Bergen County Women's Republican Club



1923 ~ 2023

On January 22, 1923, a group of Bergen County women met in the Hackensack home of Edna
B. Conklin (1924 Alternate Delegate to the Republican National Convention; Convention
Delegate in 1928, 1936, 1940, 1944, 1948; Bergen County Republican State Committeewoman
from 1928-1950; New Jersey Republican National Committeewoman from New Jersey 1932-
1940) to launch an undertaking whose eventual impact could not then be calculated. This initial
meeting was the genesis of the Bergen County Women's Republican Club (BCWRC), a group of
less than a dozen civic-minded women who recognized the gravity of the new responsibilities
and opportunities presented by the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States

The Club's first president was Ridgewood resident Pamela Francisco, who served for only one
year. Pamela also served as a New Jersey Assemblywoman for a year in 1927. In 1924, Edna
Conklin took over the reins of the Club and would serve as President until her death in January
1951. Her career of service to the Republican Party permanently etched Edna's name into the
history of Bergen County and the cause of women in politics. Edna firmly established the
tradition of equality in political and governmental service for women.

The continuation of this tradition has only been possible because of the high quality of
leadership that has always been the hallmark of the BCWRC. Lillian Mathis, Edna Conklin's
immediate successor, was an Assemblywoman from 1942 to 1947. Eleanor Robertson of
Englewood, also State Committeewoman, wrote her chapter on the Club's history during her six
years as President. Similar accolades are deserved by the following two women who succeeded
to that office, Louise Necker of Norwood (1958-1961) and Eleanore S. Nissley of Ridgewood
(1962-1968). In 1963, under Eleanore's leadership, the Club conducted a membership drive that
proved so successful it won national recognition. Eleanore served as State Committeewoman and
on the Board of Governors of the New Jersey Federation of Republican Women (NJFRW). She
also had the distinction of serving as Vice Chair of the New Jersey Republican State Committee.
Following Eleanore Nissley in 1968 was Eleanor Dendy of Tenafly, who kept members
informed on political and governmental happenings in the county, state, and nation. Eleanor Daly
of Leonia took on the presidency in 1970, and those years became known as 'the years of the
three Eleanors' who led Republican women in Bergen County. Eleanor Daly ensured that
information from the municipal level was channeled to party leaders and officials at high

In 1974, Maywood native and Hackensack resident Anna Toriello stepped up as President for
the next six years. Anna was Commissioner of the Bergen County Board of Elections for over a
decade and also served as the Board’s Chairwoman. She was a great influence on Club members
by encouraging them to run for office. Always known to speak her mind, Anna presented to the
County Chairman the Club's wishes to see more women as delegates to the Republican National
Convention. Mary Courtney of Edgewater was President for the following six years and
continued to make the Club a vital link in the chain of unified Republican organizations. During
her tenure, Mary was appointed Superintendent of Elections for Bergen County. Under Mary's
leadership, the Club supported all Republican candidates through monetary contributions, made
possible by the fundraising efforts of members who participated in the three significant events of
the year.


In 1986, Lillian Lagos of Glen Rock was installed as the Club's next President. She would
serve four years until 1990. During her term, the Club prospered and became a vital link for all
Republican women of Bergen County to be acknowledged as leaders in the county, state and
nation. The reins were passed to Adrienne Kent of Mahwah, who served from 1990 through
1991. Like many of her predecessors, Adrienne moved up through the ranks of the Executive
Board and continued the primary objectives of promoting women in politics.

First Vice President Lynn Schwab of Rochelle Park ascended to the presidency after
Adrienne's untimely death. Elected in 1992, Lynn continued in the footsteps of all past
Presidents by expanding efforts to involve more women in all phases of government. She took
the Club to new heights by getting more members to participate in fundraising events and
bringing the annual fashion show to new dimensions. Our 14th President, Beatrice Peek of
Ridgefield, continued the involvement of women in the political process. During her tenure, the
meetings were changed to the evening, which proved very successful and increased membership
among professional women. The bylaws were revised during Bea’s term.

Paramus'; Elaine Kosco, the Club's 15th president from 1996 to 1998, began the tradition of
giving monetary contributions to women running for municipal office at the Candidates
Showcase event. Until then, only women running for county, state or federal office received
donations from the Club. Elaine was instrumental in the 75th anniversary celebration of the Club
in 1998. She was also influential in bringing Trenton to Bergen County by having Governor
Christie Todd Whitman speak at Club's 1997 annual luncheon. The Club's bylaws were again
revised in 1996, and in 1997, Club members logged more than 10,000 volunteer hours on various

Dot Romaine's years of presidency (1998 and 1999) saw her secure Julie Nixon Eisenhower
to speak at the 2000 annual luncheon, where over 300 attended. Dot, who hailed from Emerson,
worked vigorously to make connections around the state on behalf of the Club. These
connections benefited the Club in many ways, from meeting programs to luncheon speakers, for
many years, including the 2011 and 2012 luncheons where New Jersey Network Senior Political
Reporter Michael Aron was the speaker, and in 2013 when New Jersey political pundit Nicholas
Accocella was the keynote speaker.

