Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Federation of Women's Clubs


This organization represents 850,000 members. No other organization of women in the world represents such a powerful and active militant movement for social betterment. The Sorosis of New York and the Woman's Club of Boston have long been rivals in their claim of being the oldest organization in the United States. Each was founded in 1868, but it has been decided that the Ladies' Library Society, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, deserves this honor. It was founded in 1852, and the Minerva Club, of New Harmony, Indiana, was organized in 1859. The Sorosis, however, was the leader of the federation movement and is responsible for broadening the scope of women's club work. The first biennial convention of the General Federation of Women's Clubs was held in Philadelphia, in 1894. Every state in the Union has its state federation, and there are today organizations in the Canal Zone and our insular possessions. Almost every one of the five thousand clubs has taken up some measure of active interest. The subject of home economics has been one of the principal issues for club work throughout the United States. Perhaps no other organization in the country represents a greater force for good than the General Federation of Women's Clubs.

Women's Clubs in Cincinnati

After the Centennial in Philadelphia, in 1876, a few Cincinnati women, enthused by that exhibition of artistic beauty,' created a sentiment which resulted in the foundation of the Art Museum Association of Cincinnati, whose object was to bring together collections of art and to form classes in art and handicraft. Ten years later the Art Museum arose in Eden Park, the fruition of continuous and enthusiastic endeavor of a few women who were capable of being inspired, and who possessed the ability and devotion necessary to inspire others.

After the World's Fair in Chicago, Cincinnati women who took an active part in furnishing and the administration of the Woman's Building, came home and were influential in the organization, almost simultaneously, of the Cincinnati Women's Club and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestral Association. To-day, the club with several hundred members, is the proud possessor of the first Women's Club House in Ohio, whose every line of architecture and decoration expresses the refined taste and broad culture of its members. The Symphony Orchestra is the pride of Ohio as well as Cincinnati

Arts and Crafts

About 1893, Mr. Ralph Radcliffe-Whitehead, a wealthy Englishman, who had been a friend of Ruskin, and intimately associated with English arts and crafts leaders, conceived the idea of founding in America an arts and crafts village, in hope of doing something toward making American life less restless, less self-conscious, and less ugly. With this end in view, he bought about 1,200 acres of land on the southern slope of the Catskills, in the town of Woodstock, New York, and christened this tract "Byrdcliffe,'' and invited all those who desired to carry on artistic pursuits, and at the same time live simply, to come and live in the simple houses which he had built on this tract. Here was established a library, an assembly, a metal shop, and nearly a score of other buildings to be used as studios, shops, boarding houses, and residences. "Byrdcliffe" has produced a distinct type of hand-made decorative furniture. They have done some good metal work and rug weaving. This colony was repeated in the one established in July, 1901, called the Rose Valley Association, chartered as a stock company, with a capital of $25,000, for the purpose of encouraging the manufacture of such articles involving artistic handicraft, as are used in the finishing, decorating, and furnishing of houses. A property was purchased called Rose Valley, located along Ridley Creek, near the city of Moylan, about a dozen miles southwest of Philadelphia, consisting of about eighty acres, which when purchased, was occupied by ruined stone mills and quaint, deserted houses.

The mill was transformed into a shop for the making of furniture, and this shop was opened in the spring of 1902. The Rose Valley Association does not manufacture, but extends an invitation and offers an opportunity to accredited craftsmen to work in its shops, under the patronage of its emblem, the emblem to be systematically stamped upon its products, and would be the association's guarantee that the workman has conformed in every item to competent, mechanical, and artistic standards. The Rose Valley furniture is always honest, and often beautiful. Carving is freely indulged in. The aim of this association is to prove that useful things need not be clumsy, and that beautiful things need not be fragile. Hand-weaving, metal-working, book-binding and pottery-making have been practiced at Rose Valley.

