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By the late nineteenth century, women were organizing for myriad reasons, in literary clubs and insurance societies, in temperance unions and patriotic organizations. Clubs provided an opportunity for women to unite for a common purpose, to effect change in a society that long denied them political rights, to socialize, and to gain financial assistance.
Women from the smallest communities in the country were linked with those in the largest through shared rituals, publications, and conventions as they worked for an agenda that included issues usually deated as "women's concerns," such as protecting health and home, promoting education, and transmitting values and culture.
Annual reports, convention proceedings, minutes, occasional membership lists, community histories, city directories, anniversary histories, and memoirs are among the sources available to document the dreams and achievements of these clubs. As Alexis de Tocqueville noted, and as historians are fond of quoting, Americans seem to have a propensity toward voluntary association. In Democracy in Americade Tocqueville wrote that "Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions, constantly form associations.
If it be proposed to inculcate some truth, or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society. I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object to the exertions of a great many men, and in inducing them voluntarily to pursue it. Croly, chronicler of the General Federation of Woman's Clubs, noted that in the nineteenth century the woman's club "became at once, without deliberate intention or concerted action, a light-giving and seed-sowing centre of purely altruistic and democratic activity.
Urban women organized into clubs to deal with issues like prostitution and care of the elderly in the early nineteenth century, but these were basically local and isolated efforts. Between andmany major women's organizations were formed on the national level, including most of those examined here. Nor was this an isolated movement, as increased opportunities for higher education for women, growing interest in suffrage, and new career openings converged in the s with the debut of the "New Woman" eager to challenge restrictions on women's sphere but still cognizant of the fact that she was responsible for safeguarding the country's morals.
At the same time, massive immigration during the late- nineteenth and early twentieth centuries encouraged some native-born Americans to cling more tightly to their identity as "real Americans" through the formation of patriotic societies, while immigrants sought support from their compatriots in adjusting to a new country by forming associations.
Bythe country's attention was focused on the Depression, with less money available for club activity. The period of this study also encompasses an important transition in West Virginia, which was struggling to recover from the Civil War and establish its new identity as a state in Bythe state was beginning to feel the effects of the Depression severely, and some club records reflect members' concerns for the less fortunate.
Limited space and sources make it impossible to document the work of every women's club, or even every type of club, in West Virginia. Those selected for study here represent major national women's organizations, such as the General Federation of Women's Clubs and Pythian Sisters, which were active throughout the state. They also were organizations for which records were available in a public repository. While this may seem initially to be an easy method of selection, it is important to note that women's clubs operating solely on the local level probably kept their records in the hands of their members, if they kept records at all.
State organizations were more likely than local chapters to be aware of the need to deposit records in an archives, and it is those annual reports and histories that are located most easily. Finally, some organizations, such as secret Greek letter sororities, would deliberately keep most records within the group, closed to outsiders. In several cases, membership lists provide an opportunity to identify the women who belonged to these clubs.
Apparently, members of reform clubs generally held slightly higher positions on the social ladder than those who belonged to the sororal and benevolent clubs, a reflection that these women had the resources to be concerned with more than the immediate needs of their families.
However, few membership lists were available to permit checking for overlapping memberships among club women. Even if lists were available, it can be difficult to track women: is Susan Smith the same person as Mrs. John Smith on another list? John Jones Susan a few years later? The clubs discussed here can be divided into two types: those that focused on some type of reform activity and those that existed primarily as sororal and benevolent organizations.
Both certainly provided companionship and a sense of identity and belonging for members, but the programs of the reform clubs were more often directed outward into the community, while those of the benevolent organizations were directed toward the concerns of their own members. Absent from this discussion are political clubs, farm women's organizations, and church women's organizations, all of which deserve separate consideration. There are no formulas to apply in categorizing these clubs, except to say that they relied less on ritual than did sororal organizations and did not provide financial benefits for their members.
The first large national "reform club" for women, the Women's Christian Temperance Union WCTUgrew out of the "woman's crusade" that swept the country in Quickly becoming the country's largest women's organization, it also organized women around the world. The WCTU's greatest strength was its ability to organize at the local level. Wheeling women were apparently the first in the state to organize for temperance. The Wheeling city directory lists the Ladies' Temperance Union, while the Ladies' Temperance Band was cited in the directory.
The first local union was organized later that year by Frances Willard and Jennie Smith. The first state convention was held in in Parkersburg, with Willard as a special guest; "the women marched down Market Street stopping to pray for those engaged in the liquor traffic. The state WCTU adhered closely to the goals of the national organization.
For example, the WCTU was interested in the problems of prison reform and the status of women offenders as early as the s. Indeed, this was the first nontemperance issue for the WCTU. Women in West Virginia, and across the country, delivered thousands of s of temperance literature annually to those in prison.
Bythe WCTU was working on the national level to get an "Industrial Home for Federal women prisoners'"; this would eventually be the Alderson prison in West Virginia, which opened in Inthe state convention condemned the use of tobacco and, especially, cigarettes, asking the boards of education for schools at all levels '"to employ no teacher who uses tobacco'.
