We have more than 100 members of all ages.
- An American Women’s Club with a long tradition in Bern, Switzerland
- Member of the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas
- A source of support and information for women in the Bern area
- A bridge between the American and Swiss cultures
- An organizer of informational and social programs
- A contributor to charity projects locally and worldwide
- A meeting point for women in Switzerland with common interests
We look forward to meeting you!
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.
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 page, and the opportunity to organize small hobby groups around interests such as hiking and biking, children, knitting, discussions, coffee mornings and books.
One of the club’s most important functions has been to welcome American newcomers to Bern. For more than 65 years, the AWC Bern has been sponsoring activities for Americans, as well as for non-Americans with close ties to the U.S. Although required by its constitution to remain predominantly American and to have an American President and Vice President, the club values its non-American members. In 2016, club members voted to include a new membership category for international members who are fluent in English. And in 2019 the AWC Bern will be celebrating our 70th anniversary.
In addition, the club has always placed a high priority on raising money for charity. During a polio epidemic in the early 1950’s, AWC Bern 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. Following the American Bicentennial in 1976, AWC Bern sponsored a series of Navajo children in the U.S., sending presents, pocket money, and friendly letters. The club donated an acacia tree to the Bern Rose Garden to commemorate the club’s 40th anniversary and the 800th birthday of the city of Bern. And the 50th anniversary club project was the production of a cookbook, with proceeds supporting a home for orphaned street children in Peru. Other major beneficiaries in the 1990’s included a hospice and an organization that trains dogs to assist people with disabilities. In 1998 the AWC Bern began an annual cultural exchange, sending groups of Swiss teenaged cancer patients to Paul Newman’s Double H summer camp in upstate New York. Scores of similar projects such as Villa Maria, Women’s Hope International, Hope for Haiti’s Kids, Kids Support Group Brazil and Amani Children’s Home in Tanzania have benefited from AWC Bern funds throughout the years.
Through FAWCO, the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas, AWC Bern has participated in charity projects worldwide. The Development Grants were introduced in 1997 by the FAWCO Foundation, and in the following 19 years the AWC Bern won 12 of them, with amounts ranging from $1500 to $4500. Also, two of our members have won Education Awards. The club has sponsored several meetings for members of FAWCO clubs, and each year representatives from Bern attend FAWCO’s conferences to share know-how and new ideas. The AWC Bern has hosted two FAWCO Conferences first in 1994 and again in 2013. In 1999, AWC Bern’s website was used as an example of how other FAWCO clubs could take advantage of the internet.
Over the years since its founding, the American Women’s Club of Bern has helped a great many women feel more comfortable, more connected, more informed, and more involved in their new home. The club has not only served its members, their husbands, and their children in countless ways, but also has used its charitable contributions to help a number of Swiss. None of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of many, many volunteers.
Today’s club is counting on YOU to maintain that tradition. With a truly active membership, the American Women’s Club of Bern is guaranteed another 65 years of existence – and more!
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.
Recent Charity Activities
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. The club has helped others in need, too, providing toys and equipment to homes for handicapped children in Solothurn and Münsingen; playground equipment for handicapped children in Langnau; guide dogs for the blind or people with other disabilties; transportation for a wheelchair-bound woman; as well as support for the local Anglican church, the International School of Berne, the Berner Hospiz, the Frauenhaus in Biel, and other service organizations.
For over three decades, the club also sponsored a series of Navajo children, sending presents, pocket money, and friendly letters. A North American lynx for the zoo and a new tree for the Rosengarten were gifts from the AWC to the City of Bern.
The Role of FAWCO
No history of the AWC Bern should leave out the club’s involvement with FAWCO, the Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas. Each year, representatives from Bern attend FAWCO’s conferences to share savoir-faire and new ideas. In 1999, for example, the AWC’s website was used to show other FAWCO members how to get their clubs online. Although required by our constitution to remain predominantly American and to have an American president and vice-president, the AWC of Bern continues to welcome and value its non-American members. On June 19, 1999 , for example, when the American Women’s Club of Bern celebrated its fiftieth birthday, thirty of the club’s 176 members were either Swiss or from one of ten other nations.
Over the years since its founding in 1949, the American Women’s Club of Bern has helped numerous women transplanted far away from home feel happier, more comfortable, more connected, more informed and more involved. The club has not only served its members, their husbands and their children in countless ways, but has also used its charitable contributions to help a good number of Swiss citizens. None of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of many volunteers, some of whom have contributed their time and energy year after year to make the club a success. Old and new members alike must remember that the club is counting on them to pitch in and help in any way they can. With a truly active membership, the American Women’s Club of Bern is guaranteed another fifty years of existence — and then some!