The first club of what would become the world’s largest classified service club for career women was organized in California in 1921. In 1927, the International Federation of Soroptimist Clubs was established. The name was coined from the Latin soror, for “sister” and optima, for “best,” and the clubs’ motto has become “Best for Women.”
On June 13, 1949, more than 120 Soroptimists and representatives from other service clubs met in the North American Hotel to welcome the Lawrence-sponsored Ottawa club to the American Federation of Soroptimist International. Officers were installed and the charter was presented to founding President, Mildred McKee. Charter members included McKee (children’s wear), Vice-President Clara Blair (insurance), Secretary Flossie Davis (gifts), Treasurer Ruth Mahoney (banking–assistant cashier), Directors Elsie Reedy (librarian), and Elsie Madtson (jewelry), Frances Adler (City Treasurer), Mabelle Blair (household appliances), Nelle Buchanan (language–Ottawa University), Ariel Colby (furniture), Ola Easley (public education–Principal), Ruth Kerr (music), Blanche Lamb (mortuary), Roberta Lamb (home economics–Ottawa University), Sylva Lofgreen (physician), Adeline Shinn (abstracting), and Edith Wells (laundry–cleaning).
To raise funds for service projects, the club sponsored Proctor Puppets, Ye Olde Country Store, pecan sales, chicken noodle dinners, benefit card parties, auctions, bazaars, white elephant sales, Irish stew dinners (since 1967), Farmers’ Market (1983-1989), etc.
Recipients include: Boarding Home for Children, Speech Correction Clinic, Wards of the Court, March of Dimes, Community Chest, Franklin County Mental Health Clinic, flower box topped trash containers for Ottawa’s Main Street, Community Book Fair, UNICEF and UNESCO, ECKAN, Youth Services, Inc., Volunteers in Court, food baskets, and the Ministerial Alliance. Ottawa Municipal Auditorium benefited with a furnished meeting room, as well as curtains and money toward a large movie screen. Ottawa Library received substantial funds for books and a microfilm reader/printer and Ransom Memorial Hospital received funds for various projects over the years. A project in recent years has been ongoing support of The Willow, formerly Women’s Transitional Care Services, a safe house for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.
The club has sponsored Boys’ State and Girls’ State delegates, and contributed to the Dairy Princess, Miss Ottawa and Space Camp programs, the restoration of the Dietrich Cabin in City Park, the construction of Haley Park and plaques for the base of the Buffalo Woman statue in front of the courthouse. Youth Citizenship Awards have been given to graduating high school seniors and financial assistance has been given to women who are the primary breadwinner for their family and need training/education to enter the workforce. Members have put on fashion shows and organized Best for Women seminars, educational programs on a variety of timely topics. The club currently has a lunchtime business meeting on the second Thursday of each month and a lunchtime program meeting on the fourth Thursday of most months
Used by permission from 1993 Franklin County History article written by Inez M. Loyd and updated in 2011 by Barbara Dew.