Founded in 1949
When U.S. government headquarters in Bern, Switzerland, was still a legation headed by a minister, the minister’s wife and several other American women of the city met periodically to sew and knit and chat. In 1949 they decided to expand, founding the American Women’s Group. The word “group” was used because the official who gave the final endorsement objected to the word “club”, which brought to his mind a “gathering of cackling hens.”
Throughout its first decade, the club’s membership swelled. Luncheons at fine local restaurants cost about five francs, ice water included! Once enrollment topped 50, the women renamed their group, and the American Women’s Club of Bern was born.
To Welcome, to Introduce and to Help
One of the club’s most important functions has always been to welcome American newcomers to Bern and introduce them to life in Switzerland.
In addition, the club has long put a high priority on raising money for charity. During a polio epidemic in the early 1950’s, AWC funds were used to buy two iron lungs for the Tiefenau hospital, and in the 1960’s, CHF 33’000 was collected to help with the building of the Rossfeld Home for physically handicapped children. More recently, the AWC has sent a number of Swiss children with cancer to a Paul Newman associated summer camp in the States, as well as sponsoring the Villa Maria women’s safehouse in Bern.
Which Continues Today
Today, whatever the event—a lecture on how honey bees communicate, a viewing of the light show on the Bundesplatz, an Easter Egg hunt for kids, or just a pleasant afternoon tea with friends—American women in Bern know they can count on the American Women’s Club to keep them in touch. In addition to its formal events, the club provides members with a monthly newsletter, a membership directory, Facebook and Instagram pages, and the opportunity to organize small hobby groups around interests such as hiking and biking, children, knitting, discussions, coffee mornings and books.