By Joan Baxter
The Woman’s Club of Xenia is the oldest club organized for women in Greene County, and one of the earliest in the United States. Established in 1867, the club became well-known after Helen Hooven Santmyer’s book “… and Ladies of the Cub” achieved national recognition.
In the late 19th Century, the club membership was limited to 25 members, with more women desiring to join, but unable to do so because of the limited membership. Many of those who were interested were daughters of the members of the Woman’s Club. Their mothers wanted them to have the same opportunities as the older group, so helped them form what became known as the Junior Woman’s Club. In this way the younger generation would be able to enjoy similar activities and programs. When the Woman’s Club expanded the membership, some of those daughters left the junior club to attend meetings with their mothers.
The members of the newly named Junior Woman’s Club proceeded to set up their organization in a manner similar to the Woman’s Club. The new club was established in April 1901 with eleven members. They quickly elected officers, and those officers met to plan the program for the coming year. The little club grew quickly with membership by invitation only.
The same year the club was established it affiliated with the State Federation of Woman’s Clubs and in 1904 also joined the national organization. The club was honored to host the State Federation meeting in Xenia one year.
In 1934, the state asked the Junior Woman’s Club to change its name, since a Junior Woman’s Club had been organized on the state level. The ladies complied and selected a new name for their organization. It was, and is still called the “Tuesday Literary Club.”
Later they decided to withdraw their membership from the state and national levels because it seemed that those organizations were more interested in raising funds for their own organizations,and not for the purpose of literary pursuit. It was decided that funds would be used to better advantage by giving to the Greene County Historical Society, the Greene County District Library and other local non-profit organizations.
When the organization was established, the ladies agreed to meet fortnightly at 2:30 p.m. At that time, three papers were presented at each meeting. Although it was strongly suggested that the papers be limited to about 20 minutes, there were those who were so eager to present their paper, that often the time limit was ignored, thus by the time the third paper was read, the group was understandably rather restless.
Topics varied from one year to the next, depending on the subject chosen by the program committee. In the early years, classical writings such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Bronte and other well-known authors were discussed. Topics have included the study of Ohio, as well as other states and nations, music, arts and more.
Some of the ladies preferred to memorize their papers, or prepare the papers in such a way that they would be able to present the entire program without notes. One of the more talented ladies always presented her paper in the form of poetry. After each paper is presented, there is always an opportunity for the members to discuss the content, adding comments and asking questions.
In time, the fortnightly meetings gave way to a monthly meeting. Sometimes this shortened the length of the meeting, but other times, gave the presenter more opportunity to expound on her subject.
After World War II, there was a heated discussion about the starting time for the meeting. Finally, it was agreed that the meetings would start promptly at 2 p.m., rather than the previous 2:30. That rules holds true to this day, as the meeting begins promptly as the clock strikes two.
The club was always very formal, with the ladies wearing hats and gloves to the meetings. They were addressed by their formal names – Mrs., Miss – and not by given names. Proper decorum was expected of each member. It is a lovely tradition which continues to this day, though when away from the meeting, most of the ladies call their members by their given names and hats and gloves are not part of the usual attire.
Now, the ladies meet in the homes of the members. The hostess provides the meeting space, but is not required to present a paper during the year. No refreshments are served. One of the ladies stated that this is food for the mind not the body.
The club members enjoy an annual luncheon in the spring, and at this time the program committee presents the topic for the coming year, along with the program books and assignments.
The club constitution states “The object of this club shall be the promotion of intelligent, methodical thought and study in a program arranged by a committee of three members appointed by the president.”
Joan Baxter is a local resident and long-time historical columnist.