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Sarasota, Longboat women bond over shared name: Barbara

Barbaras from around Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch and the Keys meet up every month to network and help the community.

Barbara Thurston, Barbara Pressman and Barbara Stanton
Barbara Thurston, Barbara Pressman and Barbara Stanton
Photo by Petra Rivera
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"Hi, Barbie," has taken on a new meaning in the Sarasota area.

About 140 women from Sarasota, Siesta Key, Longboat Key and Lakewood Ranch come together each season to bond over their name and be a part of the one and only Barbara Club.

“The Barbara Club is a very simple and casual club,” said Longboat resident Barbara Pressman. “We are a bunch of women from all over the country who live in the area with the name Barbara. We are probably the only one in the country. We get together for a luncheon every month during the season.” 

The Barbara Club met for its monthly meeting at noon on March 6 at the CinéBistro in Siesta Key. Barbara Ruginski organized this luncheon, partnering with Estée Lauder and Macy’s. Employees from the brands, who were also named Barbara, gave a presentation for the Barbs during the lunch about fashion and makeup tips for the upcoming spring season. Each Barbara also received a free swag bag with products from Lancome. Macy’s also made personalized keychains for the Barbaras with a “B,” a Macy’s star and a chain that said “Own Your Own Style.”

Barbara Jean
Photo by Petra Rivera

There was a small Macy’s fashion show with models Barbara McNamara and Barbara Jean. McNamara and Jean aren’t a part of the Barbara Club but said they are thinking of joining after spending time with them.

The Barbara Club was started by Barbara “Barcy” Brauer. Pressman joined about 20 years ago when Brauer told her about a group of women who met for events. Pressman helped grow the club into its 140 women today. She said she mentioned it to every Barbara she met whether that was in her condominium or the Temple she attended or when she was out.

Pressman also invites Mike Doyle, senior vice president of strategic initiatives for the Boys and Girls Club, to join the monthly lunches to inform the Barbs about its mission. At the Barbara Club Christmas luncheon, each of the Barbaras will buy toys and donate money to the Boys and Girls Club. Some Barbaras also attend Boys and Girls Club fundraising events.

Pressman said they usually have their lunches at the Columbia Restaurant in St. Armands Circle. She has hosted different speakers for the meetings such as author and artist Barbara Mishkin and speakers from Temple Beth Israel.

“The best part about the Barbara group is the networking that goes on here,” said Mishkin. “They have truly been the best way to connect with like-minded women. Most of them will give me art opportunities or listen to me and share my book. I am extremely grateful to everybody here.”

When asked how long she has been a part of the Barbara Club, Barbara Stevenson said all her life. She shared that the Barbara Club is a wonderful opportunity to bond with other women in the area and give back to the community.

Barbara Stevenson, Barbara Campo and Barbara Douglas
Photo by Petra Rivera

“I don't hear the name Barbara too much these days,” said Barbara Salm. “But it was very popular in the '50s and the '40s. It is a classic name, especially when you think of the famous Barbaras you know. This club allows us to meet a lot of interesting Barbaras from all walks of life and we support good causes. We have fun but we do something meaningful while we do it.”

While some are named after relatives or a famous Barbara, most don’t know why they are named Barbara. They say that it was the popularity of the name, but they like that it has brought them together. 

Many of them stick to Barbara but depending on who they are talking to they go by Barb, Babs or Barbie. Barbara Stanton and Thurston said that they remember when the Barbie doll came out. 

“It was quite amazing to have the same name as the most famous doll in the world,” said Stanton. “Dolls before that were just baby dolls. But we are always laughing about any connections that we have to her like Barb (Thurston)’s whole wardrobe is pink and we also almost bought this camper that looks identical to the one that Barbie has. We haven’t watched the 'Barbie' movie but that is definitely something we should do together.”

Barbara Pressman
Photo by Petra Rivera

Pressman wouldn’t call herself the president, but the Barbs call her their leader. Most of them expressed how much she does for the club. Ruginski and Macy’s got her a specialized gift bag to show her their appreciation.

“The things that Barbara Pressman does for this club and for the community is absolutely amazing,” said Thurston. “She is so passionate about different missions like the Boys and Girls Club. She is such a sweet human being and is always iconic with her different hats.”



Petra Rivera

Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.

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