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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Gray Matters: A Page From the Past

Monday, February 23, 2009

Recently, at the time of the death of my friend, Doris Roseen, I was reminded of the now defunct Marcus Woman's Club and the many years we spent together as active members of that rather remarkable organization.

The General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC) was founded near the turn of the 20th century, and was instrumental in many social changes nation-wide.

Locally, it was equally effective. Our club met every two weeks, September through May. A program committee established a theme and assigned related topics to be presented by the members at each meeting. Preparation for those programs took time and research and most did a fine job, coming up with presentations, which were educational and interesting.

As I sorted through a collection of old program books the other day, I recalled once again, the broad range of topics we covered over the years. There were in-depth stories of far-off lands--their geography, their people, their culture.

Many times individuals who had personally visited one of those places would be invited to speak.

Their special insights were most enjoyable. Every once in awhile a whole year's programs would be devoted to book reviews. In addition to the information they offered, there was the subtle incentive for members to increase the amount of time spent reading.

That, too, recalls one of the Club's earliest accomplishments, the establishment of the public library. It is a fact that a majority of municipal libraries across America were founded by federated clubs, so it may well be that today's fine library system owes as much to GFWC as it does to Andrew Carnegie.

Actually, if my memory is correct, the Carnegie libraries were built only in county seat towns. I believe it is that original Carnegie structure which lies at the heart of today's fine Cherokee

Public Library. As a result of that restriction, it was then up to local organizations to create libraries in the rest of the county's towns. Here, it was the Marcus Woman's Club that got the job done. Although that was accomplished well before my time, I've heard many wonderful stories about those tireless efforts.

The club year always began with a fine covered dish luncheon, and the next special event was the Christmas party. That meeting would be held in the home of a member who had a piano which was certain to be in tune.

Several of our members were accomplished pianists and others sang well enough to lead our version of a carol fest, which those events often turned into. Another annual affair was the Husband's Party. Those were gala occasions, sometimes with imported entertainment, other times at special locations in the area. Do any of you remember 'The Old Barn" near LeMars?

What a great place for a Square Dance! I should do a bit more remembering and some additional research and then devote an entire Gray Matter to that amazing site.

All of this strikes me as the sorts of things that should never be forgotten. One sometimes wonders why, in spite of the proliferation of time-saving devices and modern conveniences, today's women seem to have less and less time for some of those activities that really enriched our lives.

Meanwhile, I am grateful for my late friend and fellow Woman's Club member whose memory inspired this nostalgic trip back in time.