The Girls’ Friendly Society, founded in England in 1875, today supports “girls and young women through the difficult transition from childhood and adolescence to young adulthood by providing opportunities for enjoyment and developing confidence, self-esteem, emotional wellbeing and resilience to enable them to fulfil their potential and live as independent women.”
In 2017, the GFS is active in Australia, Cameroon, Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Liberia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, the Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Uganda, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Zambia.
From The Living Church, October 31, 1936, p. 487
The Living Church sends greetings to the national council of the Girls’ Friendly Society, now in session at St. Louis. May the business meetings, the leadership conferences, the discussion groups, and the social features of the program all be highly successful, and may they mark the beginning of a triennium in which the GFS will reach new heights of achievement and add to its splendid record of three-score years.
The Girls’ Friendly Society is one of the most active and vigorous organizations of the Church. Founded 60 years ago by Miss E. M. Edson, it now has a membership of 29,000 with branches in the United States, the Philippine Islands, Puerto Rico, Panama, Japan, and China. Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt is the honorary president, and Miss Helen C.C. Brent of William Smith College, the president. The society provides a varied and balanced program of worship, study, recreation, social service, and service to the Church for girls and young women. The subject of the sessions being held this week, Facing Our World and Our Task, is an apt description of the work of the GFS. The two-fold task of the society as we understand it is the development of character and friendship in loyalty to the Church and the arousing of an intelligent interest in and understanding of the issues of the world today.
In the carrying out of this task the GFS is offering a series of programs on the subject of Christian Citizenship. Under this general theme, study is given to such vital problems as world peace, interracial understanding, social service, the movies, the radio, personality, and religion. Serious study is an essential element in the work of the GFS, but it is not the whole thing. Local groups also include in their programs dramatics, handcraft, hobbies, parties, and nature study, as well as the annual mission study which this year is devoted to the work of the Church among Negroes.
The principal medium for linking together the interests and activities of the many branches of the GFS is the monthly magazine of the society, the Record. This is an ably edited, well illustrated, and typographically attractive publication—indeed, if we were awarding a prize for the most attractive and most interesting publication of the Church the Record would certainly be one of the likeliest candidates.
The November number of the Record is unique in that it is devoted almost entirely to the subject of the radio. Opening with the question, “Endure the worst or applaud the best?” the issue is devoted to consideration of what sort of programs are offered by the radio, how it can be used as an instrument for promoting peace, how to judge and evaluate a radio program, what methods of control are applied to radio in various countries, how to broadcast, what to demand in children’s programs, how to give a radio program, and so on. The issue thus becomes a constructive handbook on the radio as seen from the viewpoint of the public-spirited listener, and as such it should be of wide value far beyond the limits of the Girls’ Friendly Society.
The climax of the GFS national council sessions will be the closing service, a great corporate Communion on Sunday morning, All Saints’ Day, when branches all over the world will unite with members in St. Louis in “one fellowship of prayer.” At this time, in accordance with an annual custom, a gift will be presented in memory of those in each branch who have died during the year. The names of persons in whose memory these gifts are made are entered in the beautiful Book of Remembrance kept at the national office of the GFS in New York.
The membership of a GFS branch may be from one or more of these three groups—candidates, girls from 5 to 12 years of age; younger members, girls from 13 to 18 years of age; and older members, girls and young women over 18. No parish or mission is too small to contain girls that could be organized into one or more of these three groups under the direction of an older woman able to give intelligent progressive leadership to these young people. Most parishes could have an active branch made up of all three of these groups. It would be a splendid thing for the Church if the 900 branches of the Girls’ Friendly Society could be increased to 8,000—one in every parish and mission of the Church at home and abroad.
Richard Mammana is archivist of the Living Church Foundation, clerk of the vestry at Trinity Church on the Green in New Haven, Connecticut, and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences.