History has been made at the Miami Woman’s Club.PHOTO COURTESY OF METRIS BATTS-COLEY

Miami, Fla. – Metris Batts-Coley was installed as the first-ever Black woman president of the predominately white club on May 13 after an election in which members picked her to lead the 121-year-old organization.

The New Jersey native who’s been a club member since 2005 and was previously the first vice president, said she’s meticulously prepared for the occasion: Being president of a dominant white woman’s organization.

Batts-Coley, who attended Catholic school for 13 years in the Garden State, said her upbringing taught her about leadership in a white woman’s world.

"I was prepared to be president in a predominately white organization and move around like I belong," she said. "I have been around white women most of my life, especially growing up and for me, I’m comfortable with the environment."

Batts-Coley, a principal partner of Affiliates, a capacity-building consultant for nonprofit organizations and former Chief Operating Officer of the Dunns Josephine Hotel in the historic Overtown, said despite the milestone of being the first Black women president of the club, she knows the scrutiny she will endure because of her race.

But she said the critical observation will not affect her role as she out lined her plan for the organization during her two-year term as president.

Batts-Coley said her achievement coincided with the anniversary of her father’s death.

"I’m very happy that I was elected president on May 13 which is the anniversary of my father’s passing," she said. "But now the work begins. I know there’s a lot of pressure as president of a mostly white women’s club, but I will continue to reach more people and help more people."

Miami Woman’s Club joined the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1903. During their long history, the club has provided an unparalleled record of civic, cultural, and educational leadership, while playing a vital role in the development of Miami and aiding in the welfare of its citizens.

With a foundation stretching back to the birth of Miami, the members continue to further its legacy, renewing its mission to serve the ever-changing communities of today’s Miami. The Miami Woman’s Club is within District 11 of the Florida Federation of Woman’s Clubs with a 9,000-membership and 230 clubs.

Batts-Coley, who earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing and master’s in organizational leadership from Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, said the club will continue assisting non-profit organizations and outreach programs for domestic violence, children with special needs and raise awareness of human trafficking.

She said the club contributes about $100,000 a year to non-profits including Phoenix House which addresses human trafficking and Operation Smile, an organization that provides free surgeries for underprivilege children around the world to fix cleft lips.

Cleft lips can cause problems with speaking, breathing and eating.

Batts-Coley said for the past decade, the women’s club also assisted the No More Broken Heart program, which raises awareness for domestic violence.

The program is in conjunction with Miami-Dade School Board member Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, which hosts annual workshops in February for students and adults about the pattern of abusive behavior.

"A lot of times, women share their personal stories about domestic violence," Batts- Coley said. "I plan on using social media campaigns to increase awareness because women have suffered enough."

Batts-Coley’s election to the Miami Women’s Club presidency is a far cry from the time when Black women were not allowed to be members of the club even post segregation.

Back then, it was more of a private white social club and the women members were wives of doctors, lawyers and other professionals and turned away Black women who sought membership.

But Batts-Coley said that all changed in the 1960s when the club discovered the tax benefit of being a non-profit, 501c, but the club had to be open to the public regardless of race under federal law.

"They can’t discriminate when they go for the tax benefit," she said. "The club had to be open for all women. It was a business decision that allowed Black women to be members of the club."

Batts-Coley said she had no issues with other club members since she joined.

She said they treated her with respect and saw her leadership skills that thrusted her into other important roles. Before being elected the new president, Batts-Coley was also the first Black woman of the club to be the grants coordinator for the organization, the state’s representative for the GFWC International conference in 2020-2021.

"The transition to move into this space is because of my upbringing," she said. "I love those women and am happy to be in this position."