The women move in

Opening a small downtown office, decorated with secondhand furniture, might not seem like much. But for the Western Carolina Women’s Coalition, it’s a holiday dream come true.

“For the past 10 years, we’ve usually operated out of some member’s basement, or the president’s back seat,” said current President Vera Holland Guise. Scheduling meetings, conferences or events — like the organization’s annual Women’s Equality Day — had proved difficult, and the events never seemed to occur in the same place twice, she explained on Dec. 2, grand-opening day for the new headquarters. One meeting even had to be canceled when a funeral took precedence at the church that had offered the space, Guise recalled.

“Like [British author] Virginia Woolf said, we needed a room of our own,” she declared.

Thanks to donations, a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and a first-ever $25,000 appropriation by North Carolina legislators, the group secured the office and hired an administrator who’ll staff the place — part time, initially, Guise reported.

The Coalition, she noted, works on behalf of women’s rights in 25 counties in western N.C.; it aims to help women advance “through education, collaboration and advocacy.” Its members, for example, have been active in addressing domestic violence. And the Coalition’s March 2000 conference (co-sponsored by the UNCA and the N.C. Council for Women and UNCA) will celebrate “women’s successes, enhancing their quality of life and advancing their full participation in the next century,” according to a coalition pamphlet.

In dedicating their new headquarters, members and supporters of WCWC called on the spirit of women, past and present, who have struggled, sacrificed and triumphed. The Rev. Sarah York urged all assembled to “feminize” the office by calling out the names of women who’ve inspired them to persevere and succeed: Susan B. Anthony, Hazel Fobes, Marie Colton, Wilma Mankiller and Elizabeth Blackwell were just a few who were mentioned. Then, in a chorus, the assembled women proclaimed (reading from a handout), “It is our hope and our visions drawing us to action, which prod and empower us to be more than we knew was possible.”

Ironically, York observed, the WCWC’s new home — in the Miles Building (2 Wall St.) — used to be an all-men’s club.

For more information about the coalition, its services and upcoming events, call 251-5986, or send an e-mail to

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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