Celebrating 75 Years!

As a continuation on the AWC publications, this month I would like to write about the Living in Basel books.


Living in Basel was first published in 1979 after 4 1/2 years of hard work by numerous women dedicated to making it easier for English-speaking people to settle in the Basel area. It was first mentioned in the March 1975 newsletter that Darlene Grieder took on the project of preparing a welcoming booklet for newcomers to Basel, an aid to coping in the first few difficult months. Further newsletter articles referred to this as the “Book of Basle”.  The project was finally realized in November 1979, when a 62-page book called Living in Basle was published.  It sold for 10 Fr. and was first available for sale at the AWC Bazaar in Nov. 1979 where it sold 120 books!  The initial printing of 3080 copies was sold out in 5 years and raised over 25,000 CHF. Ruth Ciucci and Sonja Weber and were responsible for the sales and inventory.


Former President Phyllis Serianni who loved to write poems, wrote this about the Living in Basle. (An excerpt from a longer poem about the AWC Christmas Bazaar Nov 1979)


The Book of Basle – though set apart

Was off to a really wonderful start.

The Wednesday before there was a showing.

All Basle VIP’s were going

To Regula’s house to have a lookie

While sipping wine and eating cookie.

minu came and was so impressed

He went right home and wrote his best.

A very fine piece in the Basler Zeitung

He gave real praise to every item.


To read the Basler Zeitung article in German, click here.  To read the English translation made at the time, click here.


In September 1985, the second edition which was revised by Margaret Robertson and Chris Croisier was published. The printing of the second edition of 4000 copies was financed by Ciba-Geigy. Sylvia Waldmeier was responsible for sales until 1988 when Miguelda Gewelbe took over the job and held that position for over 10 years!


As the information in the book was changing constantly, there was subsequently a 3rd edition printed in 1991, courtesy of Hoffmann-La Roche and a 4th edition in 1996.  These editions kept the same format and the same covers. By then, the book sold for 20 Fr.


In 2002, the fifth and last edition of LIB was printed, with more than double the pages (129) and an updated cover. A committee of members and non-members, headed by Wendy Olum Roth was given the task to revamp this club best seller. The printing was sponsored by KPMG and Minerva and the book sold for 35 CHF.


With the introduction of the internet, it no longer made sense to try and keep the information in the book updated.  So in 2012, with sales declining it was decided to shelve Living in Basel for good. 


Although there are a lot of gaps in the financial summary for Living in Basel, it can be safely assumed that this publication raised about 200,000 CHF for the AWC charities in its 30 years of sales.


Did you know that the American Women’s Club has had several publications?

This month I would like to focus on the various cookbooks that the American Women’s Club of Basel have published.


The first cookbook was published in 1971, with Christie Ray as the Editor.  This book offered American recipes in German and Swiss recipes in English.  The recipes were submitted by the members.  It was sold through the club and the price was 10 Sfr. They initially printed 600 copies, which sold out within a year, and made of profit of 800 Sfr in the first 4 weeks! 


In 1981, it was decided to make a new cookbook. Joan Etlinger took on the herculean effort of putting together the next cookbook.  Her committee did everything from gathering recipes, testing each recipe, and of course translating and converting each recipe.  This book offered both Swiss and American recipes in both languages. The Basler Zeitung wrote a lovely article about the second cookbook on July 21, 1983. Click here if you want to read the article in German.


In September 1999, the club wanted to produce a new Cookbook for the New Millennium.  The club wanted to give its cookbook a makeover, taking into account the changes in food habits, tastes and cooking styles. The third cookbook also took on a more international flair to mirror the make up of our membership. The new Cookbook was finally published in Sept. 2002 with Sarah Nevill as the editor.   This cookbook was available in local bookstores. In 2007, we sold our remaining inventory to Bider and Tanner.


All the cookbooks offered translations of the foods and conversion tables. All profits from the cookbooks went towards our various charities and throughout the decades, we were able to raise a handsome sum.





As May is the month to renew your membership for the new membership year, we thought we would give a bit of history on our membership numbers and dues.


In 1947, when the club was first founded, there were 10 charter members and membership grew to 21 members by the end of the year.  The membership dues were 10 SFr.   membership numbers and dues grew steadily through the years.  In the 1980’s and 90’s, the club’s membership was well over 200 members, reaching as high as 281 in 1995.  At the turn of the millennium, the membership numbers were in the low 200’s.  The trend has been going downward the past 20 years, dipping to below 100 in 2016.


