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, solicited the help of longtime Fort Lauderdale Pen Woman musician Clarissa Nichols to write the 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, 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 members’ homes. As it progressed, membership grew, as did publicity. Famous Catherine Marshall was a dues-paying member (although she was unable to attend 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. 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 in mutual workshops, she also held summer workshops that attracted residents from the community. Glorious fundraisers were held. She started  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. She was a gracious leader who motivated her members. 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.

Following Phoebe Marner’s term, Patricia Wilson was elected president for two terms. Our Branch thrived under her gentle ways and strong abilities. She encouraged us to accomplish much and involved many, especially with the Outreach Program at the detention center for young girls. Patricia later was elected treasurer of the Boca Raton Branch.

Many other members served as president and as other officers on the executive board. The branch continues to grow in membership, attracting talented women in the arts to an exceptional community that provides creative opportunities.

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 *