History of the GFWC Illinois Juniors

1920 – 1930

1922 The Edict (forerunner of the Illinois Clubwoman Magazine) announced the forming of Junior Clubs in Illinois and asked for articles about their activities.

1924 A Junior Chairman was appointed by the Illinois Federation Board of Directors. A Club Institution on Junior Membership was presented at State Convention and a brochure on Junior membership was issed by Mrs. Allen explaining “The Tie That Binds: Junior to Senior Clubs”. This marked one of the first major efforts to organize Juniors in Illinois.

1926 Rapid organization of Junior Clubs in Illinois. Juniors were admitted to the Federation on the same basis as Senior Clubs.

1928 The Bloomington Junior Club became the first Junior Club with a junior department for every state department of work. Junior Clubs of Illinois were gaining in number and in effectiveness; district meetings of Juniors were held. It was stated in GFWC recommendations, that organized groups of girls or young women could be designated as ‘Junior Clubs’, ‘Junior Auxilaries’, or ‘Junior Departments’.

1930 – 1940

In 1931, the GFWC endorsed a recommendation which stated, “Junior Clubs composed of young women whose average age is between twenty-five and thirty, or over, should enroll themselves as members of District and State Federations. Junior Departments composed of young women whose average age is between twenty-five and thirty, or over, should graduate individually, or as units into the senior clubs that sponsored them. Failing to do this, they should graduate as independent clubs into state federations, paying full Federation dues and enjoying all Federation privileges.”

By 1937, the Illinois Junior Department was the largest of any state. There were 13,000 Illinois Juniors and 65,000 in the Illinois Federation.

In 1938, the first Junior Day was held at the State Convention with 300 in attendance.

In 1939-40, the state magazine became Illinois Clubwoman Magazine and there was a new addition to the staff – a Junior Editor.

1941 – 1950

In 1941, the age limit was changed from 30 to 35.

In 1944, a special issue of Illinois Clubwoman Magazine was devoted to Juniors. Junior projects around the state had variety but also a wartime continuity. Junior groups became Junior Clubs at State Convention.

In 1945, District Junior Clubs began to adopt Junior bylaws for their district.

In 1946, Kathryn Cavitt was given the honor of becoming an officer of the Illinois Federation of Women’s Clubs (IFWC) with the title of State Junior Director.

In 1948, at State Convention, Juniors adopted a set of standing rules which established an Executive Committee composed of a State Junior Director, three assistants called Regional Directors, a Secretary, and the Junior Editor of the Illinois Clubwoman Magazine.

1950 – 1970

In 1952, scholarships for Special Teachers of Exceptional Children was selected as a state project of the Juniors. (This project ended about 1976.) Also, in 1952, a change in the standing rules was adopted limiting Junior membership to young women “under 35 years of age”, but it also provided for inclusion of a junior above that age “if there is no Senior Club that can admit her”. (Wording changes about the age limit would continue until the Junior Organization in Illinois would be defined as clubs with memberships “composed entirely of young women.”)

In 1968-70, leadership training was emphasized by Agnes Simms during her term as Junior Director. With this in mind, leadership training sessions were planned and located within reasonable travel distance for all Juniors. In 1969, October 12-18 was declared Brain Research Week and $75,437 was earmarked for the building of the Brain Research Institute.

1970 – 1980

In 1974, Mrs. Don Schumaker, the Junior Director for the Illinois Federation was presented as a candidate for the GFWC Director of Junior Clubs; she was elected to this position at the 1976 GFWC Convention.

During the 1974-76 administration, Brain Research funds were earmarked for a Neuropharmacology Lab in the new Brain Research Institute. In 1978, the last contribution was made to this fund for a total of $155,000. Monies above the amount needed for the lab were used to purchase equipment for it. A plaque hanging outside the lab proclaims it “A Gift of Love from the Illinois Juniors”.

In 1976, the Illinois Federation of Women’s Clubs’ President was first given a vote on the state board of the Junior Organization of the Illinois Federation. Before that, she had attended the meetings of that board as a non-voting member.

A new project was selected at the 1976 Convention – Children’s Research Foundation, with the monies donated going to doctors for grants in work of research in children’s diseases. The Junior supported Children’s Research with 71% of CRF’s total budget that first year. At the 1981 Convention, Children’s Research Foundation was again voted as the State Junior Project. Also clubs voted to support Spina Bifida as a project, with a two-fold emphasis – education of the public about birth defects and monetary donations for research. The Juniors supported Spina Bifida wholeheartedly with over $7,700 donated the first year for research and many public awareness programs.

