Saturday Club: annual convention, the War Kitchen, Influenza

The names of the presidents during the first ten years of the Saturday Club’s existence were given in this column in the October 11 issue. During the next ten years, 1896-1906, which were important ones because of the building of the clubhouse, presidents were Mrs. W.B. McKellar, Mrs. George Miles Wells, Mrs. C. W. Ruschenberger, Mrs. Ralston C. Ware, Mrs. Ellis L. Campbell, Mrs. William A. Nichols and Mrs. Clarke J. Wood.

Probably the most important event of the 1906-1916 period was the 12th annual convention of the State Federation of Pennsylvania Club Women, held at the Devon Inn, with the Saturday Club as host club. Some 400 women were in attendance, coming to Devon from all sections of Pennsylvania.

And what were the clubwomen discussing at this time? These were the topics of some of their convention addresses: “Child Labor Regulation in Pennsylvania,” “Home Economics as an Educational Phase in Civics,” “The Movement Towards Civic Beauty” and “Moral Training in Public Schools.” Mrs. Edward W. Biddle of Carlisle, who was to succeed Mrs. Ellis Lewis Campbell as state president, was much interested in education in Pennsylvania. She felt that school taxation was quite inadequate to introduce manual training, school libraries and many other adjuncts, such as schools in neighboring states enjoyed at that time.

Mrs. Henry Roever’s presidency, beginning in 1914, was succeeded by that of Mrs. Marshall H. Smith, Mrs. W. Allen Barr, Mrs. John J. Mitchell, Jr., Mrs. Walter H. Dance and Mrs. Charles H. Howson. This was the period of World War I.

Programs included music, letters from the front and tableaux; a home economics program had as its title “Food Values and Substitutes as a Means of Food Conservation.”

Just before Christmas, 1917, the hospitality of the club was extended to 25 marines from the Philadelphia Navy Yard, with senior members of the club cooperating with the Junior Saturday Club. There were canteen luncheons and service days at the club house, when members were urged to bring any work they might be doing for men at the front. There was a vaudeville show, put on by the juniors for the benefit of a Fund for French Orphans.

At the end of February, 1918, the club house was closed by the coal shortage, not to be reopened until April, and meetings were held at the homes of various members. At the end of April, as a response to a request from the Government, a “War Kitchen” was held in the club house for a short period of time. During the influenza epidemic the building was turned into a hospital for those who could not gain admittance to regular hospitals.

In November, 1918, came the Armistice and, with it, happier days in the life of the club. Presidents of the 1928-1956 period were Mrs. Henry Roever, Mrs. Frederick A. McCord, Mrs. E. Earl Trout, Mrs. Paul Gant, Mrs. T. Magill Patterson (two terms of office), Mrs. H.H. Kynett, Mrs. F. Ashby Wallace, Mrs. J. Stewart Freeman, Mrs. A.E. Livingston, Mrs. Richard Howson, Mrs. J. Russell Hogeland, Mrs. Spencer V. Smith, Mrs. J. Leroy Vosburg and Mrs. G. Rushton Howell, the present incumbent.

World War II had its effect on club activities, at the end of Mrs. Kynett’s administration, as well as through those of Mrs. Wallace and Mrs. Freeman. Less time was given to club work and more to Red Cross. As its direct contribution to the local war effort, the club house was turned over to the local unit for all “blood donor days.”

In closing today’s “Your Town and My Town,” your columnist would like to call the attention of her readers to the fact that those “social, bright, congenial women” who gathered in Mrs. Sayen’s parlor in the early winter of 1886 to discuss “the subject of women’s clubs – then almost a tabooed one” started a local organization that now numbers some 300 members.

These women are active in the Saturday Club in more than 30 divisions of women’s club activities as organized by the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Pennsylvania State Federation. The former is the largest and most powerful organized group of women in the world today, yet the Saturday Club outdates the formation of that great organization by some four years!

Saturday Club: club house, Bellevue Hotel, other old buildings

The Saturday Club House built in 1898-1899 as shown in this earliest picture, now in the possession of the Club. The two vehicles are those of club members who were probably enjoying a club program at the time. (Note the tall silk hat on the coachman in the front vehicle!)
The Saturday Club House built in 1898-1899 as shown in this earliest picture, now in the possession of the Club. The two vehicles are those of club members who were probably enjoying a club program at the time. (Note the tall silk hat on the coachman in the front vehicle!)

It was on October 17, 1898, that the then current Board of the Saturday Club authorized its president and secretary to sign a contract with J.D. Lengel, of Wayne, for erection of a club house on a lot on West Wayne avenue, purchased from the Wayne Estate.

