Eight garden clubs were invited by Mrs. Thomas S. Wheelwright, President of the James River Garden Club, to attend a conference in Richmond on May 13, 1920. Mrs. Wheelwright outlined the purpose of a federation as follows: “The main purpose of the federation is to gain through contact with the leaders of the various garden clubs knowledge of practical value about all plants, and all that pertains to their history, growth, and increase; and the various kinds of gardens, large landscape effects, city gardens and civic planting. This increased knowledge may be gained by visits to the various well-planned gardens of the different types, and through discussion and interchange of information.
“Then we would like to promote an interest in and co-operate with the organizations in .the state which have for their object the furtherance of this knowledge, and the beautifying of cities, towns, and highways, as well as the conservation in Virginia of the rich endowment of nature in forests, plants, and birds.”
Then followed a motion that there be a state federation of garden clubs, known as the Garden Clubs of Virginia, of which Mrs. Malvern C. Patterson was elected the first President. The founding eight clubs were the Warrenton Garden Club, the Albemarle Garden Club, the Garden Club of Norfolk, the James River Garden Club, Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club, the Garden Club of Danville, the Dolley Madison Garden Club and the Augusta Garden Club.
In December of that year Mrs. Patterson called in Richmond the first meeting of the Board of Governors. The minutes of that meeting reveal the broad vision and high aims of the Federation. Mrs. Thomas S. Wheelwright, of the James River club, advocated the creation of a sentiment for good roads, to speed their construction; Mrs. Joseph Walker, of the Dolley Madison club, urged warfare against plant pests, stressing the Japanese beetle; Mrs. Harry Marshall, of the Albemarle club, drew attention to the beauty of our native flowers, shrubs, trees, and evergreens, urging their use in the adornment of our grounds and the prevention of their destruction by vandals. Mrs. Patterson spoke on the billboard nuisance, the obnoxious signs so disfiguring to our landscapes.
Thus from its very inception the Federation has stood for good roads, conservation of native trees and flowers, intelligent warfare against plant pests, and the abolition of the disfiguring billboard. This body of intelligent women has been a potent influence in the life of the state for the conservation of native beauty and the preservation of its historic homes and gardens.