In late 2004, after a disappointing loss in the Presidential election, a few women from the Clifton area discussed forming a Democratic women’s group. Led by Jane Barker and Donna Netschert, they enlisted several other women to be part of an Action Committee (AC) to consider options. Before there was ever a formal group, many women devoted much time and effort working together to bring an idea to fruition. Members of the AC were hearing that the number of Democratic women in the area was growing and that these women were interested in getting together to discuss issues, to build Democratic support, and to forge new friendships. The AC therefore decided to invite local Democratic women to a tea in February 2005 to determine interest in forming a group and to solicit ideas about what a Democratic women’s group should do.
The AC planned the tea for February 13 at the Clifton Community Hall, with Kate Hanley, former Fairfax County Chair of the Board of Supervisors, headlining the event. Kate thought she was coming to talk with 10 or 15 Democratic women and was thrilled to find more than 100 women waiting for her at the Community Hall. The response totally surprised even the members of the Action Committee. The excitement in the room was palpable, and everyone there had a clear commitment to becoming organized. Kate Hanley gave an inspiring speech to the women, and Springfield District School Board Member Cathy Belter also spoke.
The women attending had lots of ideas about how to form and structure a group and about the issues they wanted to address. The AC took the ideas presented at the meeting and began to develop an approach and strategy. The Action Committee became the Steering Committee (SC) for the organization, and co-chairs were selected for various committees. Meetings were scheduled with specific topics for learning and discussion. Thus, the Democratic Women of Clifton (DWC) was born in early 2005.
That first year was an exciting one for the DWC. The first annual Democratic Candidate Forum was held prior to the June 2005 primary. The four candidates for Lieutenant Governor, State Senator Creigh Deeds, who was unopposed for the nomination for Attorney General, and a surrogate for Tim Kaine were invited. The participating candidates informed and energized the women who attended, and this forum established a precedent for similar forums held every year thereafter. The annual DWC Candidate Form is now well known for giving Clifton area residents the opportunity to see, hear, and question Democratic candidates before the primaries.
That fall, the SC worked on the campaigns for Delegates as well as our three Democratic candidates for statewide office. That tradition continues today, as one of our main goals is to help elect Democratic candidates to office.
Educational meetings on timely topics also continue to inform members and their guests. A newsletter that began in 2005 as a three-page bulletin issued every couple of months is today a twelve-page publication emailed to more than 400 members monthly, informing them about current issues and keeping them up to date on activities. Frequent Political Action Alerts advise members of imminent action on important legislative issues and invite immediate response in the form of calls or letters to elected officials.
The group hosts fundraisers for candidates, supports campaign efforts and sponsors service projects for local nonprofit groups and soldiers serving abroad. Social events at members’ homes and a lively book club that meets monthly contribute to forming new friendships among participants. Other annual events include participating in Clifton Day, a summer pool party, the Clifton 4th of July Parade, a family picnic, and the Adopt-a-Highway project.
In April 2013 the membership voted to change our name to the Democratic Women of Clifton and Northern Virginia keeping reference to our origins while better representing our membership which extends well beyond the original Clifton Voting Precinct to the wider Northern Virginia area. From a small group of women with an idea, the DWCNV has become a major force in local politics in Northern Virginia, representing a broad spectrum of women: professionals, working mothers, homemakers, retirees, and college students. The DWCNV is an organization with an open door and a welcoming handshake for any Democratic woman who wants to become more involved in politics or who simply wants to become more educated on the events that shape all our lives.