These ordinances required "no spitting" s on public streetcars and, later, buses. Indelegates at the state convention pledged their support for the Suffrage Amendment on the ballot for the general election in November. In that election, voters overwhelmingly rejected suffrage. Although the legislature rejected statewide prohibition, it allowed local option to ban liquor.
Bythirty- seven of the state's fifty-five counties were "dry," or prohibited the sale of liquor. Even though they could not vote, WVWCTU women were active poll workers on November 5, when, by a majority of 92, votes, West Virginia men ratified the Prohibition Amendment to the state constitution; this took effect July I, The women raised money to support French families and orphans, made wash mitts for the Red Cross, and sent comfort bags to the men on the USS West Virginia.
The national WCTU also promoted the war effort and worked to "Americanize" immigrants in large cities during the war. Mottos such as "Bar the barley from the bar and bake it into bread" exemplified the national WCTU efforts during the war. A comparatively high foreign-born population of 10 percent in Monongalia County apparently stirred Morgantown's WCTU members to promote assimilation. While the foreign-born population was almost as high in Marshall, Marion, and Ohio counties, the only reference to Americanization work was in Morgantown, possibly Sistersville West Virginia birthday older women looking sex Morgantown's chapter had its own Community Building that served as the Americanization Center.
Bythere were seventy-eight unions in the state and 6, members. But, even before federal prohibition ended, membership began to decline. With the onset of the Depression, members could no longer afford the dues. Once the decline started, it became an avalanche. While the WCTU had no restrictions on membership, other than interest in the cause, other women's groups were not as open. While co-education was becoming increasingly common, and even graduate and professional schools were opening to women, there was no national organization for these alumnae.
In addition, while the doors were open, there was no strong support network for women students once admitted, and the students were forced to rely on peer support. Graduation was a traumatic experience for many because, aside from teaching, the American economy did not have many openings for college-educated women. Talbot announced that the organizational goals were to assist the intellectual growth of members, help raise the standards of female education and, equally important, to preserve the sense of camaraderie that existed among Sistersville West Virginia birthday older women looking sex women during their college years.
Toprospective members had to have graduated from an institution specially approved by the ACA. The ACA's approval system depended on an institution's quality of instruction, treatment of women students, and role of women on the faculty. Members hoped that the carrot of accreditation would encourage schools to improve women's education, but there is little evidence that this happened. Not until were graduates of all accredited colleges and universities admitted as members of the AAUW. The first group of collegiate alumnae in West Virginia organized in Huntington on October 12,with Lucy Prichard as first president.
Duringthe group became an official branch of the ACA. Programs in the early years reflected the common concerns of women's reform clubs: raising funds to provide young women money for college, a program on certified milk, "spontaneous talks on 'the woman's movement of the day'," and promoting the registration of births by a "house to house canvas to compile statistics.
Duringthe group wrote to West Virginia University President Frank Trotter "concerning its ineligibility to the list of accredited colleges prepared by the American Association of Universities," thereby making its women graduates ineligible for membership in the ACA. Duringrecognizing that soldiers needed wholesome recreation and companionship, the branch paid for subscriptions to Literary Digest to two camps.
They also identified Huntington men in military camps around the country and sent the names of these men to the national ACA headquarters; in turn, the women at headquarters distributed the names to ACA branches close to the camps "'so as to introduce these men to a bit of social life among college women'. During the year, the Huntington branch urged the local board of education to employ "'special teachers for sub-normal children and the establishment of an open air school for anaemic [sic] children and children having a tendency toward tuberculosis'.
True to its purpose of promoting college education opportunities, members were pleased to receive President Trotter's letter in Octoberindicating that West Virginia University had met the requirements for admission to the AAUW. This was the first West Virginia school to be so deated and provided a critical mass of eligible AAUW members to form additional branches. Morgantown, Fairmont, and Parkersburg branches, all organized ined Huntington as the charter members of the division.
During the s, branch members organized study groups on international relations, the pre- school child, world peace, the public school curriculum, drama, and the elementary school. There seems to have been little in the way of a national AAUW agenda for local branches to follow, but West Virginia members "loyally supported" the national Headquarters Fund and Fellowship Fund. At the branch level, they raised money for local scholarship funds, contributed books to local libraries, and worked to get additional colleges and normal schools added to the list of approved AAUW institutions.
The division also sent delegates to the Conference on the Causes and Cure of War. The division felt its most important accomplishment, however, was its successful effort to have the state of West Virginia build Elizabeth Moore Hall as the women's building on the West Virginia University campus. By May"over college-bred women" belonged to the West Virginia Division, constituting, they believed, "a force of incalculable potency. Still, the division historian took pride in the fact that the branches' accomplishments showed "clearly that noblesse oblige and that the aristocracy of intellect has justified its existence by deeds of altruism and of service.
