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Tracy Frank, Published July 03 2013

Her Voice: Women’s group provides education, social outlet

Her Voice is a weekly article about women in or from our area and how they make an impact on the world around them. If you know someone SheSays should feature in HerVoice, email Tracy Frank at tfrank@forumcomm.com.

FARGO – A group of area women meets once a month to continue a decades-old tradition of coming together for education, entertainment and socialization.

While the discussion topics have changed, and the Cass County Thursday Homemaker Club no longer meets on Thursdays, the spirit of the group has remained.

“The essence of our group is education,” Vicki Gushwa of Fargo said.

“We’ve tried to stay true to the purpose,” said Ann Zavoral of Fargo. “There’s always something we can learn.”

Homemaker clubs used to cover topics like baking bread and sewing garments. The current members study issues like health trends and the inhumane conditions some women suffered during the women’s suffrage movement.

“We certainly have reinvented ourselves over the years to still be a viable organized group and yet maintain the purpose since formation as part of the Land Grant Institutions,” said Helen Danielson of rural Harwood, who was a Cass County Extension home economist and joined the group in 1972.

The homemaker clubs started in North Dakota in the 1920s through North Dakota State University Extension service as a way to bring information on home economics issues to women throughout the state, according to “Hired Hands and Volunteers: A History of the North Dakota State University Extension Service” by Stanley W. Bale.

The Cass County Thursday Homemaker Club started in 1955.

Some of the club’s current members are daughters of former members.

Gushwa joined because her mother was one of the club’s first members in 1956. When she was 35, she started going to meetings with her mother and became a member herself.

“It had a lot of valuable information,” she said. “It was not just a social group. It had a purpose, and it wasn’t just cooking and cleaning and that kind of thing. There was a lot of consumer information. There was information about the community and a lot of life skills.”

Guest speakers have presented on a variety of topics like diet, diabetes, supplements, and recycling.

Judy Petermann of Fargo joined the group in 2005, and said she considers it a form of continuing education.

“I love this group,” she said. “It’s full of resourceful women who seem to know so much about so many things.”

Sometimes the ladies will go on outings to a local show, concert or the opera.

They plan trips together, like the one they took last summer to the International Peace Garden.

They also do service activities, like collecting personal items for the YWCA Cass Clay Emergency Shelter

It’s the club’s activity level that prompted Zavoral to join in the 1980s.

“It just sounded like the most intriguing club,” she said.

Membership is by invitation only to keep the group’s size down because they often meet at a member’s home. But the waiting list isn’t as long as it was when Ruthie Hoglund of Fargo joined in 1970.

“I knew several members of the Thursday Homemakers Group, but they had their 15 quota, so I was not asked to be a member for three years,” she said, adding that she would sometimes be invited to events anyway before she became a member.

There are 17 to 18 members in the group, many who leave the area for the winter. The women range in age from late-50s through their mid-90s.

Membership dues are $5 a year. The women use the money to make donations to various causes.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526