 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.

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An Idea on the Porch

 

One hot day 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, which, in those days, was a much larger area than we know the Circle to be today.

From that porch, the Hilton Head Island Garden Club, the mother of the Women’s Association of Hilton Head Island (WAHHI), was born. The Club was 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 just $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. to 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.

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