December 4, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Betty Winther was named for her grandmother. Betty Chin got her name because it was easy for her Chinese immigrant father to pronounce.

No matter—both are in the club.

The Betty Club, that is.

For more than a decade, Bettys from across metropolitan Omaha have been gathering on the third Friday of each month, eating lunch, shooting the breeze and keeping things lively, just because they’re all…Bettys.

“It’s just been so much fun,” Winther says. “Some of us are middle class, some are upper class, but it makes no difference.”

Everyone’s a Betty.

The group formed in 2001, Winther says, by a few Bettys who had been attending a Betty Club in Fremont. The Omaha chapter has grown slowly but steadily since, now numbering about 15 members.

Dues are $12 a year—mostly to cover postcard mailings reminding the Bettys where the next lunch is. If funds are available at the end of the year the Bettys will buy cookies and take them to veterans around Christmas. And once a year they join other Betty Clubs for a state convention. About 100
Bettys often attend.

“They’re talking about maybe having one in western Nebraska,” Winther says. “We thought we’d get a bus from here out to there.” At their monthly luncheons, held at various restaurants, they mostly use last names to refer to each other. There are games and plenty of chatter.

“We share about our lives and what’s going on,” Winther says. “We talk about all kinds of things, from current events to things that happened years ago. We never are at a loss of what to talk about.”

Some Bettys discover the club by word of mouth. “We keep our ears open,” says Winther, who got a Betty to join after meeting her at a jewelry sale. Betty Chin joined in 2008 at the suggestion of the owner of her spa (not a Betty herself).

“I’m the youngest one,” Chin says, without divulging her age. “They like to see me because I’m the young one. I bring energy.”

Winther, 83, says they’d love to get some young blood.

“We’d be very happy to find a 20-year-old to join us,” Winther says with a laugh. “It’s so neat to get somebody new and to hear about them and talk with them.

“We have to have somebody new all the time to keep going.”

There aren’t too many 20-year-old Bettys around, though.

Winther was born in 1931—one of 300,335 Bettys named such that decade, according to a count by the Social Security Administration. That made it the second most popular name in that 10-year stretch. But by the 1970s, Betty wasn’t among the 200 most popular names and hasn’t been on the list since.

But the Bettys are hopeful.

“We keep saying it’s going to come back some time,” Winther says.

Mary is the gold standard for names with a whopping 3.6 million of them in the last 100 years. But despite the dearth of Bettys in the past two generations, Betty is 14th most popular with a count of nearly one million.

That’s a lot of Bettys.

The group will consider Elizabeths as members if they go by Betty. Maybe even a Betsy, Winther says.

In general, though, “We kind of want to keep things Betty,” says Chin.

That’s what Bettys do.

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