The Woman's Suburban Democratic Club (WSDC) has played an important role in Montgomery County, Maryland, politics since its establishment in 1957. Thirty-five women from Bethesda and Chevy Chase, all of whom had served as volunteers on Adlai Stevenson's unsuccessful 1956 presidential campaign, founded the group as means of continuing their efforts on behalf of Democratic candidates. On January 4, 1957, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt helped the WSDC get off to an auspicious start when she addressed the group's inaugural luncheon.
In 1957 Katie Loucheim, then a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, neatly summarized the objectives of the Woman's Suburban Democratic Club when she exhorted the founding members to "Analyze! Organize! Publicize! Educate! Activate!" Those activities have remained an integral part of the WSDC's mission ever since. Through the years, the WSDC has organized fundraising events for Democratic campaigns and other initiatives; supported voter registration drives; and sponsored voter education programs. WSDC members have served as volunteers on countless local, state, and national Democratic campaigns.
The WSDC grew steadily throughout the 1960s, widening its voter registration activities and strengthening its support for Democratic Party candidates, especially during the 1964 presidential campaign. By 1965, the Woman's Suburban Democratic Club's 750 members made it the second largest organization of its kind in the United States. As steadily increasing numbers of women joined the work force during the 1970s, participation in the WSDC began to wane. The leadership redoubled its recruiting efforts in the face of declining membership, but its numbers have never again reached those of the 1960s. Members continued their fundraising and voter registration efforts, working particularly hard on Paul Sarbanes's 1976 campaign for the United States Senate. Appearances by presidential candidate Jimmy Carter in 1976 and later by his wife, Rosalyn, when she was First Lady, prove the WSDC's continued ability to attract nationally prominent speakers. A notably successful lobbying effort, undertaken during the late 1970s and early 1980s, resulted in the Montgomery County Council's 1985 legislation initiating recycling measures.
During the 1980s, the WSDC focused its energies on turning the tide of Reagan conservatism, hosting seminars and luncheons to assist Democrats in understanding the new political climate. In response to the Democratic National Committee's new emphasis on party organization, the Woman's Suburban Democratic Club sponsored numerous meetings aimed at strengthening the local party's position. In the 1990s, the Woman's Suburban Democratic Club continued to support the Democratic Party with its educational series, luncheons, and support for candidates in general elections. The 1990s saw more WSDC involvement in nonpartisan community issues as well. Early in the decade the group sponsored the production of an award-winning video, "Emergency Medical Services: Effective Use of Health Resources," in cooperation with Montgomery County health officials.
Social events have always been an important part of the Woman's Suburban Democratic Club's activities. These social activities raise funds for the WSDC's political activities and attract new members. In 1958, the WSDC held its first country fair and auction, an event that remained a long-standing tradition and successful fundraiser until the 1980s. During the 1960s, musical pageants and skits such as "Donkey Kicks of 1964" were a popular attraction. In the 1980s, the group began sponsoring the Montgomery County Democratic "Kiss and Make Up" party, to heal any rifts in party unity caused by primary campaigns and invigorate the party's nominees and volunteers for the general elections.
Beginning with Mrs. Roosevelt's appearance at the inaugural luncheon in 1957, speeches by Democratic candidates, noted journalists, and other leaders have been an integral part of the WSDC's voter education activities. Many county and state Democratic officials addressed gatherings of the Woman's Suburban Democratic Club over the years. Thanks in part to Montgomery County's proximity to Washington, D. C., the club has also hosted many nationally prominent Democratic candidates and leaders, including presidential candidates George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Al Gore; United States senators Joseph Biden (Delaware) and Edward Kennedy (Massachusetts); California governor Jerry Brown; First Lady Rosalyn Carter and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton; Joan Mondale (wife of then-presidential candidate Walter Mondale); Tipper Gore; and Maryland Governors William Donald Schaefer, Harry R. Hughes, Parris Glendening, and Martin O'Malley.
Throughout its history, the Woman's Suburban Democratic Club maintained a tradition of political leadership and commitment to social and civic activities. The organization celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2007.