women's clubs, groups that offer social, recreational, and cultural activities for adult females. Particularly strong in the United States, they became an important part of American town and village life in the latter part of the 19th cent. One of the earliest clubs was Sorosis, organized (1868) in New York City. In 1890 a convention called in New York by Sorosis resulted in the General Federation of Women's Clubs. The federation presently includes 250,000 members in 6,500 clubs in the United States, and one million total members in 20 countries. The entry of women into public life has been reflected in the programs of their clubs, which show an increasing interest in questions of social welfare and international concern. Many town libraries, later supported by taxes, were started by women's clubs, and many health and welfare reforms have been initiated by them. The feminist movement also influenced women's clubs, especially by spurring the establishment of groups such as the National Organization for Women (founded 1966), which are explicitly devoted to the expansion of women's rights.
See K. Blair, History of American Women's Organizations (1988); M. Houdi, Reaching Out: The Story of the GFWC (1989).