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The Souvenir of Western Women/Woman's Clubs in Oregon

Women's Clubs in Oregon

By JENNIE C. PRITCHARD,
Secretary Portland Woman's Club

CLUBS organized by women, and for women exclusively, have for many years been a feature in our far Eastern states, having started in New York and Massachusetts. The movement gradually moved west through the middle section of the country over the Rockies, to California, Oregon and Washington.

The first women's club in Oregon. "The Thursday Afternoon Club," of Pendleton, was organized in 1893, the members devoting their time to literature. After twelve years this club is still in existence and doing good work. It has been a characteristic of women's clubs that, once started, they steadily grow: no going back or disbanding. In 1894 the town of La Grande organized a Musical Club. Also in that year the little town of Granite started an association called "The Daughters of Progress." In 1896 the "Portland Woman's Club" came into existence and took for its motto, "Take counsel with common sense."

Southern Oregon also fell into line, with women's clubs at Grants Pass, Ashland, Roseburg, and the movement crept up the Willamette Valley to Salem, Eugene and Oregon City.

"The Portland Woman's Club," the largest club in the state, now numbers two hundred and thirty members. Its object is to secure concert of action in intellectual, philanthropic, and social activities. It has been instrumental in gaining needed improvements in the city. To the club is due the election of a woman on the school board. Its members stand ready to give help to all needed reforms. It has twelve well organized departments and maintains two scholarships in the School of Domestic Science and two in the Manual Training class in the Y. M. C. A.

Portland has numerous other clubs; some are devoted to study alone, either literary or musical; one, the Forestry Club, whose members are studying the best methods of preserving the forests of Oregon; a Mothers' Club and a Teachers' Club, giving time and thought to the best interests of the children.

In 1899, realizing that in unity there is strength, the clubs united to form a State Federation. Meetings are held biennially. This state organization joined the National or General Federation of Clubs in 1901, thus making a connecting chain from the smallest to the largest. While the State Federation includes only thirty-five clubs, there are in the state not fewer than one hundred organized woman's clubs. In this body there are standing committees on education, library, domestic science, civics, Oregon history, reciprocity, exposition, Chautauqua, legislation, industrial and forestry. Although but few, if any. individual clubs carry out all the lines of work suggested by the Federation, some of them are represented in each of the clubs. Special work is also being effectively pursued. The maintenance of free reading-rooms in the smaller towns; rest-rooms for country women, and co-operation of civic committees with citizens' leagues for the betterment of public conditions, are some of the special features; also the preservation of old landmarks which merit more than a passing notice.

Through the efforts of the Sorosis Club of The Dalles, the old government barracks have been rescued from decay and will be used in the future as a home for rare pioneer and archaeological relies. The Woman's Club at Oregon City has also been especially active along this line, and through it historic buildings will be preserved. This club is also making an effort to perform a long-deferred duty to the memory of Dr. John McLoughlin in erecting to him a memorial statue.

The efforts of other clubs in exposition work are notable. The clubs of Washington County have put into the hands of the women on the farms one thousand pint jars to be filled with fruits to be given as souvenirs to visitors at our great Lewis and Clark Exposition. The generous response of the clubs to the call of the Sacajawea Statue Association for funds is praiseworthy. Coquille and Independence rank first. Coquille, by promptly contributing five times the amount asked for the fund, unless outdone, will have the privilege of naming the woman to unveil the statue. Independence, being the first to respond with a contribution, will get the flag that enshrouds the statue before its unveiling.

The work that signalizes most this club movement as a force for good in the land is that accomplished in the legislature. The club women of Oregon have taken a prominent part in the legislative work of the state, aiding in the agitation for better laws for women and children, as well as for general reform legislation. Among the laws passed at the session of 1905 were the laws providing for Indeterminate Sentence, the Parole Law, the Juvenile Court Law, all of which mark a distinct advance in the method of caring for the criminal population of the state. One of the most important laws, however, and one for which the women have been working for the past ten years, is the one providing for the transportation of insane patients under the care of asylum attendants instead of by the sheriffs or their deputies.

The Child Labor Law and the Compulsory Education Law were strengthened through important amendments. The club women of the state have been especially active in the agitation for the Child Labor Law. They were also instrumental in the enactment of a State Library Law and a law to adopt the Oregon Grape as the state flower.

This club movement, becoming so universal, is not the result of one central thought, as in the churches and fraternities, but the marshaling upon a common plain of all the forces for good that have their indwelling in the heart of woman.