April 27, 2011

The Woman's Club of Bethesda reaches 100, future becomes murky

Once a thriving social and philanthropic club, The Woman's Club of Bethesda has quieted to monthly lunches and charity work primarily accomplished by writing checks, said Mary Lou Doneski, 76, of Bethesda, a member since 1969. The "Earnest Club for Earnest Women" is approaching its 100th anniversary with uncertainty as its membership ages and there is little call to adjust its outreach to younger women to maintain the club. Now with 68 members, the club once had more than 200 members actively fundraising for charities, Doneski said. The club has retained its philanthropic roots but has problems appealing to the next generation of women, she said.

"Today if somebody moves in our neighborhood, I just know the club is not something that is going to fit their lifestyle," Doneski said.

The club holds monthly meetings during the day which precludes working women, or women with young children, Doneski said. Changing the time of the meeting is not an option because many of the club's current members don't drive at night. While there are members in their 40s and 50s, most members are in their 70s and 80s, Doneski said.

The Woman's Club of Bethesda is a member of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, which has also seen its membership age and decline, said Michele J. Mount, senior director of programs, public policy and communications for the federation.

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