The report of Mrs. Ralston C. Ware, chairman of the building committee, is still among the club’s most treasured documents. It would seem, as one reads it, as if she were giving the report in person. She tells of the many meetings of the committee with the architect, David Knickerbacker Boyd, a resident of Wayne, who at the turn of the century was one of Philadelphia’s best known architects.

It was with great pride that Mrs. Ware and the two members of her committee made their final report, for in it they stated, “We look forward to our club house as being a rallying place for our members, which will lend a special interest and impetus to all our work, literary and social.” The total cost, including the purchase price of the land, was recorded down to the very penny by Mrs. Ware as $5,145.08!

No additions or alterations of any consequences were made to this original structure until June, 1912, when Mrs. Parke Schock served as chairman of a new building committee, during the presidency of Mrs. Marshall H. Smith. At that time, changes and additions were made in the basement to provide a dining room, as well as the ground floor addition which forms the present stage. It is interesting to know that up to this time, long seats which extended across the east end of the main assembly room unfolded to form a stage.

And how did Wayne itself look in those early days of the Saturday Club’s history? Lancaster avenue was then “Lancaster pike,” a narrow tree-shaded road with toll gate houses at close intervals along it. All vehicles were horse drawn, from the farmer’s wagon to milady’s elegant Victoria with coachman and footman. Bicycling was at its height, with “the ordinary,” as those with the high front wheels were called, just giving away to the “safety,” the forerunner of our modern bicycle. There were hitching posts and livery stables along the pike.

Much of the surrounding countryside was farmland, although by 1886 Wayne was beginning to look like a small town. There was an influx of Philadelphians each June seeking to escape the heat of the city. With their children and nurses, their carriages and coachmen, they led a life of luxurious ease at the beautiful old Bellevue Hotel, on East Lancaster avenue, built in 1881 by George W. Childs, and at the impressive Louella Mansions, built even earlier by one of Wayne’s founders, Henry Askin.

Other buildings already erected by 1886 were the old Opera House, now the Colonial Building; the Wayne Presbyterian Chapel, the original drug store owned by J.M. Fronefleld, on the site of the present Sun Ray store; Leinhardt’s Bakery, the original small building of the First Baptist Church, and the houses on Bloomingdale avenue.

The old Cleaver Farm, by then occupied by the Hughs family, had long been a landmark. The Old Spread Eagle Inn was still standing. The swimming club was located at Kelly’s Dam, in North Wayne, near what is now Willow avenue. A “fire horn,” three feet long, was blown to man the “pumps” when there was a fire. The Radnor Lyceum Hall, where the Saturday Club was founded, was a frame building, then located at the northeast corner of what is now Pembroke and East Lancaster avenues.

Saturday Club: founder Katherine Barling Longstreth

12_image01When the Saturday Club of Wayne met last Tuesday afternoon (October 8), the guests for the annual Reciprocity Tea included presidents of all the other clubs of the Delaware County Federation of Women’s Clubs as well as the presidents of the Federated Clubs of the entire Main Line section. In addition to these two groups one other club was represented in this large gathering, the New Century Club of Philadelphia. It was so honored because, as told in last week’s column, it is the only woman’s departmental club in the entire state of Pennsylvania that antedates the Saturday Club of Wayne, having been founded in 1876 from the membership of the Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Centennial.

In October 1890, four years after its own founding, the Saturday Club was invited to send its president, Mrs. George R. Stocker, to an organization meeting of the General Federation of Women’s Club which was then in process of formation. A few months later, the Wayne club became one of the first members of that great Federation which is now the most powerful and influential group of organized women in the world. With its membership in the United States and its affiliated membership in foreign countries, this group now numbers more than six million women.

The Saturday Club was also a founding member of the Pennsylvania State Federation of Women’s Clubs, when that Federation was organized in 1896 under the leadership of one of the Wayne Club’s early presidents, Mrs. Ellis Campbell. The latter, who had been president of the Saturday Club in 1892, served again in that capacity in 1903. Thus, the local woman’s club has been responsible, in a certain measure, for the founding of two organized groups of women, much larger in scope of activities and in membership than itself.

It is interesting to quote part of Mrs. Stocker’s speech, delivered in June, 1891, when she assumed the presidency of the Saturday Club as the address indicates the vastly changed place of womankind in the life of today, from that of almost 70 years ago.

“The Club movement for women,” Mrs. Stocker said in 1891, “is a factor for modern progress. It has stimulated an intellectual and social life without in the least detracting from the duties of wifehood and motherhood… It is impossible for men to comprehend the narrow groove in which the majority of women have been forced to live, move and have their being in the past.

