Las Amigas Club
"Lifting As We Climb"
Mrs. Robert Woodford, Glenn Allen, Mrs. Albert Allen model clothes as part of a fashion show with proceeds going to the Las Amigas Club, Kalamazoo Gazette, 6-15-1975
Social clubs have long been an important part of Kalamazoo’s social makeup. As different as they are similar in composition and purpose, from the popular 19th century fraternal societies like the Odd Fellows to today’s giving circles and Greek fraternities, a wide array of organizations have gathered citizens together around particular activities, interests, or philanthropic giving.
Organized on 28 February 1948 the African American women’s group Las Amigas (The Friends) Club emerged to provide a variety of civic services and social programs, mostly focusing on supporting young adults and their educational pursuits. The original nineteen young women who began to meet at the Douglass Community Association chose the name to emphasize their fraternal bond. Their motto was “Lifting As We Climb.” Their club colors were green and white, and their official flower was the gardenia.
Las Amigas event flyer, 1948
Charter members included Rebecca Carlos (President), Nellie Haywood (Vice-President), Sylvia Pettiford (Secretary), Emma Rausch (Corresponding Secretary), Vivian Dungy (Treasurer), Marcia Byrd (Reporter), Norma Cash, Madge Taylor, Juanita Overby, Edith Love, Earline Sutton, Bernadine Whitlock, Mildred Scott, Naxie Grant, Mary Jane Coleman, Zelles Kelly, Annabelle Smith, and Elizabeth Yeager. Their first event was a May Queen Ball and subsequent dance. The proceeds totaled $600, and went toward the purchasing of a mimeograph machine and sporting equipment for the Douglass Community Association. The group disbanded for a short period in the 1950s while the DCA shifted its service model, but later reunited once again to continue their focus of providing support to area youth and civic campaigns. In 1959, the group became a local affiliate of the National and State Association of Colored Women’s Clubs. According to their bylaws, their “object will be the promotion of the spirit of cooperation and good will to the end that the club may raise the standard of civic life in this community.”
Over their first fifty years, some of the activities the group held were the annual Mother/Daughter Coffee, an annual fashion show, the Anne Russell Scholarship ($300 to a local high school senior attending higher education), and the Senior Ladies Luncheon.
“The members are involved in various community projects and give of their time and money to help the T.B. Association, Cancer Society, Family Health Center, Push for Learning and Sickle Cell. Whenever there is a call for help we try to respond”
–from Las Amigas Club scrapbook
In 1979, Las Amigas Club hosted the biennial convention of the Michigan State Association of Colored Women’s Clubs at the Kalamazoo Center. In 1984, the group celebrated their 25th anniversary. By the late 1990s, the organization had slowed down due to a lack of new members.
Written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, January 2024