In fall of 2015, Merrie Lee Soules gathered six other people who were interested in “re-forming” the Dona Ana County Federation of Democratic Women. Those seven people met, worked hard, and created an initial Mission Statement and set of bylaws. A meeting of interested women (and men) was conducted in December, 2015 with a number of potential members. A proposed slate of five officers was created and monthly meetings began in January of 2016, meeting the first Monday of every month, except when that first Monday fell on a holiday or at an inopportune time.
There had been previous similar organizations before the present one, created and supported by a number of local, well-known, and hard-working Democratic women. Archives include a directory of the “Las Cruces Area Democratic Women’s Club” dated 1971-1972. Since each of these groups had ultimately dissolved, the seven persons mentioned above worked to create the current organization.
Since that first formal meeting in January of 2016, when the final slate of officers was voted upon, our organization has grown rapidly. We have participated in walks, campaigns, canvassing, meet and greets, and meetings of the Dona Ana County Democratic Party Executive Committee, which our President sits on as our organization’s representative. We have revised and updated our bylaws as needed and, at the invitation of the New Mexico Federation of Democratic Women, became members of the state organization, resulting in a name change. We hosted the New Mexico Federation’s Fall State Meeting at Hotel Encanto in Las Cruces in October of 2016. It was considered a resounding success and we were told it set an example for how to run a productive state meeting. A number of members have been able to attend other state meetings as well as the Blue Legislative Field trip to Santa Fe.
We are de facto members of the National Federation of Democratic Women by our membership in the New Mexico Federation. The National Federation was organized October 6, 1971 by 27 women in Washington, D. C. as a means of supporting women’s voices within the Democratic Party. Their first meeting was in Nashville in May of 1972. There are currently 37 chapters, of which New Mexico is one, and four regions with representation in all 50 states, D. C., Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and Guam.
The National Federation is a recognized constituent group of the Democratic National Committee, has three seats on the DNC, and the President of NFDW is on the executive committee of the DNC. The New Mexico Federation of Democratic Women was formed in 1977 and, as of December, 2017, has nine organized counties and over 500 members in good standing.
One of the activities initiated by the newly formed Doña Ana County organization is the highly successful Conversations with Democrats chaired by Merrie Lee Soules and her hard-working committee. Conversations continues, meeting on the fourth Saturday of every month with a variety of fascinating and timely topics and has been copied by other FDW Chapters in the state.
Most recently we conducted a well attended and very successful Strategic Planning Retreat in downtown Las Cruces. Led by member Jane Asche, task forces formed to implement the strategic plan have been meeting frequently to carry out our strategic actions. A new Mission Statement was approved and further changes to the bylaws may be made as specific actions of the Strategic Plan are implemented. We now have permanent name tags for those who want them and have created a Member Packet to help new members integrate into our group.
Our intent is to assist Democratic candidates who promote women’s issues. This goal has become more critical with time and will continue. It is apparent from recent elections that we have worked well as a group to endorse and support good local Democratic candidates, especially women, and to help them get elected to public office.