From a “Baker’s Dozen” to
a Full-Fledged Branch
A history of the Boca Raton Branch

by Julie Malear

Television has its “spinoffs”—those series which come to life because of a successful prior series. Our Boca Raton Branch began in a similar way. Originally, all the charter members belonged to the Delray Beach Branch, NLAPW, a group created in the early ’70s by artist and Fort Lauderdale Pen Woman, Muriel De Young. One of these members, musician-writer Martha Schaaf, did not live in Delray Beach. She served her term as president, then spoke to National about forming another group in Boca Raton to best serve that fast-growing city. Carol Custer was president of the Delray Branch at that time.

History of Boca Raton Pen WomanMost of the artists stayed with Muriel De Young in Delray. The writers, and members who lived south of Delray, formed a new branch in 1975 called The Boca Raton Branch. Author Katherine Cleven (now Sisson), who lived in Deerfield Beach then, solicited the help of longtime Fort Lauderdale Pen Woman musician Clarissa Nichols to write up the proper by-laws for the infant branch. Artist Bea Erwe assisted Katherine with the formation of the branch, and was unanimously elected its first president.

It took a dozen members to form a branch. We had a “baker’s dozen” that first year. These 1975 pioneers included: artist Naomi Shurtz, writer Katherine Cleven, artist Gay Faurot (now Diss), artist/writer Julie Malear, writer Carol Custer, poet Clover Boldt Baird, artist Bea Erwe, writer/lecturer Marian McLeod, artist Isabel Knox, writer/lecturer Madge Lane, poet Emma Crobaugh, writer/musician Martha Schaaf, writer/lecturer Lucile Steinmetz, and soon to join author/lecturer Mildred I. Reid.

The group flourished, meeting at first in homes. As it progressed, membership grew, as did publicity. Famous Catherine Marshall was a dues-paying member (although she was unable to make the meetings.)

In 1982, Martha Schaaf started a new group called the Boca Raton Professional Arts Branch, later shortened to Pro-Arts because of the name confusion. Eventually, the Pro-Arts members rejoined the Boca Raton Branch. For a short time in the early ‘80s under Line Bloom Draper (now Draper-Rubba), it was called the 1st Boca Branch, also for clarity reasons. At one point a Gold Coast Branch was formed, but most of these women returned to the Boca Raton Branch during Joyce Stedelbauer’s wonderfully cohesive reign.

Our branch continued to grow and flourish with the presidents who followed. Jean Holmes, capable, talented and ambitious, carried the Boca Branch to new heights as she made exciting innovations, which in turn attracted new members. As a two-term leader, Jean rearranged the writing workshop format to include speakers and new concepts. Not only did she unite artists and writers into mutual workshops, she also held summer workshops that attracted residents from the community. Glorious fundraisers were held. She began outreach programs and went on to become involved with the state and national associations.

When Phoebe Marner became president, she continued the policies that Jean had started. A gracious leader who encouraged her people to new height, she brought more acclaim to the branch by taking on the difficult role of FSA Conference Chair. The State Conference hadn’t been held in South Florida in 21 years. The conference was a great success and put Boca Raton on the map.

Then came another gracious person, our immediate past president, Patricia Wilson, whom we elected for two terms. Our branch thrived under her gentle ways and strong abilities. She encouraged us to accomplish much and involve many, especially with the Outreach Program at the detention center for young girls. Now she is our treasurer, still helping us in other important ways.

Founding/Charter Members

Clover Boldt Baird *
Katherine Cleven (Sisson)
Carol Custer
Emma Crobaugh *
Beatrice Erwe
Martha Schaaf
Lucile Steinmetz *
Isabel Knox *
Madge Lane *
Julie Malear
Marion McLeod
Gay Faurot
Naomi Shurtz *