Show Your #PURSEnality at Evening Bag 2015


Above: This heart shoulder bag by Whiting & Davis is one of many red signature bags being auctioned off at the event.

This guest blog is submitted by Abby Olivier of the Clinton School Center on Community Philanthropy and Erin Riley of Peacework. Abby and Erin are volunteer co-chairs of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas Evening Bag fundraiser. For questions or interest in supporting the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas through Evening Bag 2015, feel free to email Abby at


Evening Bag co-chair Abby Olivier poses with ESSE Purse Museum & Store owner Anita Davis in front of one of the store’s best selling lines, Matt & Nat.

Clutch or crossbody? Pigtails or ponytails? Lipstick or lip gloss? We all have favorite styles that best suit our personalities. My friends know me as the gal who always rocks the side ponytail. I know that Erin’s bag of choice is usually a backpack—a very full one — as she travels for work and needs an office on-the-go. We love it when girls and women show their true colors and true personalities, whether it’s through style or activities and interests.

We invite you to join us and show your own unique #PURSEnality on Oct. 1, from 6 to 8 p.m., at Evening Bag 2015, a Women’s Foundation of Arkansas fundraiser held at the ESSE Purse Museum. This event is an opportunity for men and women to come together to pay tribute to women and girls, and raise funds for continued work in leveling the playing field in Arkansas.

Don your favorite outfit, and carry your favorite evening bag as you enjoy food and drinks, a photobooth, and a silent auction of one-of-a-kind bags designed specially for the event.

ESSE will honor two Arkansas Women of Note, former First Lady Ginger Beebe and actress Mary Steenburgen.

The Women’s Foundation of Arkansas engages people to promote women and girls in Arkansas, so they can realize and achieve their full potential. They serve as a grant-maker, a convener and resource on the status of women and girls in the state. Our favorite WFA initiative is the Girls of Promise® program; eighth grade girls from across the state spend a week in Little Rock being introduced to careers related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This exciting hands-on camp is free for participants and has had an impact on girls to further their studies of STEM fields through post-secondary education. How incredible is this initiative for girls in our state!

The ESSE Purse Museum & Store is the culmination of owner Anita Davis’s dream of sharing her love of purse, art and history, while honoring women and their struggles, accomplishments, hopes and dreams. As a women’s history museum, ESSE supports women’s causes, thus it is a natural partner of the Women’s Foundation. Erin and I have floated around the museum many times to view hundreds of unique purses stemming from the early 1900s. It’s a fascinating way learn about women’s history: through the lens of the purse. I remember taking my mom to the museum when she was visiting from Mississippi, and she loved it! It’s a true gem in Arkansas, and the venue could not be more fitting for a Women’s Foundation fundraiser.

The Evening Bag partnership is an exciting endeavor, in that it’s only in its second year. This year, for the first time, we recruited a planning committee. For Erin and I, the most powerful part of planning this event has been working with these women. They all work full-time, representing various sectors. And each has donated so much of her time and talent to raise funds to help girls and women in Arkansas reach their full potential. We cannot miss thanking the wonderful women on our committee who have done so much to help in this process: Christine Alongi; Jessica Boyd; Laura Collins; Ashley Haltom; Jogee Lenarduzzi; Sara Rozzell; Jeral Self; Angela Toomer; and Amy Westlake. Also we cannot forget to thank WFA director Lynnette Watts as well as the amazing ladies from ESSE, Anita Davis and Laura Cartwright Hardy, for their leadership and guidance.

Women and men of Central Arkansas, it would be an honor to have you join us to show your #PURSEnality at Evening Bag 2015, Oct. 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the ESSE Purse Museum in SOMA.

To make a reservation to attend or to make a gift in lieu of attending, log on to

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