We have worked hard at keeping our membership fee as low as possible. It started at 10 SFr. in 1947 and was raised to 20 Fr. 1959. In 1968, it was raised to 25 Fr then to 30 in 1974 and just 2 years later, in 1976 it was raised to 35 Fr with much opposition.  It was steadily raised over next 20 years and as our membership peaked in 1995 so did the membership fee, when it was raised to 80 SFr. from 65 SFr. But it has remained the same ever since. Our membership fee has now stayed constant for 27 years!


This month we will be honoring long standing members at the annual Old Timer’s Tea.  The Old Timer’s Tea is held every year in the spring for members who have been in the club for more than 20 years. Currently we have 41 members who fit into this category. In light of this, I would like to highlight some of these long-standing members.


The oldest member we have at the moment is Jo Seifert (93).  Jo was very active in the 80’s.  A talented artist, she lent her talents to the AWC with illustrations for the second cookbook, notecards which were sold to help FAWCO charities and many other projects.


The longest standing member is June Nussbaumer, who joined in 1963. She acted as historian for many years and a lot of the fun facts that I have been sharing with you would not have been possible without her archive.


We currently have 6 members who have been in our club for more than 50 years!! The other five are Dittmer Ingeborg (joined 1965), Joyce Häfelfinger Borda (1967), Shirley Kearney (1970), Maria Grazia Borla (1971) and Verena-Kate Gasser (1971).  And this year we are inaugurating Kate Edson and Debbie Lindenmeyer as Old Timers. We would like to thank these members for their continued support and interest in the AWC.


This month, the AWC Basel will be holding our annual Tax & Retirement Planning presentation.  The proceeds from this, and all the Club’s fundraising events, will go towards a designated charity. Donating to a charity is an integral part of our club. It is, in fact, included in our Bylaws: “2. The purpose of the Club shall be: c) to contribute financial aid to primarily Swiss philanthropic organizations when funds are available”.


So, I delved into the history of the Club with regards to its charitable donations. Although I could not find the details of every year, it is safe to say that in its 75-year history, the AWC has donated more than CHF 365,000 to various charities, not including donations to FAWCO and the Library.

Different activities were used to raise money for our charities over the years:  bridge tournaments, silent auctions, concerts, tax talks, AWC publications, raffles, galas, costume ball, fashion shows, bazaars, bake sales, scarf sales, charity tennis, breakfast with Santa and an art show.  However, two Galas stood out as having raised the most money. In 1995 the Club was able to donate CHF 25,000 to Jugend in Basel 2000 and in 1996 the Gala raised CHF 43,672 for TixiTaxi.  These are remarkable achievements, and we would like to again applaud all the people involved with these events.


The philanthropic aspect of the club continues to be a cornerstone of our Club. We hope to continue our contributions to our community and other worthy causes for at least another 75 years.


February is the month when Americans celebrate President’s Day.  So, in honor of President’s Day, we would like to recognize some of AWC’s past presidents.


The first President of AWC was Grace Hausman.  Since then, there have been 39 different presidents.  The person who served longest as President is Darlene Grieder – she served a two year term in 1987-1988 and then a four year term in 1997-2000.  Only two other people have served four-year terms to date – Carol von Wattenwyl and Janet Galli.  There are currently eight ex-Presidents still living the Basel area.


Some of AWC’s past presidents have been instrumental in our club’s past achievements and accomplishments, but this month we would like to highlight two presidents whose legacy has reached beyond normal club activities.


Janet Galli founded the International School of Basel in 1979 as a response to a perceived need among expatriates for an English-speaking school. The school began with 15 students and currently has an enrollment of over 1300 pupils from over 50 countries.


Shirley Kearney established the Shirley Kearney AWC Basel Award for University Degree Study through the FAWCO Foundation.  Originally for AWC Members only, women from all over the world have now benefited from this scholarship.


There are several interesting stories that are circulating about the founding of the American Women’s Club of Basel:


During WW2, a large number of American pilots ended up in Switzerland, either parachuting from disabled planes or helped across the border by Americans living in Switzerland. American women living in Basel were mobilized to give assistance to them and other Americans assigned to the American Consulate in Basel.


Between 1946 and 1947, after WW2, the American army organized R&R trips for their soldiers to Basel.  A group of American women rallied together to help take care and entertain these soldiers. 


In 1947, the American Women’s Club of Basel was founded by 3 women – Helen Forrer, Elizabeth Preiswerk and Susan Meyer. 


If you have something to share about the AWC or its history, please send it to Nanci at