During Oakland native Betty Gallinghouse's tenure as President (2000 and 2001), members
attended the NJFRW's annual legislative day in Trenton and met with State Senate President
Donald DiFrancesco. Long-time Bergen County Freeholder Barbara H. Chadwick was honored
for her service on the Freeholder Board, and past President Dot Romaine of Emerson was
honored as the NJFRW's Woman of the Year. Former Bergen County Superior Court Judge
Andrew Napolitano spoke at the annual luncheon.

Eighteenth Club President Lucy Gorant of Norwood (2002 and 2003), who served as a
councilwoman in Norwood, legislative aide, freeholder aide, and Vice Chairwoman of the
Bergen County Republican Party, started a still-standing BCWRC tradition known as the
Outstanding Woman of the Year Award. The award's purpose was to annually recognize a
Republican woman in Bergen County for her service to the party. In 2002, the award's first
recipients were Mary Larkin and Margaret Frontera. After Lucy's death, the award was renamed
The Lucy Gorant Outstanding Republican Woman of the Year Award in her honor.
Margaret Frontera of New Milford, the Club's 19th president (2004 and 2005), instituted
purchasing strategically placed billboard locations for the county candidates in both years’
general election cycles. National women's issues Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway was the
2005 annual luncheon keynote speaker. At the annual holiday party, 15 cases of items were

donated by members to send to our deployed armed services members serving in Iraq and
Afghanistan. The Club partnered with The Salvation Army for shipment. During her term,
Margaret served two years on the Board of Governors of the New Jersey Federation of
Republican Women, and she is currently Commissioner of the Bergen County Board of Elections
and Vice Chair of the Bergen County Republican Organization.

Elise Wrede of Little Ferry, the Club's 20th President (2006 and 2007), continued purchasing
the billboards for the candidates in 2006. Program presenters at meetings included the CNN and
FOX News legal commentator Paul Callan of Ridgewood. The annual luncheon speaker was
State Senator Jennifer Beck of Monmouth County.

President Joan Kuusela of Teaneck (2008 and 2009) revamped and revitalized the Club's
newsletter. Meeting programs were ramped up to appeal to the member base and interested
prospective members. Eve Hershkowitz of Upper Saddle River was the 2009 Lucy Gorant
Outstanding Republican Woman of the Year Award recipient at the annual luncheon, and future
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spoke at that luncheon held at The Fiesta.

Geri Mola of Elmwood Park, the Club's 22 nd President (2010 and 2011), primarily focused on
building membership and meeting attendance by hosting exciting programs on timely topics,
inviting many new members to serve as committee and event chairs, and endeavoring to fulfill
the roles of municipal vice-chairs so each town would have a Club member for targeted outreach.
Under Geri’s leadership, the Club entered the digital age when its first web site was launched.
The guest speaker at the Candidates Showcase was Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, an attorney and
amateur stand-up comedian. The Club's first comedy night was at the Royal Manor in Garfield.
As a result of fundraising efforts, Republican candidates received healthy campaign
contributions during Geri's term.

Angela Hendricks’ of Hackensack term (2012-2013) brought new bylaws, a very successful
first Night at the Races at the Meadowlands Racetrack, and the 90 th anniversary celebration
chaired by Jamie Sheehan-Willis and Margaret Frontera. Former Governor Christie Whitman
was the keynote speaker. Club members worked very hard in 2013 to re-elect Governor Chris
Christie and elect Republican majorities at all levels of government. During Angela’s term,
Republican State Committeewoman and past BCWRC President Eleanore S. Nissley passed
away. A special convention to fill the vacancy was held early in 2013, and Darlene Shotmeyer of
Franklin Lakes was chosen. In addition to winning succeeding full terms as Republican State
Committeewoman, Darlene currently serves as the Vice Chair of the Republican State

President Rosina Romano (former Mayor of South Hackensack) presided over very successful
fundraisers, such as the Shopping Wine & Cheese and the annual Night at the Races (featuring a
barbecue and pig roast), this time at the new Meadowlands Racetrack. Profits were donated to
local campaigns through the county, supporting female candidates, in addition to our county,
state and congressional candidates. The topics of two of the outstanding programs were the
newly-enacted “Affordable Care Act” and “Common Core.”

During the term of 25 th President Betty Krystyniak, $8,250 was donated to female candidates,
as well as candidates at the county and legislative levels. This amount was made possible
through a very generous $5,000 donation to the Club by then-Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi.
In addition to various holiday gatherings throughout the year, Betty presided over a wine tasting
event, a very successful fashion show at The Stony Hill Inn, and was fortunate to secure
Commissioner Steven L. Rogers to speak on behalf of Presidential candidate Donald Trump at

the annual meeting and luncheon. Additionally, during Betty’s term, the Club voted to withdraw
from the New Jersey Federation of Republican Women due to it being too costly.

