The Roanoke Valley Democratic Women’s Club was organized on July 25, 1928, making it one of the first Democratic Women’s Clubs in the United States. It fell into inactivity but was reorganized in 1956 with the help of Reva Dixon, a registered National Parliamentarian, who became the Club’s President. Another leader of the Roanoke Valley Club was Nita Willis, President from 1963-64, who was instrumental in organizing the Virginia Federation of Democratic Women (VFDW).
The Virginia Federation of Democratic Women was formed in 1968 to foster the connection between local clubs and the Democratic Party of Virginia, and to help encourage women to become more politically active. The leadership of this organization consisted of Nita Willis (Roanoke), Amanda Macauley and Jeanne Baliles (Richmond), and Lola Credle (Chesapeake). The first organizational meeting was held in September of 1969, in Roanoke. Amanda Macauley was installed as the first Federation President and Nita Willis became its second. RVDW members who served as Past Presidents of the Virginia Federation of Democratic Women include Nita Willis (1970-72), and Joan Baker Washburn (1984-87). On October 6, 1971, twenty-seven women gathered for breakfast at the Sheraton Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., to discuss forming a National Federation of Democratic Women. Lola Credle of Chesapeake represented the Virginia Federation at this historic meeting. In October of 1973, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) officially recognized the National Federation of Democratic Women when a resolution to that effect was unanimously adopted. The DNC noted that an organized women’s group was needed in the Democratic Party to help develop women’s leadership skills locally and nationally, both as Party leaders and elected officials.
The Roanoke Valley Democratic Women’s club contributed to the development of the Virginia and the National Federations of Democratic Women, two organizations that were vital forces in the Democratic Party. The RVDW became a Political Action Committee in 2011 – a change in its bylaws, but not in its standards. From its very beginning, the RVDW operated according to the fundamentals of Democratic principles; The Roanoke Valley Democratic Women promote harmony, hard work, and above all, a profound dedication to supporting and electing Democratic candidates. From the State House to the White House, Democratic women are the heart, the soul, “The Life of the Party.”