THE COMMONWEALTH CLUB
1961: Founded by a group of young mothers in their mid-to-late twenties, living in Parkfairfax, who had worked together on the Nixon-Lodge campaign. They were well educated, moderate on social issues, conservative on fiscal issues, and were at home with their children with time to volunteer. They enjoyed politics and enjoyed working together. Thus came into being the Parkfairfax Republican Women's Club. Within a year or two most of them had moved to nearby North Ridge, and so the name was changed to the Commonwealth Republican Women's Club. Early members included Lou Cook, Betty McCann, Jane Ring and Shirley Jones.
As of that time, there had not been a Republican elected to City Council since Reconstruction. In March, 1961, all eight Republican workers met at Jane and Connie Ring's house on Monticello Boulevard. This became the first party headquarters because the Rings had a mimeograph machine in their basement. Club members with their children in strollers, walked door-to-door to invite neighbors to join the party, to vote for their candidate in the coming election, or to vote their way on issues placed on election ballots.
The women held bake sales, auctions, flea markets and dinners to raise money for their candidates and the party. They passed out mimeographed leaflets at shopping centers and public events, usually with children in tow. To attract attention to the Republican cause at these events, children were dressed in pink elephant suits (which they hated). Because they had the largest basement of the group, campaign headquarters was shifted to the home of Shirley and Homer Jones on Russell Road.
1967: That year their organizing finally paid off as Wiley Mitchell was elected to City Council. He was the first Republican elected to the Alexandria City Council since Reconstruction. Club members also worked with the party against "massive resistance to integration," to abolish the poll tax and to lobby the State Transportation Department for bike paths.
The women learned about politics from the ground up and in a few years they were managing campaigns and running for office themselves. In 2001, the Club celebrated its fortieth year while continuing to study issues, recruit, and train candidates, and manage campaigns. The club is a member of the Virginia Federation of Republican Women and the National Federation of Republican Women.
By CRWCer Rosalind Bovey
The club's mission is to:
Bring women together to shape the community's future
Provide a forum for discussion and action on political issues
Educate women in the political process
Support activities in literacy, women's health and Caring for America