After holding several positions on the BCWRC Executive Board, Joan Winant served as the
26 th President during 2018-2020. Joan strived to provide entertaining and informational programs
on such topics as marijuana legalization, the opioid crisis and coping with addiction in the
family. Joan’s term saw the first live-streamed program on Facebook, resulting in statewide
exposure. The guest speaker at the 2018 annual meeting and luncheon was television and radio
personality, Debbie DuHaime, a resident of Passaic County, whose father is a former Passaic
County Freeholder and her mother the first female Mayor of Bloomingdale. In recognition of the
100 th anniversary of women’s suffrage, a program was held on the history of the topic.
Membership in the NJFRW was reinstated, and Joan was elected to that organization’s Board of
Governors as Bergen County Chair, and subsequently served as Executive Board Recording

Despite an almost two-year shut-down of in-person activities due to the global COVID-19
virus pandemic, 27th President Dierdre G. Paul of Englewood lobbied the membership for and
successfully ended an affiliation with the NJFRW due to “being taxed without commensurate
representation at a rate that would have bankrupted the BCWRC if the affiliation had been
maintained.” Club membership was doubled, despite the COVID lockdowns. The campaign
donation process was streamlined and implemented. Due to necessity during the COVID-19
lockdown, new technologies were implemented that permitted the Club to function despite
concern about in-person meetings. Through the use of digital technologies, the Club was able to
offer innovative meetings and forums, and increased meeting participation by using social media
and video conferencing tools. For the first time in its history, interested parties were able to
remotely access Club meetings via Facebook on topics such as the state’s Unemployment
Insurance Crisis and Life Management Tips for Women Small Business Owners During the
Covid Lockdowns. Some of the best attended panel discussions and meetings (including the
inaugural BCRO-BCWRC Education Summit for prospective board of education candidates)
were planned and successfully executed.

Current President and former Bogota Councilwoman Anne Marie Mitchell presides over the
Club as the country emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Membership is on the
rise, in-person fundraisers, meetings and programs are once again the norm. The 99 th annual
meeting and installation luncheon at The Graycliff in Moonachie saw The Lucy Gorant
Outstanding Republican Woman of the Year awards conferred upon Emerson Mayor Danielle
DiPaola and Bogota Councilwoman Daniele Fede. One of the very successful program topics
was Human Trafficking, which brought the topic to the forefront due to a most engaging
presenter. New bylaws were drafted and approved. Along with programs, events and
fundraisers, 2023 brought the Club to its centennial year, which was kicked-off with the 100 th
annual meeting and luncheon, again at The Graycliff. The Lucy Gorant Outstanding Republican
Woman of the Year award was presented to District 40 and Wyckoff Municipal Chair Drita
McNamara, Past President Betty Krystyniak and Paramus Councilwoman Jeanne Weber. The
centennial signature event brought a great attendance with music and comeraderie for all.

This Club is particularly proud of its many members who have risen from its ranks to fill high
governmental and party offices. Pamela Francisco, our first president, was elected as the first
woman to represent Bergen County in the New Jersey legislature. Other Republican women who
followed her into the legislature include Emma Peters, Mary P. Shelton, Mary Mac G. Smith,

Lillian Mathis, Wilma Margraaf, Clara K. Bivona, Marion West Higgins (who was also the first
woman Acting Governor and first woman Speaker of the Assembly), Joan M. Wright, Elizabeth
E. Randall, Kathleen A. Donovan, Charlotte Vandervalk, Rose Marie Heck, Holly Schepisi and
DeAnne DeFuccio.

After a splendid career in Trenton, Oradell’s Wilma Margraaf enjoyed the added distinction
of being elected the first woman Freeholder in Bergen County. She was then chosen by her peers
as the first female Director of a Freeholder Board in New Jersey. U.S. Army Nurse Lieutenant
Colonel Bernice "Bunny" Alexander was a former president of the Women's National
Republican Club in New York City and a Bergen County Freeholder. Freeholders June Clark,
Joan Steinacker (former Superintendent of Elections), Charlotte Vandervalk, Barbara Chadwick
(the first woman Mayor of Rutherford) and Maura DeNicola (former Franklin Lakes Mayor) also
served with distinction.

In 1980, Marge Roukema of Ridgewood became the first woman elected to the House of
Representatives from the Fifth Congressional District. Marge proudly served in Washington,
D.C., for over two decades, retiring in 2002.

In 1988, former Assemblywoman Kathleen A. Donovan was elected Bergen County Clerk. In
2010, Bergen County and this Club were honored to see another glass ceiling broken with
Kathe’s election as the first woman County Executive both in Bergen County and the first in all
of New Jersey.

All of these women have brought honor to the Club, as well as to Bergen County. They are
shining examples of effective and influential woman whose avid interest in government, and
their communities at large, found expression through membership in the Bergen County
Women's Republican Club. These are but some of the women who have left their marks on the
past, or who continue to build for the Club's sustainable future. This page is dedicated to them
and to the unnamed hundreds of women without whom this service record could not have been