At old Marblehead, Massachusetts, there is another community established by Dr. Herbert J. Hall, a nerve specialist of this old New England town, who holds the theory that the surest remedy for nerves and invalidism is the practice of a manual occupation which is both useful and aesthetic. These convictions led him to the equipping along the water front of a group of handicraft buildings in which his patients may work. Here artists in clay and ceramics come and some excellent work in silver, precious, and semi-precious stones and enamel has also been done. Artists in oil have gathered about here. Other associations of a similar character have been established in East Ravenswood, Illinois; Syracuse, New York, and East Aurora, New York, and the number of arts and crafts summer schools is rapidly becoming legion. Among the women who have taken an active part in this work may be mentioned, Mrs. Albee, of Pequaket, New Hampshire, and Crawfordville, Indiana; Mr. and Mrs. Douglass Volk, at Center Lovell, Maine; Susan Chester Lyman, at the log cabin settlement, near Asheville, North Carolina; Mrs. Van Briggle, Miss Laughlin (the two latter being porcelain workers), and Ellen Gates Starr, the noted bookbinder.

The Home Culture Clubs

Fifteen years ago the university extension movement aroused institutions everywhere to send their teachers out among the people to direct their reading and help them in every way toward mental advancement. Three years before the university extension movement, there was organized in Philadelphia an experiment which had its beginning in western Massachusetts. This is what is known as The Home Culture Club, Northampton offered an unusual setting for this enterprise, being a long established New England town, dignified, and always ready for anything in the line of education. Its location especially offered this, being within a radius of a few miles of the best educational institutions of the country, Smith College, said to be the largest woman's college in the world; Mount Holyoke with a long and honorable history; Amherst, one of the best of the smaller colleges; Williston Seminary; the Byrnham School; the Clark Institute for Deaf Mutes, and the New Agricultural College of Northampton. Here Mr. George W. Cable found a most favorable environment when he came from the South to make his home in the North in 1885. With his well-known reputation in literature and intense interest in social and industrial problems, he began to look about for what was most needed in his new neighbor-hood. He concluded that what had been most detrimental to the rapid progress of democracy was class distinction. In any private effort to elevate the masses of this country, at least, class treatment is out of the question. In breaking down these class distinctions, Mr. Cable proposed to call the home into immediate requisition, and he repeatedly said, "The private home is the public hope,'' and it was his idea to make the home the beginning and the end of his philosophy of popular education.

In the autumn of 1887 he brought a few of his friends together and submitted for discussion a scheme for the organization of a Home Culture Club in every home that would consent, the club to consist of the members of the family and of such neighbors as would come to a weekly meeting in one home or another to read and talk together. From discussion, he went to action, and during the first year there were twenty of these clubs in successful operation in Northampton. A public reading room was opened at a central point to give men and boys habitually on the street a glimpse, at least, of a rudimentary home. Casual reading began to turn into serious study, and classes were formed under direction of the Smith College students, who have always been Mr. Cable's constant helpers. These clubs multiplied throughout the state, and in 1898 they numbered throughout the land ninety-one, and the membership was six hundred and fifty, with a total attendance of nearly fifteen thousand. Since then they have been rapidly increased. Some of them are self-supporting, and some have been the recipients of generous donations from philanthropic people.

Both in the business and educational conduct of the Northampton clubs, Mr. Cable has had almost from the first the valuable help of Mrs. Adelaide Moffatt, the general secretary. At least once a year she visits all the club members in their homes, takes a personal interest in their attendance and keeping up their interest in the work. She has been assisted by a great number of women from Smith College and a council of one hundred and twenty-five women residents of Northampton. Mr. Carnegie generously donated fifty thousand dollars toward the erection of the club house for this work. But while these substantial gifts have come from men, the actual carrying on of this splendid work has been entirely done by women, largely college women, throughout the country, and is only another of the many different avenues of work along educational lines being conducted in this country by our women.

The Washington Travel Club

The Washington Travel Club was organized in the Strathmore Arms, the home of Mary S. Lockwood, in January, 1880. Judge Lysander Hill, Frank Eastman, Mrs. Sara Dean, Miss Emily Brigham and Mary S. Lockwood, arranged for the first meeting. The officers were to be a "guide," to preside at the meetings; a "courier," whose duty it was to secure speakers and readers; a "journalist," to keep a record of their travels, and an "executive committee" to form the itinerary and choose the subjects for papers, and a music committee. One notable feature of the club in its organization was the determination to have no exercises of a miscellaneous character, no recitations, reading, declarations, or literary fireworks of any kind.

