The Gleason Woman’s Club: 100 years of Service
by Nelda Rachels
was 1914 and one by one, the countries of Europe, Asia, and the
Middle East were declaring war against one another. While America
resisted all efforts to become embroiled in these international
affairs, President Woodrow Wilson honored its women by proclaiming
one day a year as Mother’s Day. That same year, the women of a small
southern town in Tennessee came together to create the Gleason
Woman’s Club. This band of women did not realize it at the time, but
they would need this bond of friend ship even more just three years
later—when their sons and brothers joined that great bloodbath in
Europe known as World War I
Over one hundred years later, the Gleason Woman’s Club still
thrives, outlasting another World War, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War,
and the more recent battles against terrorism. In fact, one of the
service projects of the club has been to send gift boxes to the
military stationed overseas. Patriotism runs deep as the women
engage in other civic-minded projects such as maintaining Tennessee
and US flags at three separate entrances into Gleason.
Martha Crews, current secretary, feels honored to be a part of such
a group. She is a fairly recent inductee into the club, something
this Virginian native had never expected—even though she has lived
and been a part of Gleason for many years now. Other current
officers are President Pam Belew, Vice President Ann Jonak,
Treasurer Peggy Floyd, and Reporter Julia Fowler.
as long as anyone can remember, the Woman’s Club has kept its
membership to a manageable eighteen women. Almost like the Supreme
Court, its member ship stays much the same until someone moves or,
sadly, dies. Even when someone is asked if she’d like to become a
member, the person must wait until an opening becomes available.
membership is now older, unlike it was in 1914. A 1930’s photo shows
a much younger demographic (albeit, of a few more than eighteen
women). Perhaps one reason is that women didn’t work outside the
home at that time and were thus able to attend the daytime meetings.
Besides, a retired population may have more time on their hands for
the extensive volunteer projects of the Club.
group meets once a month with two members acting as hostesses and
serving the women a noonday meal—perhaps on fine China or catered
in. Either way, it’s a relished part of the women’s time together.
Even more important is the business meeting, in which upcoming
projects are discussed. At the end of the meeting all members recite
“The Collect,” a lovely poem which highlights the group’s Christian
Martha recently shared some of the rich history and accomplishments
of this band of women. For one, they have supported the Gleason
Library from its inception, conducting fundraisers in an effort to
help pay for everything from the librarian’s salary to rent on the
building. Some years ago, when the City of Gleason was able
to step up its funding, the Club took a step back. However, it still
supports the library whenever it can.
The club’s civic-minded projects don’t end there. The upkeep of the
Hopewell Cemetery was an early project, with ongoing Gleason
beautification projects another. As examples, the group helped with
the purchase of the old-fashioned lighting downtown, maintains the
downtown landscaping, and, with the Gleason Gazelles, the decorating
of the city’s Gazebo. Gleason’s original name was Oakwood Place, so
the group oversaw a project to name a downtown park area after the
city’s original moniker. A sign so stating was placed at the park in
2008 and solar lights at the park a few years later.
women raise money for these projects through membership fees and
various fundraisers such as its cake sales at the Hometown Christmas
Auction. This money often goes to individuals and groups in need.
The group donates to the Weakley County Backpack Program, We Care’s
Second Harvest food distribution efforts, Relay for Life, The Carl
Perkins Center, and the Sadie Saves Epi-Pen and AED programs.As if
that weren’t enough, at the end of the year, each of its member’s
individual churches receive a donation for their Christmas food
baskets. Currently, the churches which receive these donations are
First Baptist Church, Church of Christ, First Methodist Church, and
Tumbling Creek Baptist Church.
would be impossible to name all the projects that the Club has
overseen over the years. However, the City of Gleason has recognized
its many contributions and honored the Gleason Woman’s Club in 2013
as one of the Grand Marshalls and Servants of Tatertown in its
legendary Tatertown parade. A plaque in their honor resides in city
Perhaps the spirit and heart of the Gleason Woman’s Club is best
understood through its poem, recited at the end of each meeting
(A Prayer Attributed to Mary, Queen of Scots)
Keep us, O God, from pettiness; let us be large
thought, in word, in deed.
Let us be done with fault-finding, and leave off
May we put away pretense and meet each other
Face to face, without prejudice.
May we never be hasty in judgment and
Teach us to put into action our better impulses,
Straightforward and unafraid.
Let us take time for all things; make us grow
alm, serene and gentle.
Grant that we may realize it is the little things that
create differences; that in the big things of life
we are as one.
And may we strive to touch the great woman’s heart
of us all; and Lord God let us not forget
to be kind
This article printed by permission of Hometown Magazine of the KenTenn