The Women’s Board enjoys a long and interesting history, with consistent threads running through over 70 years. From its inception, visionary women from the Greater Washington region have been instrumental in the organization’s growth and continued vitality. In 1948, Jocelyn Moran, a board member of the American Heart Association, asked Nancy Clagett to help her with a luncheon to benefit the AHA. This first luncheon was held in the Blue Room at the Shoreham Hotel. Margaret Wimsatt attended the luncheon as Nancy’s guest. The next year, Margaret was asked to help with the luncheon, and the three women formed the Women’s Board of the American Heart Association.
The founders asked many of their friends to join in their efforts. Mrs. Magruder MacDonald (Helen) was chosen to be the first president of the Women’s Board. In 1950, Mrs. Bernard Walsh (Agnes), whose husband was a prominent cardiologist, became chairman of the Board. Agnes brought many of her friends to the Women’s Board, among them Lyn Carroll, Lou Fraser, Dorothy McFarlane, Hope Riding Miller, Ruby Conger, and Mae Earnest (then Whitley). Margaret Wimsatt became chairman the following year and added her friends to the roster. Mrs. Charles A. Camalier (Anne) and Mrs. J. Willard Marriott (Donna) served as chairmen in the last quarter of the century and continue to be key members of the Board today.
The purpose of the Women’s Board has remained the same through the years:
- To provide service as needed and requested by the American Heart Association
- To sponsor suitable benefits for and approved by the American Heart Association
Each year, funds raised at An Affair of the Heart Luncheon & Fashion Show are granted to area researchers through the Jocelyn Moran Memorial Fellowship, the Mamie Dowd Eisenhower Memorial Award, and the Donna Garff Marriott Award, among other research grants. In 2016, the Women’s Board received the prestigious Award of Meritorious Achievement from the American Heart Association for its important service in advancing scientific knowledge through heart and stroke-related research grants.
As evidenced by the Mamie Dowd Eisenhower Memorial Award, the history of the Women’s Board is intertwined with many of the nation’s First Ladies. When Mrs. Eisenhower was active on the Board, she invited members to hold a meeting at the Eisenhower farm in Gettysburg, PA. She also included in the White House Cookbook a recipe for tomato pudding which she had eaten at the home of one of the Board members. During her years of active membership, Mrs. Eisenhower successfully chaired the committee for obtaining signatures for a special page in the program. When President Carter was in office, Mrs. Carter helped the members of the Women’s Board launch “Resuscianni”, a rubber doll that was blown up and made available to school children to teach them how to perform cardiac resuscitation. Almost all of the First Ladies since Bess Truman have, at some time during their husband’s presidency, honored the Women’s Board by attending the event and speaking to the guests.
A fashion show of designer clothes is presented each year at An Affair of the Heart Luncheon & Fashion Show by one of the prominent stores in Washington. One year early in Board’s history, members served as models for the event. For many years, when the luncheon was held at the Mayflower Hotel, Garfinckels furnished the clothes for the show. For the past several years, the Women’s Board has been grateful to partner with Bloomingdale’s Chevy Chase at a Washington, DC Marriott Hotel.
This highly anticipated luncheon is one of the oldest continuous fundraising events of any nationally recognized non-profit group. An Affair of the Heart Luncheon & Fashion Show raises over $400,000 each year, thanks to the generous support of corporate sponsors and the more than one thousand guests in attendance. The Women’s Board remains committed to increasing awareness of cardiovascular health issues and funding research in order to reduce disability and death from heart disease, the #1 killer of both men and women.