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JANUARY 17, 1951


The History of the Nashville Catholic

Business Women's League

Compiled and read by: Florence Ryan

This organization is dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima.  “Where there is no vision, the people perish” are words taken from Sacred Scripture.  In June, 1949, one of our members, Gladys Evans, had a splendid vision of a league for the Catholic business women present here tonight.


She told her friend, Father Edward Dolan, about her plans.  He encouraged her and referred her to Father Joseph Siener, spiritual moderator of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women.  She and five of her friends met with Father Siener in the Holy Name rectory to draw up a petition to Bishop William L. Adrian for the formation of the Catholic Business Women’s League. 


This committee consisted of Gladys Evans, Elizabeth Barrett, Nell Nolan, Mai Eleanor Weis, Louise Marlin and Mae Martin.  Having received the whole-hearted approval of the Bishop for formation of the league, the committee met again with Father Siener and Mrs. R. G. Warner, organizational chairman of the Middle Tennessee Deanery of the DCCW, for the purpose of drawing up a temporary constitution.  By the time this initial work had been completed, Bishop Adrian had appointed Father Edward Dolan spiritual moderator of the newly formed Catholic Business Women’s League.  Thus the first step was taken in making the vision become a reality. 


An invitation was extended by the committee to all the Catholic parishes in Nashville for business women to join them.  At the first official meeting of the league, all the members received the blessing of the Bishop who urged them to emphasize spiritual activities.


At the first business meeting held in the Hermitage Hotel on December 18, 1949, there were 64 members present.  In just a year’s time, the number has more than doubled.  There are now 139 members.  At the December meeting, temporary officers were elected and a nominating committee appointed. 


The following January, a year ago today (1950), the following officers were chosen by the league:  Gladys Evans, president; Elizabeth Barrett, vice-president; Nelle Nolan, recording secretary; Mary Frances Sharenberger, corresponding secretary; Mai Eleanor Weis, treasurer; and Celeste Thompson, parliamentarian.  


In June and July 1950, revisions of the constitution and bylaws were made by a committee consisting of Celeste Thompson, Elise Winnia, Mae Simon, Elizabeth Brunner and myself.  At the August meeting in 1950, the new constitution was accepted by the league, and a printed copy was sent to the league in Chattanooga at their request.  It was at this meeting that Edna Talley and I were elected by the executive committee to fill out the unexpired term of Nelle Nolan and Gladys Evans, who had resigned. 


Was there a real need for organizing the Nashville Catholic Business Women’s League?  Yes, the need was felt spiritually, intellectually and socially.  The social need was met by forming a sewing group, under the chairmanship of Bertha Strobl.  It meets twice a month at the Hillsboro Knit Shop with an average attendance of 20 members.  Another group, organized by Corinne Tignor, is the Canasta Club, meeting also twice a month with about 30 players.  We are very grateful to Father Dan Richardson for letting us use the Assumption parish clubhouse for the canasta parties. 


The intellectual need was met by forming a Book Review club, under the chairmanship of Elizabeth Brunner.  A good book is reviewed every month by Evalyne Howington, followed by a discussion by the club members.  At the last meeting held this month there were 30 members present, as well as a distinguished guest, Monsignor Thomas Duffy.  A parliamentary law class of 10 future officers was organized under the chairmanship of Anna Mae Kennedy.  This class, taught by Mrs. C. Roland Wolfe, met every week until the work had been completed.  Plans are now under way to form a similar class in the spring.  Thanks to Monsignor Duffy, we were welcomed to use St. Mary’s clubroom for our classes.


The spiritual need was met by many varied activities.  In response to the expressed wish of the Bishop, we have answered his challenge by making 90 percent of our activities of a spiritual nature.  The specific purpose that prompted Gladys Evans to organize the league was for us to make an annual donation to help educate under privileged children.  In September 1950, the Catholic Business Women’s League voted a $500 scholarship for a worthy student at St. Mary’s orphanage who has chosen a business career.  Since then we have had the prayers every night of the sisters and orphans for their benefactors.


On the third Wednesday of each month the group meets at the B&W cafeteria for dinner and a business meeting.  The programs have featured the Holy Year.  On this topic and related subjects, inspirational talks have been given by Monsignor Thomas Duffy, Father Joseph Siener, Father Joseph Leppert, William Flaherty, and Franz Gierhaus.  At this business meeting every month, a register for the unemployed is kept by Anne Cashel and Ann McGovern.  Every First Friday we have a Holy Hour in St. Mary’s Church.  Prayers are led by Thelma Ballinger.  These prayers are followed by Benediction, given by Father Thomas Cashin or Monsignor Duffy.  On the most recent first Friday there were 75 members present at the Holy Hour. 


On the fourth Sunday of every month members attend Mass at a different parish church, receiving Holy Communion in a body, remaining after Mass for a prayer of thanksgiving, let by Mary Ryan Smith.  Breakfast is then served in the school cafeteria.  Last month when we met in Christ the King church, the members were pleased to hear Father Leppert, from the altar, ask the members of his congregation to pray for the continued success of the Catholic Business Women’s League. 


As this organization is just a year old, the members realize that it is still in its infancy, and have many things to learn in the future.  Thanks to Father Wilson Cunningham, there is hardly a week that passes without some notice in the Register about the Catholic Business Women’s League.  In the past year the following events have been recorded in the Register:  The full cooperation and participation with the DCCW in their state convention and fashion revue for Tennessee missions; an Easter egg hunt for the benefit of St. Mary’s orphanage; trips to Murfreesboro every Sunday to transport Dominican Sisters from Overbrook so that they may teach Sunday school.  We prepared for Christmas by sponsoring a night novena in St. Mary’s church where we heard nine wonderful sermons on the Nativity, by Father Thomas Cashin.  One noteworthy achievement of the past year was the retreat at St. Bernard’s Academy on November 19, under the chairmanship of Helen Vaughn.  Father Francis Shea was our retreat master.  Some 189 members and their friends registered for the retreat.  It will be an annual custom.


In a year of time, the vision that Gladys Evans had that summer day of a Catholic Business Women’s League has expanded.  Without the wholehearted cooperation of 90 active members, that vision would have vanished; without the generous encouragement of the beloved pastors and their assistants, that vision would have died.  Pastors have welcomed us to their churches each month; they have given us publicity in their church bulletins each week; they have given us the advice and counsel each day that we asked for it; they have eaten breakfast with us on our Communion Sundays.  For these and numerous other favors, we are deeply grateful.  We will always treasure the remembrance of how graciously they have encouraged us this first year.  That is why they are our honored guests tonight at this, our first birthday dinner, for they are the ones who have made the vision become a reality.

The Nashville Catholic Business Women's League was established in 1950 and is the Diocese of Nashville's oldest business organization. Since the league's

founding, it has donated approximately

$454,500 toward girls' scholarships (as of December 2022).

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