1980 – 1990

Aliene Burke, Junior Director 1980-82 used “Freedom to Develop and Grow” as her theme with the butterfly as her symbol. Spina Bifida was this administration’s Special Emphasis. Illinois Juniors held their first Illinois Day and Junior Week during this administration. Approximately $26,000 was raised by the Illinois Juniors for CRF, the State Junior Project. There were 6,640 Junior club members as of June 1980.

Cindy Rice served as the 1982-84 Junior Director and had the theme of “Precious Moments are Made by Juniors” with Precious Moments items as her symbol. The Special Emphasis for these two years was “Substance Abuse with the Main Target Population being Children and Youth.” For the first time, tours of the Wyler’s Children’s Hospital in Chicago took place in order to stimulate interest in the ongoing Junior Special Project, Children’s Research Foundation.

The years of 1984-86 saw Norma Chesney as the Junior Director for Illinois clubs. Norma’s theme was “Working Hands and Willing Hearts” and her symbol was the angel. The Junior Director’s Special Emphasis was Accessibility for the Handicapped. CRF continued as the State Junior Special Project with contributions over $25,000 in this administration.

Jeanette Summers “Created Treasured Reflections” during her 1986-88 administration. Prevention of Child Abuse was the Junior Special Emphasis. At the 1988 GFWC Illinois Annual Convention, the “Junior-General” Banquet was initiated with more than 600 women in attendance. Total monetary donations to CRF by the Illinois Junior Organization reached over the $100,000 level.

Debbie Bach’s 1988-90 administration saw the changes of “Junior Day” being moved to the first day of Convention and the Junior Board of Directors voting to change the Junior Executive Committee to a State Junior Director, an Assistant Junior Director, three Regional Junior Directors, a Secretary and a Treasurer. The theme was “Hearts Joined Together by Love of Service” with hearts as the symbol, and “Adolescent Chemical Dependency” as the Junior Director’s Emphasis. Donations of over $18,300 were made to CRF.

“Happy is the a Junior Heart That Shares” was the theme for Sandy Hartmann’s 1990-92 administration. The symbol was the heart and the Special Emphasis was the “homeless and Needy”. During this administration, the “Lifetime Achievement Award” was first presented. The Illinois Junior clubs showed their generosity with over $75,000 donated to organizations that helped needy and homeless people and over $34,000 to the Illinois Junior Special Project, CRF.

1990 – 2000

“Illinois Juniors Lighting the Way” was the theme for Ruth Sloot’s 1992-94 administration with a candle as the symbol. The procedure book for organizing a new club was developed during this administration. In addition, the endorsement for Junior Director was moved from November back to September in the odd numbered years to allow for time to plan the next administration and a smoother transition. The Illinois Junior Director’s Special Emphasis was Lupus. For the two years, $37,000 was donated to CRF, putting the total monetary donations to CRF over $200,000 by the Illinois Juniors.

“Juniors, Rising Stars in Federation” was the theme for Doris Wehmeyer’s 1994-96 administration with the star as the symbol. The Special Emphasis was Crohn’s Disease. In 1996, the Junior Board of Director’s passed a $1.00 dues increase, making membership in the Illinois Junior Organization $2.00 per person. The $250,000 mark for total monetary donations to Children’s Research Foundation was exceeded with over $40,000 in donations this administration.

Jo Koenig was the Junior Director during the 1996-98 administration. Her theme was “Illinois Juniors…A Garden of Service and Love” with the watering can, flowers, and garden tools as the symbols. In response to a member questionnaire that was distributed this administration, the Best Federated Club award was replaced by Outstanding Federation Recognition, allowing several clubs in each size category to receive recognition for the overall federation achievements. The second change was to replace the awards booklet with a Project Idea Booklet. Women’s Wellness was the Junior Director’s Special Emphasis. Children’s Research Foundation continued as the Illinois Junior Special Project with over $31,000 raised by Illinois Juniors.

Bonnie Heydorn moved the Illinois Juniors into the next millennium during the 1998-2000 administration. “Illinois Juniors…A Future Rich in Tradition” was the theme and the red and white roses were the symbols, reflecting the unity of the Juniors and Generals working together. The Junior Director’s Special Emphasis was “Conservation: A Better Environment for the New Millennium.” Children’s Research Foundation received over $22,000 bringing the 20 year total monetary donation by Illinois Juniors to $293,000.

