Four Members of Congress Celebrate WNDC Centennial

More than 150 people, including four current members of Congress, celebrated the Woman’s National Democratic Club’s 100th anniversary on Nov. 17 in grand style with a reception, celebratory toasts and recognitions, a sit-down dinner and a large cake and coffee served on elegant china in the mansion off of Dupont Circle that has been WNDC’s home for 97 years.

The club was founded in 1922 as a place where Democratic women could meet, socialize and discuss the issues of the day. It has been doing just that in the 1880s mansion on the corner of Q St and New Hampshire Ave. NW (where a large blue donkey stands in the entrance garden) with at least two events a week, an active educational foundation that has extended the club’s activities to the greater D.C. community, and a highly active GetOutTheVote PAC. “Not bad for a 100 year-old organization” WNDC President Laura Whitaker said.

For its centennial anniversary celebration, the club awarded its Centennial Democratic Woman of the Year Award to three Congressional Democratic representatives: Zoe Lofgren (Calif.), Elaine Luria (Va.) and Stephanie Murphy (Fla.). All have served on the select committee to investigate the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) made a video tribute to the honorees. Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin (D), a committee member, appeared in person and gave a special presentation from the podium. The awards were presented by past WNDC President Anna Fierst, a direct descendent of first lady and United Nations founder Eleanor Roosevelt, who also was one of the first members of the WNDC.

The many WNDC committees represent the variety of interests of the hundreds of members, Judy Hubbard a long-time WNDC member, pointed out to The Georgetowner last month. Some are action-oriented like Get Out The Vote. The some dozen subcommittees of the WNDC public policy committee — all headed by member experts who write articles and organize field trips – include DC Metro, Earth and Environment, Education and Children’s Issues, Foreign Policy and National Security, Human Rights, and Equality and Racial Equity.  

In 1998, the club founded the Eleanor Award to honor Eleanor Roosevelt and the humanitarian principles she championed. Recipients include former Secretary of State and then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and artist and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.   In 2016, the Hillary for America campaign established its D.C. organizing offices at the WNDC — perhaps making up for the fact that the club actually endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in the primaries of 2008.  In 2017, WNDC served as headquarters to the leaders of the Women’s March to protest the election of President Donald Trump.

“Now on the 100th anniversary, the club faces the challenge of how to redesign for the next decades,” Whittaker told The Georgetowner in an interview last summer. “How do we combine the popular virtual events with the invaluable person-to-person ones? Keep the club’s priceless historical furnishings maintained in an energetic 21st century environment welcoming digital natives and engaged seniors?”

The anniversary celebration seemed to confirm its significant presence. Members, new and old, filled the halls to view the decades of historic collages in the upper floor hallways and historic rooms, and to toast the past and future of the club. On the brink of a new congressional term of split government, new leadership in the House and an uncertain presidential nominee for 2024, older members at the gala recalled the heady days of 2007 and 2008 when the club was energized to end the Bush dynasty and install a new face, Barrack Obama, as president. With many diverse and younger faces in the WNDC dining room at the anniversary celebration — including many men — the club may be on the brink of re-energizing itself, several members told The Georgetowner.

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) with WNDC Past President Shirley Henderson. Georgetowner photo.


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