Local News

Women's Club Embroiled in Racial Controversy

Posted February 13, 2007 6:55 p.m. EST

— Several members have resigned from the Fayetteville Women's Club in protest and some donors have threatened to withhold their financial support after membership was denied to a black woman.

Some local women determined to protect Fayetteville's Market House formed the Women's Club a century ago, but the civic group still has no black members after recently rejecting the membership of Cassandra McMillion, a former history teacher.

"Let me say (that), in 2007, that's appalling. It's very disheartening," City Councilman Curtis Worthy said.

Mary Anne Peeples, the president of the Women's Club, said the decision had nothing to do with McMillion's skin color.

"I really think that some of the members were voting against the way she was brought into the club because of this power struggle," Peeples said.

The power struggle was fueled by the woman who sponsored McMillion, club officials said.

"She has caused a lot of strife within the club," said treasurer Bonnie Strickland, who voted against McMillion's membership.  "Hindsight is 20-20. If we had it all to do over again, it might have been handled a little differently. But we can't do that. All we can do is look forward."

Peeples said the Woman's Club does have minority members, including Hispanics and a woman from India. She and other officials said McMillion is welcome to join the club if she's still interested.

McMillion and her supporters declined to comment.

Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne has donated money to help the Women's Club preserve several buildings, but he said he would put his donations on hold. He said he accepts the club's position that the vote wasn't based on race, but he said the move sends a poor message.

"You have to consider all the implications of that and all the appearances of that," Chavonne said. "I would question whether people had done that in this case."