Making History for 100 Years
WNDC was founded in 1922 at a historic time in American history — just two years after the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which began the enfranchisement of American women. After a struggle that had begun more than 60 years earlier at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, women were no longer to be denied all the rights and privileges of citizenship. In November 1920, many women cast their votes for the first time. While the right to vote remained, and remains, under attack for far too many Americans, WNDC was founded on the principle of putting our democracy in the hands of the people.
The first organization for Democratic women in Washington, DC, WNDC opened its doors near the White House in 1924. The Club provided a social setting for political dialogue between visiting Democrats and residents of the District of Columbia, who were excluded from national suffrage, and continue to be denied full representation.
Emily Newell Blair, Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in charge of women’s affairs, oversaw more than a thousand clubs for Democratic women throughout the country. She had also established political schools for women, hoping to revitalize the party through a well-informed women’s electorate. Believing that Democratic women needed a place in Washington, DC to discuss public issues and put their new franchise to work, she founded WNDC as a “hub” for the Democratic women’s activism.
Florence Jaffray “Daisy” Harriman, a Washington and New York socialite, recruited prominent political and social figures to become WNDC members and help provide financial support. Harriman had entered national politics in 1912 to campaign for her friend Woodrow Wilson in his first presidential bid. President Wilson endorsed the Club, and former First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson was elected honorary president. Harriman also launched a series of bipartisan Sunday night suppers that raised the Democratic Party profile and quickly became a Washington institution.
In 1924, the Club launched its twice-weekly programs, which included panel discussions, speaker series, roundtables, and more. Over 95 years later, we continue to host and learn from renowned political-thought leaders including former First Lady Rosalynn Carter; former Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and Hillary Rodham Clinton; former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski; former PBS News Anchor Jim Lehrer; Maryland House Delegate Mark Kennedy Shriver; Civil Rights Leader Vernon Jordan; Members of Congress including Maxine Waters, John Lewis, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jackie Speier, Lucy McBath, Pramila Jayapal, Loretta and Linda Sanchez, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz; DNC Chair Tom Perez; and Ultraviolet Founder Shaunna Thomas.