Every Monday night during the winter months, for sixteen years, this club was sustained with unflagging interest Different countries were selected from year to year, papers read and the addresses given upon all subjects connected with the chosen country.

The home of this club was historic inasmuch as it had been the home of many distinguished people: General and Mrs. John A. Logan, Senator Edmunds, Judge Harlan, Senator Ingalls, Senator Farwell, Governor Boutwell, Thomas B. Reed, Governor Carpenter, of Iowa, Judge Ezra B. Taylor, Senator Fry, of Maine, and hosts of others, including members and senators.

Among the noted people who entertained the club with instructive papers through these years were: General Logan, George Kennan, Olive Logan, Senor Romero, Dr. Chickering, Hon. A. R. Spofford, Hon. and Mrs. John W. Foster, Mrs. J. C. Burrows, Dr. Charles Knight, Dr. Gregory, Dr. Presbery, Judge Hayden, Professor Burgess, Mr. Fox, Minister to Russia and scores of the literary lights belonging to the club and Washington.

The club's first journeys were through Egypt, where they traveled from near and from far without carriage or car. They went up the Nile, through the plains of Palestine, over the hills of Judea, among the Pyramids of Egypt and into the buried cites of Persia. They were given a fair understanding of the geography, biography, government, military, art, religion, literature, ornamental and practical art, common people and history of the country through which they traveled.

One of the first papers presented while the club was in Egypt was by the late General John A. Logan, upon military art in that country. It was wonderful in research, beautiful in expression and abounded in interesting data. When asked where he got all his information he replied. "I have had no book in my hand but the Bible."

Such experiences only whetted the appetites of the travelers, and the executive committee, guide, and courier then planned the trip for "around the world," which was carried out.

The Woman's National Press Association

The Woman's National Press Association is the oldest organization of its kind in the world and one of the earliest of women's clubs. The Association is national having members in nearly every state in the Union; also in England and the Philippine Islands.

The first president was Mrs. Emily Briggs, "Olivia." At the close of her term Mrs. M. D. Lincoln was made president, followed by Mary S. Lockwood, Mrs. Hannah B. Sperry, Mrs. E. S. Cromwell, Mrs. Belva A. Lockwood and Mrs. Peeler. The club has a membership of over one hundred. It has had such names among its members as Mrs. Lippincott, "Grace Greenwood"; Miss Mary F. Foster; Mrs. E. M. S. Marble; Mrs. Clara B. Colby; Mrs. E. D. N. Southworth; Mrs. Olive Logan; Miss Clara Barton.

Prominent speakers have addressed the association including such names as Hon. Theodore Roosevelt; Dr. William T. Powell, Geologist; Charles M. Pepper; Dr. Sheldon Jackson; C. K. Berryman, Cartoonist; Lillian Whiting; the late Professor Wm. Harkness; Professor Robert T. Hill; Dr. B. L. Whitman; Hon. Frank Mondell; Frank G. Carpenter; Ainsworth R. Spofford; Mrs. May Wright Sewall; Mrs. Ellen M. Henrotin; members of the United States Congress and many prominent journalists. In December, 1894, the Woman's National Press Association issued the call for the formation of a federated organization of Women's Clubs in the District of Columbia.

The Woman's National Rivers and Harbors Congress

By Mary M. North

The Woman's National Rivers and Harbors Congress is as truly a patriotic organization as any that exists, for it is built upon the never-dying principle of love of country. The organization came into existence through the efforts of a few women in Shreveport, Louisiana, June 29, 1908. Three women of that city were made officers, Mrs. Hoyle Tomkies, president; Mrs. Frances Shuttleworth, recording secretary, and Mrs. A. B. Avery, corresponding secretary. The object of the organization, which works hand in hand with that of The National Rivers and Harbors Congress, fostered by the leading men of the nation, is to secure for our posterity the conservation of all our natural resources, and in particular to preserve and develop two of the greatest, waterways and forests, for it has been said by an eminent scientist, "no forests, no rivers."

