The hems are higher, the opportunities greater, but Salt Lake County women continue to organize 100 years after first coming together to improve their community. The Salt Lake Council of Women, representing a collection of women’s groups, will celebrate its centennial this February.
Members have left their mark on Salt Lake County, from founding the International Peace Gardens in 1947 to fighting for curbside trash pickup. Hoping to help shape the next generation, the council will award a centennial scholarship to a female survivor of domestic violence at its gala Feb. 25.
“Salt Lake Council of Women is all about women,” said Cathreen Stevens, the council’s current president.
The council is made up of about 200 women representing 40 clubs and organizations, such as Soroptimist International and the YWCA. The council assists in other women’s organizations’ community service efforts as well as their own, such as the gardens and Utah Youth Village, a program for troubled children.
The scholarship recipient, who has not yet been announced, will be chosen from the mothers in the YWCA’s long-term transitional housing program. The council’s fundraising efforts, along with a contribution by Salt Lake Community College, will allow the woman to attend classes for a year.
“The important theme for the Salt Lake Council of Women is that educating the mother will have an impact on her children and on her children’s future,” said Anne Burkholder, chief executive officer of YWCA Salt Lake City.
But 100 years after the council’s inception, many women are no longer stay-at-home mothers. Full-time careers keep them extremely busy, so much so that smaller women’s organizations are struggling, council members said.
“We’re finding that they don’t have time to do as much community service on an individual and smaller scale like they used to,” Stevens said. “It’s the big corporations that come together to do big projects.”
With the cultural shift, the council wants to continue to encourage women to get involved. “So that’s why we’re out there beating the drum,” she said.
In 2011, the council began holding a night meeting every other month to involve working women.
“Most of the women in the Salt Lake Council are retired women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s and 90s,” said Cynthia Bestvina, council president from 2006 to 2007. “There are not a lot of young women joining the clubs now.”
Much has changed in Utah since 1912. Olene Walker became the state’s first female governor. Deedee Corradini was Salt Lake City’s first female mayor. But women remain a minority of elected officials.
“We’re not well represented in political bodies,” Bestvina said. “But we are being represented, because 100 years ago there were no women.”
Would you like to attend the birthday celebration?
P The gala will be Saturday, Feb. 25, at 6:30 p.m. at the Little America Hotel. Tickets are $45, and men are welcome. For more information on the gala or joining the council, call Cynthia Bestvina at 801-364-6458 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.