Seven months ago, when the Bayonne Women’s Club formed, its two founders had different visions of what they wanted to achieve. One founder wanted to keep the organization local, emphasizing local talent for various civic works, while the other hoped to bring the power of a state-level organization to Bayonne to help.
So it was inevitable that the two founders would eventually form their own groups seeking to follow their own vision.
Mary Kay Tokar has formed a group called Peninsula Women’s Group, which has a goal to provide “a safe environment for women to meet other women and participate in small and large group discussions about topics of interest to our community.” The new group will sponsor workshops, educational meetings, pot lucks and other events over the year.
“We really want to be about community service.” – Mary Dunlap-Beales
“The Bayonne Women’s Club is intact,” she said. “We will continue to move forward, holding our meetings at the Catholic War Veterans Post. We will march in the Columbus Day parade and we will continue to raise funds to help Trinity Church’s programs.”
The club evolved out of a local book club, she said, as women thought they could become more involved in the community.
Dunlap-Beales, a member of the Bayonne Rotary Club, said she wanted to help form an organization that was “for women, by women, to help women.”
Tokar was a member of the now defunct Junior Women’s Club – a group that was dedicated to women under 40 years old, but which stopped in the early 1990s.
Both groups differ from the one-time Bayonne Women’s Club that ceased operation years ago in that they are seeking to attract women of all ages to get involved with educational programs, as well as civic events that will benefit the community.
“We really want to be about community service,” Dunlap-Beales said. “The more women who get involved, the more ideas we can come up with. We are asking our members what they want to do.”
Dunlap-Beales said she and Tokar are still friends. “It’s just a difference in philosophy,” she said.
Women’s clubs have a long history in the United States, going back to the post Civil War era as modern household advances allowed middle class women more time to engage in intellectual pursuits. But unlike those historic groups, the new clubs in Bayonne hope to draw women from all walks of life, using their talents to help the community as well as to provide a venue where women can talk openly about issues that concern them, and to provide a social venue for women to meet.
“We want to get involved with the community and to make a difference,” Dunlap-Beales said, pointing to the recent Relay for Life event that occurred in June where members of the Bayonne Women’s Club came out to help raise money for cancer research.
“Yes, there are two clubs now,” she said. “But that is a positive thing. But it is important to know that the women’s club we formed in January still exists and is still pursuing its goals of helping the community.”
She said the goal is to bring women together for a common purpose.
“This is both a social club for women and a civic organization,” she said. “We have a lot to offer the community. It is very exciting to see where this will go. This is something new.”
The women’s group will be holding an event on Oct. 12 to benefit the construction of a new HIGHWAYS building at Trinity Church – part of the program that helps adults with disabilities.
“This will be an Oktoberfest,” Dunlap-Beales said. “We’re currently discussing the details about it.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.