“Club life has revealed women to each other; it has established fellowship on a purely human foundation. The Federation goes on to prove that they built upon a purely peaceful basis, composed of home-loving women who are delighted to renew their youth in their eagerness to know whatever there is interesting to be known, who, whatever is the status or degree of cultivation, still find in their interchange of club life, food for mind and soul.”

Presidents for the first ten years of the Saturday Club’s existence included Mrs. James Campbell, 1886-1887; Miss Anna H. Markley, 1887; Miss Buxton, 1887-1888; Mrs. George R. Stocker, 1888-1892; Mrs. Ellis L. Campbell, 1892; Mrs. Charles B. Stilwell, 1893; Mrs. Henry Birkimbine, 1893-1895, and then Mrs. Stilwell again in 1895-1897.

The story of the building of the present club house in the late 1900’s will be told in next week’s “Your Town and My Town.”

Saturday Club: Old Wayne Lyceum Hall where it was founded in 1886

With the opening of the Saturday Club of Wayne, on Tuesday, for its 71st season, it seems fitting to include in this column something of the history of the second oldest women’s departmental club in Pennsylvania.

The local organization is second in age only to the New Century Club of Philadelphia, which was founded in 1876, soon after the close of the Centennial in Philadelphia. Among our readers there are many women so new to the community that they may not know that the structure just to the west of the Central Baptist Church building, on West Wayne avenue, is the home of the Saturday Club of Wayne.

11_image01The faded ink of the first minute hook, one of the most cherished possessions of the club, recounts that “on February 16, 1886, at four in the afternoon, nine of the 12 ladies invited to be present met in the Library Room, Wayne Hall, where, after some informal remarks, Miss Markley was invited to preside.” The first order of business was the election of officers. Tellers announced the results of the balloting to be Mrs. James Campbell, for president; Miss Anna Markley and Mrs. P.W. Ver Planck, vice-presidents; Mrs. G.E. Abbott, secretary, and Miss Helen Erben for treasurer.

The next order of business was a discussion of the meeting place for the new organization. Although there was some opposition to the Wayne Hall, it was finally decided to meet there until a permanent organization should be formed in May. Dues were set at one dollar for the temporary organization and a committee of three, on constitution and by-laws, was appointed. The organizers made themselves a “committee of the whole” on entertainment.

In addition to the officers, the other members of the original group of 12 were Mrs. William Henry Sayen, Miss Phillips, Miss Katharine Wentworth, Miss Simmons, Mrs. Barclay Johnson, Mrs. Peterson and Mrs. Henry Pleasants. A little later (to quote from the minute book), “there were nominated for membership six other ladies, all of whom gave great vitality to the infant club.” They were Miss Matlack, Mrs. Stocker, Mrs. Hughes, Mrs. E.L. Campbell, Miss Mary Rogers and Mrs. Fallon.

The name “Saturday Club” was probably adopted because the men, and there were a few men members then, could attend. When members signified under which committee they wished to work, the results were “three under science, three under literary work, two under art and four under music.” At the meeting of March 27, the constitution and by-laws were adopted.

The description of the informal meeting held before the first formal one is worth quoting. “On a snowy Saturday afternoon, there gathered in Mrs. Sayen’s parlor several bright, congenial women who, over steaming cups of tea, dared discuss the subject of women’s clubs, then almost a tabooed one.” Mrs. Sayen’s home still stands, now housing the Italian-American Club at the corner of West Wayne avenue and Conestoga road.

Programs of the meetings were usually in the form of papers written by members, and were on such diversified subjects as “Climatology,” “Materialism” and “Geology of the Surrounding Country.” There was also, for one program, the reading of a few extracts from a book called “Plumbing and Doctors.” Dr. Seneca Egbert gave a lecture on “Emergencies” and Dr. Wells one on “Nursing.” Mrs. Rohrer, author of the still well-known cook book, talked on “Puff Pastry and Ordinary Pastry.” The Rev. Mr. Keller, of old St. David’s Church, read a paper entitled “Conservatism ought to be the attitude of the Saturday Club.”

At the annual meeting held in April, 1887, it was voted to reduce the regular dues from three dollars to two. However, “all men becoming life members pay three dollars and this gives them a membership for life.” Apparently not many availed themselves of this opportunity, for at a meeting held a year later it was moved “that the money be refunded to those gentlemen who have paid their dues for the year, and that those who have assisted us be elected honorary members.” It would seem that Dr. Egbert and Mr. Abbott had evidently been the only ones who had availed themselves of the opportunity to join the Saturday Club.

(To be Continued)