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Thayer, Crawford Beecher; Daily Jefferson County Union / Happy 150th birthday, Fort Atkinson

High society,   pp. 79-84 PDF (6.8 MB)

Page 79

Victorians joined 'study clubs' 
       By Christine Blumer 
  The Victorians living in the late 
  19th Century were a social lot: the 
  men spent their free time relaxing 
with the "boys" out at the hunt club; 
the women turned toward self- 
improvement and civic mindedness. 
  One of the oldest and most promi- 
nent organizations for the cream of 
Fort Atkinson's female crop was the 
Tuesday Club, organized in 1881. It 
was Mrs. N.F. Hopkins who, with 
Mrs. J.Q. Emery formed a 16- 
member "study club." 
  According to an article in the 
Milwaukee Free Press July 14, 1912, 
"The Tuesday Club of Fort Atkinson 
occupies an unique place among the 
women's clubs of the state. It was 
organized in 1881, and in spite of 
many changes and revolutions in the 
club movement, It has kept its first 
ideals and has remained for more 
than 30 years a study club pure and 
  "The words 'study club' do not 
mean that its influence has not ex- 
tended beyond its own membership. 
It has always been one of the influen- 
tial and respected institutions of the 
  Written by Mrs. Joe (Lillian) 
Schreiner, who did some "stringing" 
for the Milwaukee newspapers, the 
article noted that the first 16 mem- 
bers studied "Romola" by George 
Elliot. The club also was active in 
protection of landmarks and natural 
resources, as well as promotion of 
the library and public schools. 
  The latter is mentioned by Mrs. 
Hopkins in reminiscenses quoted in 
Koshkonong Country Revisited I. 
  "In taking a backward glance, I 
wonder that we were not discouraged 
at our undertaking, for there was no 
public library and very few re- 
ference books to be had; however, 
one kind friend offered to loan us 
some choice books from her collec- 
tion and Milo Jones drew maps for 
us, which helped us greatly. 
  '"The world did not swarm with 
study clubs, as at present, and we 
knew practically little of those which 
did exist. The systemized club work, 
as it is today, was a cloud in the dis- 
tant horizon - no bigger than a 
man's hand. We were, in reality, a 
nameless orphan waif, but we were 
earnest, and we felt no need of a con- 
stitution or of officers. However, at 
the second season, it was thought 
best to have a program and this 
necessitated a name. Mrs. Jones, I 
think it was, suggested that the club 
be known as the "Afternoon Tea." 
  In its third season, the organization 
became Tuesday Club and elected of- 
ficers. But its purpose remained 
  "We as a club do not propose to 
sway the masses or lead the mul- 
titude, neither do we sign for pages of 
commendation or ask you to build 
July 16, 1986 
monuments of worlds or marble in 
honor of the Tuesday Club, but we do 
rejoice when spoken thoughts are 
rich with appikoval, which is a bless- 
ing to all labor," Mrs. Hopkins noted. 
"Surely they will be wrought in tur- 
ret and tower by the master architect 
who directs as we build." 
  Her typically Victorian language is 
difficult to understand, but it all 
boiled down to having a place for the 
exchange of ideas. 
  Tuesday Club was one of the 
Crawford. It was very heartily en- 
  The article continued by listing 
what women attended and a descrip- 
tion of their gowns. 
  Several study clubs were born af- 
ter the turn of the century. 
  The Ingleside Club, formed in 1909, 
was named at the suggestion of Mrs. 
Herbert Main, who said in re- 
miniscenses      published    in 
Koshkonong Country Revisited HI 
that the idea sprung up at, a 
Crazy Eight Club in 1895 included Belle McMillen, Venice Wester- 
field, Lyllian Haumerson, Mae McMillen, Hattie Chapman, Agnes 
           Foote (Hoard) and Amy Mason of Antigo. 
earliest such clubs, but many 
followed its footsteps. The Imperial 
Club, for example, was begun about 
1897, and was the sponsor of an an- 
nual gala ball at the city hall. 
  In January 1899, the club's third 
annual ball featured Eastern Star 
society women dispensing "refresh- 
ing punch," according to newspaper 
accounts. And "one of the pleasant 
features of the evening was a very 
pretty waltz, played by the 
orchestra, entitled the 'Imperial 
Waltz,' composed and dedicated to 
the Imperial Club by Walter 
Daughters of American Revolution 
meeting the previous year. 
  She said she suggested to "Mrs. 
Sara Coe Telfer that we and a few 
other young married women start a 
study club of our own. Several of our 
friends had been married that year 
and were starting new homes and 
firesides. The organization meeting 
was held at the home of Mrs. Jessie 
Beach Olson. The club was named 
Ingleside, which means fireside." 
  The club, which had 10 charter 
members, charged 25 cents annual 
dues, which rose to 50 cents in 1911 
when it joined the state federation. In 
addition to cultural programs 
promoting      the  home     and 
homemaker, the club was active in 
civic work. 
  The Coterie Club was organized 
with 12 members Nov. 2, 1908, at the 
home of Mrs. C.L. Goodrich. The 
name was derived from the Latin 
"coteria," which means a set or cir- 
cle of friends who associate and meet 
together for social and friendly ex- 
  Mrs. William Rogers chose the 
motto for the Tuesday club, which 
the first year studied U.S. history and 
readings: "The brightest and best 
that knowledge holds, is the pure 
gold sought by the Coterie." 
  Dues were at 50 cents by 1910 and 
the bylaws were adopted In 
February 1911. The club donated to 
many community programs, includ- 
ing Forrest Law Sanitarium, 
beautification of the riverbank, the 
Red Cross, Christmas baskets for the 
needy and adoption of a French war 
orphan after World War I. 
  In 1905, 17 women met to form a 
study group at the urging of Mrs. 
Charles Pearce and Miss Blance 
Hager. The literary club first was 
called Scissors and Paste Club, and 
later, the Badger Study Club. 
  The group met Mondays but then 
changed it to Tuesday, the day other 
study clubs met. Its first topic was 
the State of Wisconsin; others ranged 
from history and geography to 
drama and biography. 
  The Badger Study Club met at 
various intervals during the Great 
War, but it did a great deal of Red 
Cross work, Christmas baskets and 
outfitted a worthy girl at her high 
school graduation. 
  Fort Atkinson women might have 
been reading on Tuesdays, but they 
were singing by Thursday. The 
Music Study Club was founded in 
1911 by a Mrs. Swits, and offered 
musical programs each meeting. 
  "In this way, the Music Study Club 
gave to Its members an opportunity 
to enjoy good music, study com- 
posers and in many ways giving a 
fuller understanding and apprecia- 
tion of this great art," wrote Fort At- 
kinson author Crawford Thayer. 
  The club spread its talents 
throughout the community, and of- 
fered many public programs. Among 
the local artists in the Music Club- 
sponsored programs was Wesley 
Sontag, a virtuoso violinist who went 
on to teach at the Julliard School of 
Music. It also held a Music Memory 
Contest in the schools. 
  A Janesville Gazette article 
published apparently in the early 
1950s reported that the Tuesday, In- 
gleside, Coterie, Badger and Music 
Study clubs had all banded into a city 
federation in order to work jointly for 
community betterment. 

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