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The Souvenir of Western Women/Washington Women's Clubs

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Washington Women's Clubs

By JENETTE S. MOORE, Olympia, Wash.

THE position which Washington occupies among the states of the Northwest with regard to its status in the affairs of Woman's Clubs is rather a distinguished one. She was the first to recognize the importance of club organization and the benefits derived from it.

The club movement in Washington proved no exception to the proverb, "Great things from small beginnings grow," as it owes its origin to one small club of nine members who met for mutual improvement along literary and domestic lines and to encourage a fraternal spirit among women. This club, the "Woman's Club of Olympia," was organized March 10, 1883, at the home of Edmund Sylvester, the founder of Olympia. The idea of forming the club originated with Miss Mary E. Shelton, who had lately returned from San Francisco, where a club had just been organized. Mrs. A. H. H. Stuart was the first president. Being a woman of executive ability, skilled in parliamentary usage, she was a great aid in the development of the club and in making it a permanent institution. For some time the Woman's Club of Olympia had the field to itself.

One club came into existence in '89. The Classic Culture Club of Seattle, and in the early '90s many more sprang into life. Now there is hardly a town of any considerable size but has its club or clubs. Women throughout the state were eager to join in a movement so widely beneficial.

The Woman's Club of Olympia, being the pioneer, was very conservative. It was an experiment, and until the experimental stage was passed it hesitated about taking up subjects outside of what might be classed literary, artistic, musical or domestic.

As the number of clubs grew the question of forming a state federation began to be agitated. Many of the clubs had joined the general federation, and a meeting was held in Tacoma in the autumn of 1896 to consider the advisability of forming a state organization. The idea met with approval, and twenty-two clubs formed the nucleus of a federation that has grown into large proportions and has become a recognized power in the state. The first meeting was held the following June in Olympia. The first to serve as president of the state federation was Mrs. Amy P. Stacy, of the Oloha Club of Tacoma, who by vote of the federation bears the honored title of "Federation Mother."

Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane have each a city federation, and several other cities are preparing to federate. Two clubs in Washington own their club houses, the Woman's Club of Olympia and the P. L. F. Club of Bellingham.

All over the state the woman's clubs have had an uplifting influence upon their surroundings.

The Civic Improvement Clubs and the Floral Associations have helped to beautify the cities; the Educational Clubs have worked in education; the Art Clubs have helped to develop a love of the beautiful; the Musical Clubs have done much to raise the standard of music.

Although no club for purely social purposes has been organized, each club has more or less social life connected with the regular club work. Through the efforts of the clubs fine lecturers, musicians and dramatic readers have been brought to the state and exhibits have been held and floral displays made; in addition prizes have been given for the neatest gardens, public parks improved, historical buildings preserved, traveling libraries bought and put into circulation, school and city libraries increased; and indeed this influence has reached out in every direction.

Woman's Clubs of Washington have done much to awaken an interest in the history of the state, and have made valuable collections of data, relics and photographs. They have encouraged legislation in behalf of philanthropic movements, notably with regard to juvenile offenders; they have brought the subject of domestic science to the attention it deserves.

The National Federation recognized Washington last May at the meeting in St. Louis by electing Dr. Sarah Kendall, of Seattle, auditor. It is an honor appreciated not only by Dr. Kendall's friends, but by all the club women.