Founder Judy Rhodes envisioned introducing women to the wonders of the great outdoors, recognizing their significant role in this realm. Driven by this passion, she embarked on a mission to create an organization that would break the glass ceiling for women in outdoor pursuits. In May of 1996, Judy gathered 16 like-minded outdoorswomen from her hunting and shooting community, including members of Dallas Safari Club, WSSF (Women Shooting Sports Foundation), a women's organization within the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Safari Club International and Dallas Gun Club. Together, they discussed the formation of an all-women outdoor organization with the aim of empowering women to become leaders in the outdoors.
During a social dinner attended by 43 enthusiastic women, Judy introduced her groundbreaking idea of forming a women-only organization. As she observed the attendees' wide smiles and great enthusiasm, she realized that these women were indeed DIVAs. It was at this moment that Judy coined the term, and the attendees enthusiastically embraced it, chanting "DIVA-DIVA-DIVA!" The name "DIVA" was chosen not as an acronym but as a representation of the fearless and adventurous spirit of outdoorswomen. With roots in Texas, they agreed on the name "DIVA...Texas Women Shooting Sports."
Immediately after the formation of this pioneering all-women outdoor organization, Judy crossed paths with Cheryl Waldrum Long. Cheryl, a newly certified pistol instructor and former rock-n-roll singer, was a newcomer to the outdoor world. Judy, who had primarily considered teaching women shotgun skills due to her love for wing shooting, was initially hesitant. However, Cheryl immediately embraced the idea, and the two began a close collaboration that continues to this day. Cheryl introduced the concept of using the internet as a means of communication, leveraging the emerging worldwide web to connect with members and industry stakeholders. Judy fondly refers to herself as the "bricks" and Cheryl as the "mortar" of their partnership.
The organization's early days also saw the addition of Anginette Cells Jorrey, who played a crucial role in planning activities. Throughout its history, DIVA has hosted numerous epic socials and parties, catering to both shooters and non-shooters who believe in the mission of Introducing Women to the Outdoors.
Cheryl Long, Ellyn Lofland, Kitty Bushman, Kelli Dietel Armstrong, and Mari Juarez traveled extensively to promote DIVA...Texas Women's Shooting Sports at NRA shoots, sponsored events, and hunts, consistently making an impression and gaining new members. Their camaraderie and fun-loving approach attracted female participants at every event.
Membership rapidly expanded throughout Texas and neighboring states, thanks to the dedication of Anginette Cells Jorrey and Mardi Campbell, spreading world about a unique outdoor sisterhood nationwide through their moves to Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and various Texas cites.
In 2000, Nancy Galletta suggested we needed Life Memberships and became our 1st Life Member. Epic idea: Mari Juarez and Suzi Brewster became our second and third lifers with Louise Crespi Benners committed as annually members dedicating themselves to make a difference in our organization. Joining our ranks as Lifers, Pearl Silvey, CPA and Diane Heudier became instrumental promoting and developing our organization and financial foundation status.
Despite initial questions and uncertainties, Sam Rhodes, Judy's husband, provided funding support with one clear stipulation – membership should be exclusively for women. Judy and Sam's sons, Marcus and Harrison, also contributed in various ways, assisting their mother in fulfilling her dream.
We honor our husbands, boyfriends, lovers, brothers, fathers, sons and male friendships…supporting our organization with time, talent, products and/or outdoor skills by referring to "DIVA Dudes". Ken Sedlucky, became our First DIVA Dude, through his tireless support, furnishing Smith & Wesson loaner handguns, targets, and teaching skills leading our organization into teaching women and youth. Ken was instrumental in introducing our organization to industry. Will Harris, Steve Milam, Larry Tate, John Cooper, Harrison Rhodes, Ray Grimes, Dave Biggers, Doug Hale and Chuck Hastedt have been honored as outstanding DIVA Dudes.
As word of DIVA's mission and impact spread, donations began to pour in, solidifying Judy's vision of women becoming leaders in the outdoors as a global movement. In 2008, members suggested a name change to reflect the organization's global reach, resulting in the adoption of "DIVA-Women Outdoors Worldwide”…DIVA WOW.