The coolest club you’ve never heard of will hold their annual convention here in Richmond.
There’s a club that spans 21 states and Canada with a collection of chapters comprised entirely of female members with one common trait: they’re each named Lois.1
“It started about 35 years ago in Minneapolis,” said Lois Cantarella, a Chicago resident and member of the Lois Club.
It was in 1979 that Lois Weston and Lois Millner sat down to a business lunch. Tickled by sharing one another’s name, the two decided to bring together the other Loises they knew.
The first meeting of what became the Lois Club took place over lunch on May 1, 1979 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Six women were present: Lois Weston, Lois Millner, Lois Tate, Lois Arnsdorff, Lois Lofton, and Lois London.
Those Loises reached out to other Loises. After a St. Paul newspaper article, Loises across Minnesota’s capital heard about the group. Before long there were regular meetings on the fifth Tuesday of every month,2 which typically happens only four or five times each year.
Loises beyond Minnesota also got on board.
“I know it went to Wisconsin, then some people from Chicago heard about it, and they were driving up to the Wisconsin meetings,” Cantarella said. “We started our own club here in Chicago in 1994.” She said there were 400 Lois members in Chicago alone at one point. “It was almost too much.”3
Cantarella said the regular meetings in Chicago are “strictly for fun,” with only a “little bit of money” collected to publish the regular newsletters. That’s what many other chapters are like, such as those found in Connecticut, Florida, and others. There is no known Virginia-based chapter. But all it takes to create one is an enthusiastic Lois and a $10 chapter starter kit.
In 1995, Lois Club members across the country united in Las Vegas for the first-ever Lois Club convention. This year, Loises are coming to Richmond to hold their convention at the Embassy Suites Hotel.
Amie Cantarella, the daughter of Lois Cantarella, is the convention organizer.
“Some Loises are coming in a day early, [but] everybody will reunite on Thursday,” Amie said. Because they share a name, each member feels a special kinship with one another. “Everybody is so nice and so into how each other is doing,” she said.
The Loises are also fond of not taking their group too seriously. For starters, the Lois Club has christened Superman its patron saint in honor of his main squeeze, Lois Lane. There are also Lois Club songs. Not just a song, but several songs. “They sing them at a drop of the hat,” Amie said. “They’re a hoot. They’re very entertaining.”
Here’s a rendition of the Lois Club Fight Song:
The roughly 65 participants at this year’s convention–which includes spouses, friends, and family4–will arrive from all over the country, as well as from places like Nova Scotia and Ottawa.
After convening and catching up with fellow members on Thursday, the Loises will pile into buses5 to tour Richmond. On the itinerary is a reenactment at St. John’s Church and afternoon tea at The Jefferson Hotel, among others. The Loises will also trek to Charlottesville, as well as spend time in Williamsburg during their stay through April 7th.
Despite countless Lois Club members in the US and Canada, Amie said the pool of potential new members is dwindling. “Most of the Loises are older. It’s kind of one of those names that’s old-fashioned,” Amie said.
But while most Lois Club members are older, Amie said that Richmond Loises of all ages are welcome at this year’s convention. “We would love for her to come. We would love to meet her,” said Amie about any local Lois out there.
“I never met a Lois I didn’t like.”
photo from the 2011 Lois Club convention courtesy of Lois Club
- The name is Greek and means “Battle Maiden.” ↩
- Meeting once monthly proved too difficult. ↩
- Cantarella said that was one reason there are now three Chicago chapters: North, South, and Central. ↩
- “We call them Lois wannabes,” Amie said. “By the time they leave the convention, that’s what they want to be.” ↩
- Amie said that drivers in the past have had fun with the group, with drivers saying, “Hi, Lois!” and the women replying, “Hi!” in unison. ↩