Gwendolyn Baker Rodgers and Frankie Drayton Thomas came together and decided that we needed to organize a network of women to provide community strength and satisfy the needs of young Black women in our area. They decided to call together young women of similar ideas, ideals, philosophies, and backgrounds to join in a united effort to have more organized, diversified social activities. The first meeting was held on June 17, 1951 at the home of Gwendolyn Baker Rodgers in Riviera Beach, FL.
The persons responding to the call were Geneva Browne (Boynton), Yvonne Butler (Reynolds), Edith Strozier (Coleman), Miriam Saunders, and Doris Stephens (Williams). After this initial meeting, we agreed to contact other friends with common bonds: Ann Jones, Vivian Watson Scott, and Lula M. Thomas.
Yvonne Butler presented the idea of Charmettes as a name for the group and Geneva Browne created the motto: “Charm is the Essence of a Woman’s Power.” The colors were established as Red and White, and the Red Carnation was chosen as our flower. The first officers were: Ann Jones, President; Frankie Thomas, Vice President; Miriam Saunders, Secretary; Gwendolyn Rodgers, Treasurer; and Lula Thomas, Chaplain. Soon after inception, Ann Jones moved to Fort Lauderdale; Frankie Thomas assumed the position of President; Gwendolyn Rodgers moved to Vice President; and Yvonne Butler became Treasurer.
Prior to our first annual dance in 1952, we recruited Elizabeth Mays Scott, Ernestine Phillips Carey, Gertrude Fisher Shipp, Barbara Watson, Edith Walden, Eunice Walden Thompson, Claudia W. Coleman, and Willie Mae Jones Watson. During this dance, ladies from Dade County expressed an interest in our organization. The idea to expand was tossed around among the established members for two years. Thus, on December 13, 1954, THE CHARMETTES were incorporated and recorded in the Palm Beach County Clerk’s Office on December 23, 1954.
During the following years, the organization continued to grow internally and to mature. We began to look at life in a more serious vein although we fully realized our needs and desires to continue our social activities. We also realized a need for civic and community involvement.
Our first public activity as The Charmettes, Inc., was serving as hostesses for the opening of a West Palm Beach Housing complex built by the City of West Palm Beach. After that initial exposure, we were invited to host several events in the city.
In 1981, through the efforts of our Founder, Charmette Frankie Drayton Thomas, we adopted the Howard University Cancer Center as the major project for The Charmettes, Inc. This was due to Frankie’s friendship with Dr. Walter White, who was head of the cancer center and it was the only university in the country dedicated to eradicating cancer among Blacks. As of 2015, the entire organization has contributed over $590,000 to the Howard University Cancer Center. As a result of our efforts on October 27, 2006, Howard University named a suite in our honor: The Charmettes, Inc./Gwendolyn Baker Rodgers Chemotherapy Infusion Suite.
Our chapter has been involved in innovative and important community services since our inception. Our contributions include services for youth, the elderly, and families in need. We provide educational scholarships, mentoring programs, family development, career education programs, and support for cancer education treatments and services.
We are dedicated, accomplished, concerned, and committed women who work in our community to make our world a better and more productive place. Our chapter takes extreme pride in a legacy of service and sisterhood, and we look forward to a strong future.
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The Charmettes, Incorporated is a qualified 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.