The number of members at the time of organization was seven, and in about a year there was enrolled through individual and club membership, more than twenty-two thousand, and this because the object of the association is so vital. At the first convention held in Washington, D. C, which had a fine representation. The National Rivers and Harbors Congress' Bill was endorsed, which called for an annual appropriation from Congress of fifty million dollars for ten years for waterway improvement, instead of a wasteful policy of appropriating small sums biennially for this purpose. The Woman's National Rivers and Harbors Congress is having conservation taught in the public schools.

At the meeting held last December, in Washington, D. C, the following officers were elected to serve two years: President, Mrs. A. Barton Miller, Charleston, S. C.; First Vice-President, Mrs. Herbert Knox Smith, Washington, D. C.; Second Vice-President, Mrs. F. H. Newell, Washington, D. C.; Corresponding Secretary, Mrs. Elmer G. Laurence, Cincinnati, Ohio; Recording Secretary, Mrs. Mary M. North, Snow Hill, Maryland; Treasurer, Mrs. William Brison, Muscogee, Oklahoma; Auditor, Mrs. H. R. Whiteside, Louisville, Kentucky; Vice-Presidents-at-large, Mrs. Hoyle Tomkies, Shreveport, Louisiana; Mrs. E. A. Housman, Brookfield Center, Connecticut; Mrs. de B. Randolph Keim, Reading, Pennsylvania.

Alabama: Mrs. J. W. Hunter, 619 Lauderdale St, Selma,
Arkansas: Mrs. Marshall H. Patterson, Augusta,
California: Mrs. Lowell White, 2245 Sacramento St, San Francisco.
Colorado: Mrs. D. W. Collins, Pueblo.
Delaware: Mrs. Geo. W. Marshall, Milford.
Hawaii: Mrs. B. J. Dillingham, Honolulu.
Idaho: Mrs. E. C. Atwood, Hailey.
Illinois: Mrs. Fred Bowes 1542 Adams St., West Chicago.
Indiana: Mrs. Virginia Sharpe-Patterson, 505 E. Mulberry St, Kokomo.
Kentucky: Miss Mary Lafon, 1337 Fourth St, Louisville.
Maine: Mrs. Joseph M. Strout, 83 Pleasant Ave., Portland.
Maryland: Mrs. Emma D. Crockett, Pocomoke City.
Massachusetts: Mrs. Theodore C. Bates, 29 Harvard, Worcester.
Missouri: Mrs. John H. Curran, 816 Wright Building, St Louis.
New Jersey: Mrs. J. E. Sudderley, 11 Columbia Ave., Arlington.
New Hampshire: Mrs. J. H. Dearborn, Suncock.
New York: Mrs. William Cumming Story, 119 E. 19th St, New York City.
North Dakota: Mrs. J. J. Robson, Langdon.
North Carolina: Mrs. R J. Hale, Fayetteville.
Oklahoma: Mrs. Lilah D. Lindsay, Tulsa.
Oregon: Mrs. Robert Lutke, 301 N. 24th St., Portland.
Ohio: Mrs. J. F. Ellison, 2327 Ashland Ave. Cincinnati.
Pennsylvania: Mrs. Thomas M. Rees, 225 Negley Ave. Pittsburgh
Rhode Island: Mrs. Richard Jackson Barker, The Outlook, Tiverton
South Carolina: Mrs. Reid Whitford, 164 Rutledge St., Charleston
South Dakota: Miss Marjorie M. Breeden, 910 Euclid St., Pierre
Tennessee: Mrs. Eugene Crutcher, 817 Lischey Ave., Nashville
Texas: Mrs. J. W. Dosemus, Bryan
Virginia: Miss Katharine Stuart, 719 King St., Alexandria
Washington: Mrs. Charles B. Dunning, 1238 South Wall Street, Spokane
West Virginia: Mrs. Guy R. C. Allen Wheeling

"The organization has for its object the development of the meritorious waterways and harbors, the preservation of the forests, and the conservation of all the natural resources of the nation. It stands for the establishment by the Federal Government of a definite waterway policy for the improvement of all approved rivers and harbors of the entire country, also for the adoption of such a policy as will secure not only forest reserves, but general forest development."

The slogan is "Together for Permanent National Welfare."

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


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