SACO – It was 1911, and in Boston the construction of Fenway Park was getting under way. Ginger Rogers and Ronald Reagan were born. The first International Women’s Day was celebrated, nine years before women earned the right to vote.

And in Saco, the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union of Saco was incorporated as an organization.

It’s still going strong today.

In the last 100 years, the group has been credited for advocating for sidewalks in town, introducing home economics and industrial arts in schools, providing Saco’s first playground equipment, in Pepperell Park, and starting Saco’s first kindergarten.

“The Women’s Educational and Industrial Union of Saco has had an extremely positive influence on the community over the last century and I am proud to have been able to present them with their 100 Year Corporation Certificate,” Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers said at a recent banquet, recognizing the organization on its 100th anniversary.

More than 80,000 business entities and nonprofit corporations are listed with Maine’s Division of Corporations in the Secretary of State’s Office. The Women’s Educational and Industrial Union of Saco is one of only 22 that will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year.

Chapter past-president Herberta Harriman said the award is quite an honor.

“It’s quite a thing really,” she said, admiring the plaque she received from Summers. “It was a feather in my cap.”

From October to May, the all-women’s organization meets twice a month at the Dyer Library. The group consists of about 85 women from varied backgrounds, most of whom are past the age of retirement.

Harriman, 79, joined the group in 1996 after accompanying a friend to one of the meetings. May marked the end of her two-year term as president. She has been active on various committees in the organization and ran meetings as president.

“Some people are joiners and some people aren’t. I’m a joiner,” she said.

A “joiner” started the club nearly 20 years before it incorporated.

In the late 1800s, an era when men didn’t want their wives working, Sarah Hamilton started hosting meetings for women in the parlor of her home in Saco. After discussing what they could do to help the community, the women enjoyed tea and light refreshments.

Today, meetings are held in a similar fashion. They start with a business meeting, followed by tea and refreshments and a variety of programs.

Harriman said the group plans presentations a year in advance, calling on community members for topics ranging from fashion and gardening to local politics and local organizations.

“We have great variety,” said Beverly Loring, who joined 31 years ago. “We always have informative programming because we still want to keep learning.”

The organization continues its mission to promote educational, industrial and social advancement in Saco, Biddeford and Old Orchard Beach.

“When I found out how much they do for the community, I certainly did want to join,” said Loring.

Today, Loring said, the women provide two $1,000 scholarships annually to local high school seniors and donate money to food pantries and organizations like the Salvation Army.

She said members pay $15 a year in dues. Much of the group’s funding comes from money left to it in wills, donations and card-playing fundraisers.

While the women won’t meet again until October, a century of work in their communities is something they are proud to celebrate this summer.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Loring said. “I hope we go on for another 100 years.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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