Abilene Woman’s Club Fashion Show Makes History in Style

History through fashion will be celebrated Friday at the Abilene Woman’s Club Foundation.

This is an opportunity for the 93-year-old organization to highlight the decades-long achievements of women nationwide as well as their contributions to cultural and civic advancements in Abilene.

A recent reference is the election of Dorothy Drones, the club’s first black president.

The historic fashion show luncheon, meant to mark the founding of the foundation in December 1928, was moved from that month to February to coincide with Black History Month.

A separate education

Was Drone surprised to be the first black woman to lead the club?

“To be very honest with you, it didn’t surprise me at all, because coming to Abilene in 1967, I experienced interactions that weren’t so pleasant,” Drones said in a graceful voice.

She was raised by her grandparents in Sedalia, Missouri, where her grandfather was an agricultural foreman.

“We had our own house and everything on the farm. We were treated very well, so I grew up in a mixed neighborhood, although at the time it was very segregated,” Drones said.

In that childhood, her grandparents “instilled in me that dedication, commitment and hard work were values ​​that were very good and, with God, would be very prosperous,” she said.

It was a life perspective that served her well personally and professionally.

Her way to Abilene was through Fukuoka, Japan, where her first husband, who was in the Air Force, was stationed for four years.

The Japanese “were very, very accommodating, very welcoming. I don’t know how it is now, but during that time they welcomed you there. They did everything to make you feel comfortable.”

Today, she and her second husband, Frank, are the parents of nine children aged 51 to 63.

Adjusting to Abilene

Japan’s drone-friendly attitude was less prevalent in Abilene.

“When I came to Abilene in 1967 it was quite different from what it is now. Abilene has come a long way since I came to Abilene,” Drones said.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 had then banned racial segregation, but the presidential stroke of the pen did not immediately change hearts and minds.

The drones reminded us of the difficulty of finding accommodation in the city.

Dorothy Drones at the Abilene Woman's Club Foundation on Saturday.

“I would call and the real estate agent would tell me they had this nice four bedroom house or whatever, it was very nice and I could drop by and see it. And so I would drop by and when I I got there, the real estate agent would tell me they were really sorry, but it just got rented. This happened a few times until I got to the base,” Drones said.

There is no bitterness when she remembers that time.

“So you have to accept and move on,” Drones said. “I wasn’t the type of person who would have confrontations about anything because I lived in Georgia, I lived in Alabama and I lived in Michigan during my trip. I was in the deep south in the 50s, so I’m aware.”

Drones worked at Hendrick Hospital for a few months after moving to Abilene. In April 1969, she started the night shift as a patient care technician at West Texas Medical Center, later known as Abilene Regional Medical Center and now Hendrick South.

During her 49-year career at the hospital, she took advantage of on-the-job training opportunities. She has worked in several areas, including nurse staffing coordinator and nurse recruiter. When she left the role in 2018, she was the Human Resources Employment and Benefits Coordinator.

Over the years, progress has also been made in the city, she said, “in terms of our culture and how we accept and interact with people.”

Community involvement

Drone community services can be traced back to volunteering at the Air Force Base’s dental clinic in Japan.

Today, she is involved with Big Country’s Altrusa International and Investment Club 2000, having led both as president. She serves on the board of directors of the GV Daniels Recreation Center and is currently president of The Saved to Serve Bible Study Ministry.

Drones is also the founder of the Mae Dell Young Scholarship, which has been awarded for 13 years to high school students entering college.

She is also active in Bethel Church Of God In Christ and is an Abilene District Missionary and Assistant State Supervisor of the Texas Northwest Jurisdictional Women’s Department. She became a missionary in 1997 and received her missionary evangelist license in 2001.

Juggling a large family while working full-time outside the home and serving the community was manageable because Drones and her second husband worked as a team, she said.

“When we first got married, we committed to taking care of the kids together,” Drones said.

This included presenting a unified front in front of the youth.

“Whatever he said when they couldn’t come see me,” she argued, she said. “…And then whatever I said, he accepted it, so we had no problem. I was very lucky.”

Building relationships

Changing people’s perceptions and attitudes isn’t easy, Drones said.

“Sometimes you can’t,” she said.

But connecting with people is worth it and is part of why she got involved in different ventures.

“Getting involved in the community and what’s going on not only helps you, but it helps you help others. And I felt like you never stop learning. I love people. J “love the interaction. And I just like being busy and involved,” Drones said.

It was following a personal invitation that Drones first got involved in the foundation in 2016.

“The women were very welcoming. I like the idea of ​​interacting, and they have wonderful programs they do on Fridays,” she said.

Drones was also drawn to the group’s mission “to bring together a diverse group of women to have personal and professional connections,” she said. “They do this through community service, educational opportunities and also by participating in other organizations.”

In the back-and-forth that comes in such groups, Drones said she has benefited from connecting with members and participating in educational programs. In return, she served in various communities and as recording secretary and president-elect.

Drones took over as chairman in October and said she believed she would bring dignity and unity to the club.

“I saw the women working together and coming together. We don’t have confrontations. If they need to talk to me about anything, they call me. I think that helped build a better relationship “, said Drones.

Before the end of her term, she hopes to organize a presidential brunch with new members to discover their strengths and ideas and to revive a Bible study group.

Fashion show details

Drones will model a modern black and silver three-piece outfit at Friday’s fashion show.

There will be 31 women’s outfits dating back to the early 1900s, said Celina Fennell, who helps organize the show. Jewelry, hats, gloves and other accessories will complete the sets.

While several dresses, pant suits and tunics will evoke iconic American eras, like the Gatsby style of the 1920s, there will also be international fashions on display to tie in with major historical events, Fennell said.

With the election of Kamala Harris as vice-president, “she has introduced two cultures, Jamaica and India. So we have two members who are going to wear something from Jamaica and something from India”, Fennell said.

A member of Native American heritage will also model modern attire related to that heritage, Fennell said.

Decade by decade, speakers will highlight the successes of women nationally and locally through the AWCF in the arts, music, science and literature. Members will model through audience outfits that coincide with those eras, Fennell said.

With an eye to its past, the foundation uses the fashion show as a fundraiser and an invitation for the public to attend and learn more about how to be a part of its future.

This duality of orientation between the past and the future is how progress is marked.

“It’s hard to change people, but I’m hopeful,” Drones said. “And, I believe that maybe even being a member of the Abilene Woman’s Club and certain other entities, it would be a testament that Abilene is progressing and they are changing and the culture is changing.

“We still have work to do, but I believe we are making progress.”

Laura Gutschke is a generalist journalist and food columnist and manages the online content of the Reporter-News. If you enjoy local news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.

Historic Fashion Show Lunch

What: A fund development project of the Abilene Woman’s Club Foundation. Door prizes will be awarded, including two one-year AWCF memberships.

When: Friday. The Great Hall opens at 10:45 a.m. Lunch is served at 11:00 a.m. The program starts at 11:30 a.m.

Or: Abilene Woman’s Club, 3425 S 14th St.

Cost: $30 per person. Reservations due Wednesday by calling 325-437-5683.