Sunday, August 9, 2009

Women's Clubs on the Prairie!

Saturday, I received an email from Nancy, a reader in MN, alerting me to an interesting article in the New Yorker magazine about Rose Wilder. Rose was the only child of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband Almanzo. The reason Nancy brought it to my attention, is that Laura founded a Justamere club in Mansfield, Missouri! It was described as a 'study club'. (The article also mentioned that Laura enjoyed her embroidery circle!)

Nancy wondered if there was an affiliation of Justamere clubs in different locations. The article really piqued my curiosity! I read the article and searched for more information.

When I visited my Dear Aunt earlier this year, I asked her about clubs that she had belonged to. She told me that she belonged to several different 'federated clubs' over the years, but I didn't really understand what that meant.

In my web search today, I found an article from 1912 that helped answer the question. The article indicated that 10,000 women belonged to The Kansas Federation of Women's Clubs that year. The purpose of the clubs was to "raise the standard of women's education and attainments, enlarge her opportunities and promote the intellectual growth of the members". The group began in 1883 as The Social Science Club of Kansas and Western Missouri, but in 1895, the states separated and The Kansas Social Science Federation was established. I think that Mansfield is more South Central Missouri (although many in Missouri consider everything West of St. Louis to be Western Missouri...)

I found some other interesting reading about Federated Women's clubs that were represented at the Chicago World's fair, and about their various philanthropic efforts.

Many libraries were founded and supported by the women's clubs in Kansas. The first club to do so, was in Kansas City, Kansas. The ladies of the club convinced the city to turn over the revenue from the dog taxes and the fees collected by the pound for stray animals, and they started a library fund. Many other clubs followed their example. The Federation also started the traveling library. (bookmobile)

I have always been proud of my Kansas heritage and the emphasis placed on education, there - especially in contrast to some neighboring states and the state I now reside in. What I read today, makes me proud of the many women who lived so long ago, whose efforts helped create the library system that I have enjoyed my whole life!

Another fun fact - Almanzo Wilder was from Malone, NY.

The Mister was born in Malone!


Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Wow! I loved this post! Amazing...women united! C

Tish said...

That is just pretty cool! What an odd coincidence that your husband was born in that town!

Anonymous said...

It never occurred to me that Just-a-mere was anything more than a clever name for a socializing Grandma Kruse's "Kroweldeen" club (Needlework spelled backwards!)It does seem more like Momma to want to use spare time for something more worthwhile than just visiting. Seems that I remember they had a "program" at each meeting. Don't remember much about what those were. Love, WS

Allie said...

What an interesting post. I've never delved into history like that, but you've piqued my curiousity now! That's too neat that the mister was born in the same town.

Lynne said...

How interesting! I always assumed your Mother' club "Just-a-Mere" was meant to mean that although their club name in French was "Just a Mother" they were so much more than that. And they were!

Iron Needles said...

The ex's mother was part of the Federated club system in Colorado, too. I think she told me they had softball teams...