Jacksonville pen women celebrate 90th anniversary

Jacksonville pen women celebrate 90th anniversary
Front: Pat Setser, Mimi Pearce and Jacksonville branch of the National League of American Pen Women President Linda Foley; back: Joe Ripley and Diantha York-Ripley, owners of the historic Marabanong mansion, Elaine Waidelich, two-time past president of the National League of American Pen Women, Fletcher Shipp, Jan Atchley Bevan, Joanelle Mulrain and Susan Brandenburg.

The Marabanong estate on Empire Point was a fitting location for the Jacksonville Branch of the National League of American Pen Women to celebrate its 90th anniversary April 9. Charter member Eliza M. Souvielle, who served as the first vice president of the newly formed Jacksonville chapter, lived in the historic mansion in 1926, when the Jacksonville branch was founded.

Souvielle’s spirit came to life through a character portrayal by Fletcher Shipp of Springfield, during the anniversary festivities at the mansion April 9 in St. Nicholas. In fact, Mayor Lenny Curry commemorated April 9, 2016 as National League of American Pen Women of Jacksonville Anniversary Day with a special proclamation, which was read by Joanelle Mulrain of San Marco.

Comprised of writers, visual artists, musicians and composers, poets, designers and painters, the Jacksonville Branch of the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW) is a “supportive group of professional women for professional women,” said Francesca Tabor-Miolla, membership chairman.

The written works of many local members have been published in more than 60 publications and include the work of best-selling historic romance novelist Taylor Caldwell, who joined the Jacksonville branch in 1952, according to branch membership documents.

The National League of American Pen Women was born in 1897 when newspaper journalist Marian Longfellow O’Donoghue asked two of her colleagues to join her in forming a “progressive press union” after she was denied membership in the male-dominated National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Known as “The Dauntless Three,” the women soon saw the ranks of their budding organization swell to include 17 women writers, journalists, novelists, poets, as well as an artist and a teacher. Soon the requirement that applicants hold professional credentials and be paid for their work became compulsory. By 1898, artists and composers were included in the mix, and the organization boasted more than 50 members from throughout the United States.

NLAPW maintains its national headquarters in the Pen Arts Building in Dupont Circle, Washington D.C. an edifice that was originally built as the home of Sara Adams Whittemore, a well-known opera singer at the time. It also housed Robert Todd Lincoln, eldest son of President Abraham Lincoln, who lived in the residence with his family for more than a year.

By 1921, the NLAPW had expanded to include 35 branches throughout the United States. Over the years, several First Ladies were awarded honorary memberships and occasionally participated in League activities. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, was a prolific writer and active member while in the White House, according to League documents.

Jacksonville was the 31st branch of NLAPW and was founded by Estelle Thomas Steele in 1926. Prior to moving to Jacksonville, Steele had lived in Washington, D.C. and served as publicity chairman for the national organization. Including Souvielle, other charter members of the Jacksonville branch were Marguerite Gardner Fetters as president, Vira K.B. Humphreys, secretary and historian, and Juanita C. Burbridge, treasurer.

During the celebratory gathering April 9, more than 50 members and guests toured the Marabanong house and grounds, including a large koi pond in the back of the residence. Marabanong owners Joe Ripley and his wife, Diantha York-Ripley, an artist, were on hand to answer questions about the historic home, which is listed in the United States National Register of Historic Places. After the meeting, the NLAPW Jacksonville branch intends to present the Ripleys with a special plaque commemorating the mansion’s listing on the National Register, and 90th anniversary of NLAPW’s Jacksonville branch.

The pen women also noshed on scrumptious refreshments in the dining room and enjoyed guitar music by Pen Woman Lynn Curtin and a cello performance by Linda Minke. Past Jacksonville Branch President Jan Atchley Bevan of Murray Hill read selections of her poetry, and on display was artwork created by several Pen Women members.

Two-time president of the NLAPW, Elaine Waidelich was a special guest. Mary Atwood, a photographer with a studio in the San Marco area, was inducted into the League.

Emma Pan of Gainesville, who recently won Best in Show at the FSA Conference in Orlando also attended. Pan’s Chinese painting was on display in the National Show in Washington, D.C. in April, she said. Chairing the event were Tabor-Miolla and Patricia Setser of Empire Point. Duncan Sawyer of Ortega and Setser provided a display highlighting the Jacksonville branch’s history. Susan D. Brandenburg of San Jose, Maggie Fitzroy and Setser compiled a booklet detailing the group’s 90-year history.

Mary Ann Miller, Vicky Lennon and Pamela Walker Hart served as hostesses and Debra Webb Rogers of San Marco organized members of the Douglas Anderson Honor Society to help serve the food.

Potted flowers were supplied by the Empire Point Garden Circle and a large flower arrangement was supplied courtesy of Trend’s Home Décor Inc. of San Marco.


By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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