For more than 100 years, the Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach has offered opportunities for coming together and giving back to the community.
By Tanya A. Yacina
Since 1922, the Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach has successfully pursued its mission to unite women through sisterhood and friendship as well as promote enrichment through community outreach and service.
Kitty Malcolm, the organization’s president, explains that the first woman’s club was formed in 1868 as a result of a female journalist from New York who wanted to cover a dinner held by an all-male press club honoring Charles Dickens; when she arrived, she was told women were not welcome. In response, she formed the Sorosis club for women and, 21 years later, that group brought together members of similar clubs throughout the country to form the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.
“Today, this is one of the largest volunteer organizations in the world. It is an international women’s organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others, educating communities, and expanding civil and social opportunities for women,” Malcolm says. “In the years between 1870 and into the 1920s, women’s clubs became the major vehicle by which American women could exercise their developing talents to shape the world beyond their homes.”
Although the original clubhouse was built on Forest Avenue, it was later moved to the corner of St. Ann’s Drive and Glenneyre Street, where it remains today. The building has played a prominent role in the organization over the years, serving as a place for meetings for Girl Scouts, the Library Board, the Community Club and the Art Association in its early days while also hosting talks over the years on Shakespeare’s life, Arabian culture, Sputnik and much more. Now, the group rents out its clubhouse to the public for private celebrations as well as commercial and nonprofit events.
The Woman’s Club has expanded since its century-old start, playing a role around town in things like the addition of the playground at Bluebird Park and the construction of South Coast Community Hospital (now Providence Mission Hospital Laguna Beach) as well as the creation of the Woman of the Year award, the Outgoing Mayor Luncheon and, more recently, an annual fundraiser for Laguna Food Pantry.
“Our success is in how we respond to the growing and evolving needs of our members and our place as an organization in the community,” she says. “As women’s roles, career paths and desire to participate in philanthropic activities have significantly changed over the years, we are constantly growing and evolving as well to meet those needs by listening to our members.”
Friendship and Philanthropy
The Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach encourages camaraderie through charity fundraising and social gatherings.
The Woman’s Club of Laguna Beach comes together for regularly scheduled monthly events, including book clubs and a walking club, which will be picking up again soon. These monthly gatherings enable members to develop relationships with each other. “In general, when we have small group gatherings, like [the] walking and book club[s], one of our members will be the facilitator and keep the group going,” explains Kitty Malcolm, president of the Woman’s Club. “… As a board, we are constantly working to provide smaller group events as a way to engage our members who are interested in meeting new people and getting involved in the community. We are looking at adding [a] monthly game night as another example of bringing our members together.” The book clubs are for members only and have been in existence for about five years. When active, the walking group takes place weekly and works around participants’ schedules.
Each year, the club hosts several annual events as well. “The Holiday Luncheon is a popular social event that enables our members and guests to enjoy a festive holiday get-together,” Malcolm says. “It is also our only annual fundraiser for our various outreach programs, … [like our] Adopt-A-Family giving.” The Woman of the Year Luncheon, which regularly sells out, recognizes a local woman who has consistently served or enhanced the local community. Nominees are selected and then voted on by the club’s members. Furthermore, the group was treated to a private, docent-led art tour of Laguna Art Museum’s exhibitions at the end of January, with additional tours to take place later this year, and looks forward to a High Tea & Hats social event planned for March 5 in addition to its spring wine and cheese event. “We do have additional pop-in events coming up, but dates are still being worked out,” Malcolm adds.
According to Malcolm, the club has been big on community outreach since its inception. Today, with significantly more fundraising opportunities, the group is able to offer larger donations as well as include additional nonprofits in its contributions of goods and services to children and women in need. In 2022 alone, the club donated 40 backpacks to the Laguna Beach Unified School District for local children; provided scholarships of up to $3,500 for SchoolPower’s Thrive program for teen girls; donated $5,000 to Laguna Food Pantry; offered two scholarships through the Laguna Beach High School Scholarship Foundation; sent two kids to Camp Pinniped through the Pacific Marine Mammal Center; and donated $10,000 to the Friendship Shelter to help women find permanent housing. “Through [our] Adopt-A-Family program, we [also] provided 25 children with individual Christmas gifts, as well as food gift cards for each of the individual families; provided 45 gifts for the Laguna Beach Fire Department Spark of Love toy drive; and provided 48 gifts for young teens at the … Waymakers Youth Shelter,” Malcolm adds.