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.”