2000 – 2010

The years of 2000-2002 “Illuminated the Path for a Bright Tomorrow” when Debbie Strahanoski took over as Junior Director. Her symbol was the lighthouse and her Special Emphasis was Organ /Tissue Donation Awareness. During this administration, the Junior quarterly newsletter, the Beacon News, was born. The $300,000 level was broken with donations to CRF of $21,000 during the two years. The Illinois Junior Organization was featured in the annual report of the Regional Organ Bank of Illinois (ROBI) as a result of the efforts to spread awareness of organ donation and the need for donors.

Pam Butler served as Junior Director from 2002 – 2004. The symbol was the smiley face to complement the theme of “Illinois Juniors-Giving the Gift of a Smile…Priceless”. Operation Smile was the special emphasis. Three major goals of the administration were achieved: a new Junior club was formed, the State Junior standing rules were reviewed and updated, and a State Junior Credentials Committee was formed to better organize the voting procedures. Children’s Research Foundation continued as the Illinois Junior Special Project with over $17,000 in donations.

Director of Junior Clubs was the new title for Becky Weber in the 2004 – 2006 administration. The state title was voted on to follow the GFWC title. Becky’s theme was “United in Service and Friendship”, which was shown through the Generals and Juniors working together to raise money for the Military Family Relief Fund. Through working with the IL Lt. Governor, Pat Quinn and Operation Home Front, many military families were assisted by GFWC Illinois, while their loved ones served our country.

Shelli R. Fehr, Director of Junior Clubs, 2006-2008. The theme was “Unity in Diversity — The Power of GFWC!” The focus was on promoting and marketing our great organization in order to get the word out about the world’s largest volunteer women’s organization — the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. The GFWC emblem was used in and on everything the organization did. The Emblem was used as the “logo” for the two year administration. And, since GFWC’s colors are red, white and blue, those colors were worn for all club events to help establish GFWC as a recognizable entity in our Illinois communities.

Teresa Sanford, Director of Junior Clubs, 2008-2010. Theme: “Proud to Be *** GFWC!” The colors, of course, had to be Red, White, and Blue coinciding with the International GFWC emblem and it’s colors. The symbol for the administration was a star. The starring team focused on membership and leadership. To emphasize these areas, workshops were held throughout the two years with the theme of “Iron Chef/Club Edition”. The Appetizers wet members taste for leadership skills. The Main Coursegave healthy tips to increase membership. Just Desserts enticed members to set goals, improve public relations, and sweeten conflicts through conflict resolution. The Junior Director’s special emphasis was to educate members about the importance of EMSC Pediatric Bags. These specialized bags contain size specific equipment for children in need of medical assistance.


Candy Godbee, Director of Junior Clubs, 2010-2012. The best way to describe the IL Juniors for this director, is “Loveable, Huggable Volunteers”, hence the theme for the administration. What better way to depict the theme than with Teddy Bears. The colors were aqua marine and brown. We continued to move to the electronic age by developing a Junior web site and saved paper by providing the convention “awards book” on a disc the first year and only on the web site the second year. Working with the Wisconsin Juniors, we held a joint fall conference, getting to see how each other’s state functioned and highlighted workshops on membership and leadership, while sharing various ideas and gaining new GFWC friends. The biggest delight of my term was being able to develop a working relationship with a company to provide clubs the ability to purchase the EMSC Pediatric Bags at a reasonable cost and see the start of many clubs providing the bags to their local EMS.

Trisha Schafer, Director of Junior Clubs, 2012-2014.

Karyn M. McCarthy, Director of Junior Clubs, 2014-2016.



“Federation Facts” pamphlet. Compiled by the Illinois Federation of Women’s Clubs, 1937.
“Federation Facts” pamphlet. Compiled by the Illinois Federation of Women’s Clubs, 1964.
“Historical Highlights” pamphlet. Compiled by Headquarters staff, General Federation of Women’s Clubs, 1944.
Houde, Mary Jean. The Clubwoman: A Story of the Illinois Federation of Women’s Clubs. 1970.

*A special thanks to Mrs. Kathryn Cavitt, Director of Junior Clubs, Illinois Federation of Women’s Clubs, 1945-47.