Women's Social Clubs
Before the age of Facebook and Twitter, women relied on various clubs to meet their
social needs. The late 1800’s to mid-1980’s was a booming time for these local clubs. Designed to meet to address society needs or purely social fun, these clubs sprung up in towns and countryside. At one time, they were so prolific an entire page of our local newspaper was dedicated to the reports of clubs and their meetings!
At the Heartland Museum we have a treasure trove of memories of these clubs. Since it was not common for women to be in the work force, and as more “modern conveniences” came about, women had a bit more free time to devote to their causes. They used that time well! Records date back to October 2, 1897 for the SSC club. Members are referred to themselves as “the girls” and it seem merriment was the main attraction – including a picnic on the floor and another meeting with a pillow fight! The convention behind naming the club was not found in scanning over the minutes.
The Monday Club was established in January,1899 and met for over 75 years, finally disbanding in 1975. Originally called the Monday Tea Club, it was organized for social, cultural and educational time. Each member was to bring their own tea cup, plate, and spoon to the weekly meetings. Dues were one penny per meeting. Over the course of the years, as dues raised slightly the ladies worked in the community to raise funds for the town clock in the courthouse. Records show it was one of several clubs in the area that belonged to the Iowa Federation of Women’s Clubs.
1901 brought the Ceres Circle, (named for Ceres, the goddess of agriculture) with the object of meeting every other Thursday for social time. The first years were meeting with a “covered dish”, which by 1911 had turned to light refreshments and entertainment. Of note in 1911 was the decision to purchase pencils to use at the meetings! Also in the minutes is the decision to donate $5 per year to the Ladies Rest Room in town. 1917shows the ladies were very busy making things to donate to the Red Cross – socks, sweaters, pajamas, etc. It appears they folded in 2009.
In 1906 the Kensington Club started. They formed for the study of household economics and other subjects pertaining to housekeeping. The Woman’s Club dated back to 1908,and centered around history and education as programs included: the history of colonial America, and the women of China. The Social Hour Club met twice a month and was started in 1909, with a motto of “Efficiency”. Roll calls in the ‘20’s included “Canning Hints” and “Short cuts in Sewing”. A debate then ensued about homemade garments vs. purchased. By the ‘30’s roll call included “Threshing suggestions” and “A use I make of cheaper cuts of meat”. Programs included “What Women should know about their husband’s business” and “What our 4-H Club is doing”. Dues were twenty-five cents in the 1930’s, and expenses included the Clarion School Milk Fund, the library, and Red Cross. It appears the ladies also sold “Tasty Jell” to increase their funds.
In 1919, the Li-Wa-Da-Wo club formed as study/social club for ladies who lived in Lincoln, Wall Lake, Dayton, and Woolstock townships of Wright County. Records dating back to beginning, handwritten in elaborate cursive, indicate the club met from spring to fall, and had approximately 15 members to start. Handmade yearly schedules were made. Hostesses provided refreshments. No doubt some serious business was discussed, but one meeting in 1925 held a debate on whether hen hatched chickens were stronger than incubator hatched. The hens won this debate!
Other clubs named include the “Friendly Neighbors Club”, the “Country Cousins”, and the “Amiga Circle”. (Picture is of the Amiga Circle, 1902) The clubs changed with the times, meeting in afternoons and evenings, or even all day! Sometimes husbands were invited, especially if there was a planned Valentine Day or Christmas event. Music played a part in almost every club, as some clever woman would write the words for a club song, and set it to a known tune. Entertainment may have been a guest speaker, or poetry reading, or piano music, among other things. What is consistently evident from reading these excerpts of our early days, is the impact these women had on our culture and our towns. While meeting the need for social interaction, they also addressed specific women’s issues, provided a platform for educational topics, and were instrumental in changing our towns for the better. Plus – they certainly sound like a lot of fun!