By virtue of being college-educated women, AAUW members were at least middle-class in status. A membership list for the Morgantown branch about included women. Of these, one-fourth had careers in education or were married to those who did: at least fourteen were faculty or staff members at West Virginia University, and thirteen taught in the city's grade or high schools.
Members' husbands were also faculty at West Virginia University, teachers, attorneys, clergy, and businessmen. Inseven years after the ACA was established, members of the first modern woman's club, Sorosis, decided to celebrate their twenty-first birthday by calling a convention of women's clubs from throughout the country, providing the foundation for the General Federation of Woman's Clubs GFWCestablished in New York City in Throughout its existence, the GFWC's member clubs have pursued a wide range of activities, and West Virginia's clubs have followed suit.
The GFWC's Industrial Committee, created inworked "to improve the condition of both women and children in industry" and later campaigned against child labor. The committee's report to the press and to the U. Labor Commissioner documented that the child labor laws were not being enforced. Inthe GFWC's Household Economics section recommended '"the study of household economics in as thorough and systematic a manner as was already devoted to the study of history, art or literature'.
Inthe federation established an American Home Department as a "new declaration of faith in the home's importance as an industry and as a social institution. Programs featured papers on the fine arts and a few papers that leaned toward domestic science; for example, one presentation on the necessity of art education stressed using this knowledge to select clothing, arrange furniture, and choose pictures for the home to enrich the "spiritual insight of children.
Certainly, they reinforced traditional ideas that women's interests centered on the home and family. Women's clubs also actively worked to establish free public libraries. InWest Virginia clubwomen maintained two traveling libraries "'to be sent to remote mining or country districts'. When it became difficult to keep track of the traveling libraries, the WVFWC, apparently with some relief, turned them over to the West Virginia University Library in The traveling libraries were undoubtedly used to encourage public opinion to support a permanent library, and West Virginia federation members continued to work for local public libraries.
Establishing a reading room and library, for instance, was one of the first concerns of the Woman's Civic Club of Clarksburg when it organized inbut it was not until that a permanent location was secured. They chaired committees on "War Savings, Home Service, Liberty Loan, Conservation, [and] Council of Defense," gave club programs on the nations at war and the war's progress, sent "care packages" to soldiers and knitted for them, and learned to conserve food by gardening and canning.
It may be debatable whether the Daughters of the American Revolution can be considered as a reform club. However, when one examines their agenda, it is clear that the members, albeit carefully selected by virtue of their ancestors, had their own vision of a better community that they worked hard to achieve. Unfortunately, this agenda is not well known today.
However no organizational work was attempted by the first two regents, who served from to The first West Virginia chapter was organized inand the first report to the national Continental Congress was made in The first state conference was held in November It was not until the fourth state conference, inthat the West Virginia DAR WVDAR established by-laws to govern the state conference, decided on a state pin, and established a nominating committee. The Colonel Charles Lewis Sistersville West Virginia birthday older women looking sex worked with Governor William Dawson, the federal government, and "many of the leading historians of the day" to erect a monument to commemorate the Battle of Point Pleasant as the "first battle of the Revolution.
Similar efforts to mark graves, battle sites, fort sites, and homes of soldiers were on the agenda for most chapters. During the war, West Virginia Daughters, like other club members, "with the same zeal which characterized their loyalty to the aims and purposes of the National Society," engaged in Red Cross work, bought Liberty Bonds, adopted and cared for war orphans, and otherwise answered "all calls of the government" with "loyal and generous support.
Still, DAR members were not pacifists. Inthe WVDAR resolved to "reiterate their unqualified support of the National Defense Act and Military Training in the Schools [ROTC], colleges and camps, also deploring the present agitation against it and the misleading presentation of the case by the agitators. We do know that the WVDAR felt it could best meet its goal of promoting "institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge" by helping immigrants "become enlightened, educated, patriotic American citizens.
Examples of the "Americanization" work by the WVDAR include the Elizabeth Ludington Hagans chapter in Morgantown which sponsored citizenship and night school classes, held naturalization courts, and distributed immigrant's manuals, copies of the American Creed, magazines and books.
The Webster County Pioneers reported, inthat the few Italian families were thrifty and prosperous naturalized citizens who had achieved the American dream, that is, property ownership; DAR members "established pleasant relations with them, visiting them and helping them understand American life and customs. Visiting the families where there is sickness or after accidents, working with the Church missionary in Sunday school and night schools"; there, the chapter chair was a "true Sister of Mercy to the needy foreigners.
During the s, the DAR worried about the influence of these foreigners on American society. Reflecting the national interest in limiting immigration and the lingering effects of the Red Scare, the DAR encouraged membership retention in because "the more members we have the greater our power and influence to defend our country against the insidious attacks of the propagandist.
On the national scene, the DAR lashed out at former suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt and others working with her to promote peace. Not all DAR work was directed toward the international scene. Conservation, for example, was also an important issue.Sistersville West Virginia birthday older women looking sex
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