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Clubs and Organizations

Why Women's Clubs

by Dr. Karen Blair, Professor of History,
Central Washington University

CoverSM
Book cover, Washington State Federation of Women's Clubs: The First One Hundred Years 1896-1996.

The study of the history of Washington State's women's organizations provides a useful vehicle for understanding women's contributions to our past. Women who settled in the Pacific Northwest were quick to establish voluntary associations for self-improvement, charitable work, and civic reform, especially from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1930s. These societies and clubs, like those which existed in the east, sought to put members in touch with each other to discuss cultural topics and current issues and problems, devise strategies for social change, and execute plans that created institutions, laws and programs for the benefit of the members of their communities. Those who adhered to the belief that women's responsibilities should be limited to home and family were displeased at women's great impact on the public world. Nevertheless, multitudes of club members defied the convention that “woman's place is in the home” by uniting to sharpen their ideas, voice opinions and engage in reform of the public world outside their households. More...

Organizations

American Association of University Women

Utsalady Ladies Aid

Washington State Association of Colored Women's Clubs

Washington State Federation of Women's Clubs

Woman's Christian Temperance Union

Woman's Club of Olympia

Resources

Digital Materials

The history of the woman's club movement in America, Volume 1
by Jane Cunningham Croly, 1904

History of Women's Clubs Four-part podcast of Karen Blair's presentation on the history of women's clubs.

Organized Womanhood: Cultural Politics in the Northwest, 1840-1920 Excerpt from Sandra Haarsager's book providing information about Washington women's clubs.

The Souvenir of Western Women
Collection of writings published in 1905, including essays on Washington Women's Clubs (p. 84), Ladies Relief Society (p. 119), the WCTU (p. 159), and the YWCA (p.194).