At first glance, area women’s clubs may have seemed like dens for women to expend amounts of leisure time.
And, while they were gathering places for women of their time to explore gardening, dancing and foreign languages, they also were forces tackling issues like advancement, poverty and the establishment of libraries and early childhood education.
Throughout Delaware County, there were various women’s clubs in the 20th century and the Delaware County Historical Society has many items from these organizations such as an original charter, hand-held embosser, candlesticks, ledges with voluminous minutes and even a 7.5-inch thick scrapbook.
The clubs in the historical society’s collection include Women’s Club of Springfield, the Women’s Club of Bywood, the Women’s Republican Club of Delaware County, the League of Women Voters, the Women’s Club of Media, the Greater Federation of Women’s Club, Newtown Square, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Delaware County and the Women’s Club of Drexel Hill.
The most recent historical society acquisition is the Eleanor C. Miller collection of the Women’s Club of Drexel Hill. It includes a myriad of articles including the charter, the embosser, a flag, minutes and two framed Pioneer Woman medals, formerly belonging to Mrs. G.A. Shafer and Mrs. F.J. Croghan.
This club began as the Women’s Auxiliary of the Drexel Hill Athletic Association in September 1915 and a year later, they changed their name to the Drexel Hill Women’s Club. Dues were $1.25 annually and the mission changed from supporting the athletic association to building a clubhouse for women.
Over the years, the club evolved into other endeavors. In 1918, members began studying French, a club chorus started and dancing and first aid classes were added.
In 1922, the club presented a petition to the school board asking for kindergarten classes in Drexel Hill schools.
In December 1931, during the throes of the Great Depression, the club had to improvise when the Drexel Hill Title & Trust Co., where all the club’s funds were stored, closed their doors three days before the club’s Christmas meeting. In response, the women gathered and sang Christmas songs, to which it was reported, “A true Christmas spirit prevailed and with many good wishes we separated for the year after a delightful afternoon.”
In their records, there were also reports of club members collecting groceries and clothing from local merchants for the many needy families in Drexel Hill.
From the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, Newtown Square is the almost 8-inch thick scrapbook. In it details much of the group’s activities from a clothesline outdoor art exhibit with cash prizes to awards given to graduating high school seniors to displays at the Community Flower Show.
Meeting most first Wednesdays, this club remains active with a mission to enhance the quality of life for those in Newtown Square and beyond. In 2015, its 45 members more than 4,500 hours of community service and $3,000 in in-kind donations.
There also is printed materials from the Women’s Club of Media such as a green 75th anniversary program with a pale pink cord, telling of the club’s 1894 organization and 1920 charter.
Its object was to “create an organized center among women for intellectual and philanthropic work and to promote moral and social interest.”
In a 1934 Compositions Notebook in the collection, one reads that H.F. Sherra, president of the Rutledge Garden Club showed members helpful slides of seeds and their development.
Other newspaper articles show their annual Halloween dance was one of the biggest of the year.
The county itself also had an overreaching club, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Delaware County, of which the historical society has five boxes full of items.
This federation’s purpose was “to unite the influence and interests of women’s clubs within the county; to promote civic educational, legislative, moral and social measures and to promote the progress and work of the Pennsylvania and General Federations of Women’s Clubs.”
Annual dues for a state-federated club into this federation were $1.50 for all members who paid dues and annual dues for an associate organization were $6.
The historical society owns many relics from these clubs and they are housed at the Delaware County Historical Society Museum, Library & Research Center. The museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday; 1 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The museum’s telephone number is 610-872-0502. Parking is free on the society lot behind the building or across the street in the municipal lot.
Membership in the Delaware County Historical Society ranges from $10 for students, $27 for individuals to $250 at the patron level. It includes free admission to the society’s Chester museum and library at 408 Avenue of the States, the society newsletter and preferred reservations and discounts for lectures and events. To join, please visitwww.padelcohistory.org or call 610-359-0832.
The Woman's Club of Newtown Square has a scrapbook that's more than 7 inches thick.
The Delaware County Historical Society has the charter and other items from the Woman's Club of Drexel Hill.