When Trish Strat set out to prove the historical significance of the Vale Schoolhouse, she accidentally proved the historical significance of the woman who kept the building open long after its days as a schoolhouse ended: Florence Jodzies.
After learning about Jodzies through the application for a highway marker for the schoolhouse, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources nudged her to also submit one in honor of Jodzies.
On Tuesday, Vale Club and Oakton Women's Club hosted a celebration of libraries, women's clubs and Jodzies at the Vale Schoolhouse as part of an unveiling ceremony for a historical marker in Jodzies' honor. The marker is located near the intersection of Fox Mill Road and Helmont Drive, near Jodzies' home at Harmony Farm.
Vale Schoolhouse, built around 1884, was an active school until 1931. In 1934, Oakton newcomer Florence Jodzies lobbied the county to reopen the building as the home base for the newly formed Vale Home Demonstration Club, which offered extension and home demonstration activities. Over time, the group evolved into what is now known as the Vale Club.
Jodzies remained active throughout her eight years in Oakton. She also served as secretary on the Board of Directors for the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, vice president of the Fairfax County Council of Home Demonstration Clubs, and the state library chairmano f the Virginia Federation of Home Demonstration Clubs.
During her time as the state library chairman, Jodzies created and implemented a statewide library program for the home demonstration community, which had 20,000 women members at the time.
"I think you're beginning to see that we are celebrating the achievements of one busy lady. She was involved in many more things than I can share with you today," said Strat, who heads the Vale Club History Committee.
Speakers at the celebration included Jean Ann Bolling, wife of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling; Sam Clay, director of Fairfax County Public Libraries; Carlene Garner, international president of the General Federation of Women's Clubs; U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly; and Kathleen S. Kilpatrick, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
The April 24 ceremony fell on the 122nd anniversary of the founding of the General Federation of Women's Clubs and during National School Library Month.
"Since its very first breath, as an international organization for volunteer women, GFWC has embraced the ideas of libraries, literacy, education for all," said Garner, who noted the American Library Association credits the GFWC of establishing 75 percent of public libraries in this country, including the Oakton Library. "Needless to say back in the '30s ... GFWC celebrated the commitment that Florence made to the rural families, to the rural children, to rural Virginia to see to it that there were libraries in many communities that without her efforts would not have been."
Clay noted the Oakton area's strong commitment to libraries did not end after Jodzies left. A small group of dedicated volunteers lobbied the county for a community library, forming the Friends of Oakton Library before the library even existed.
"I found that I was probably the only librarian in the state, in the world, in the universe that had Friends of Library groups before the library was built out in Oakton," Clay said. "... We count upon you for your ongoing support. We could not have the public libraries we do have without your support, and I deeply appreciate it."
Jeannemarie Davis, who read a letter from Gov. Bob McDonnell, also added her own anecdote about volunteers' dedication to getting Hunter Mill Road recognized as a historic byway a few years ago.
"All of you in the Hunter Mill Road and Oakton-Vienna area, have done such a remarkable job in historic preservation and reminding people of all the great things that have taken place here over the years."
The historical marker in honor of Jodzies reads:
Here in 1934, at her home Harmony Farm, Florence Jodzies founded the Vale Home Demonstration Club, affiliated with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service. An excellent speaker an writer, Jodzies campaigned for better living conditions in rural communities, including the need for improved roads, indoor plumbing, and access to recreational facilities. In 1936, as State Library Chairman of the Virginia Federation of Home Demonstration Clubs, she developed the Federation's library project to bring books, magazines, and literature to rural Virginians. Designed to "bring improvement of mind and refreshment of soul" to members and their communities, by 1938 the project was adopted by clubs throughout Virginia.