THE LITERARY STUDY AND PHILANTHROPIC WORK
OF SIX WOMEN'S CLUBS IN DENVER,
Gail Marjorie Beaton
B.S., University of Colorado, 1976
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Department of History
This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by
Gail Marjorie Beaton
has been approved for the
Mark S. Foster
Date ~7 | 2-& 1 ?7
Beaton, Gail Marjorie (M.A., History)
The Literary Study and Philanthropic Work of Six Womens Clubs
in Denver, 1881-1945
Thesis directed by Professor Mark S. Foster
This thesis presents a history of six womens clubs in
Denver from 1881 to 1945. Members of the General Federation of
Women's Clubs and the Colorado Federation of Women's Clubs, the
six were the Denver Fortnightly Club, the Monday Literary Club,
the Round Table Club, the Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club, the
Woman's Club of Denver, and the North Side Woman's Club. Founded
between 1881 and 1895, the clubs became a focal point for literary
study, reform work, and philanthropic activities for over sixty-
The focus of this thesis is the evolution of the clubs
from foundations in literary study to reform and philanthropic
activities in the Progressive Era to war service work during the
two world wars. This study emphasizes the manner in which club-
women developed their skills and widened woman's traditional sphere
as well as the importance of the clubs to Denver and to the club-
women themselves. Although the earliest clubs were founded for
literary study, the skills the women gained enabled them to be
successful in reform and philanthropic work. Never abandoning
literary study, the clubwomen initiated social welfare projects.
Those later adopted by municipal and state governments included
a day nursery, traveling library, night schools, and the Old
Ladies' Home. In addition, clubwomen supported laws regarding
child labor, minimum wages, eight-hour work days, school health
inspections and conservation. By 1914, club leaders, having
proven their ability to amass and mobilize large numbers of women
for a cause, were appointed to state and local commissions to
direct the war effort of women. Aware of the changing needs of
their nation and community, the clubs shifted emphasis to war-
related activities for the Red Cross and Council of Defense.
Women knitted and rolled bandages, visited and entertained
soldiers, and bought and sold war bonds. After the war, the
clubwomen actively participated in the 1920s Americanization
campaigns through extensive study of civics and assimilation work
among immigrants. In the 1930s, the clubs increased their aid
to the needy as the Great Depression left so many Americans
suffering. The women returned to war service work in the 1940s.
I would like to thank Professors Mark S. Foster, Myra L.
Rich, and Thomas J. Noel for their help, support, and guidance.
The time and energy they have given me in the preparation of this
thesis is greatly appreciated.
I would also like to thank the staff in the Western
History Department, Denver Public Library, for their cheerful aid
and words of encouragement in my research.
Finally, I would like to thank Mrs. Zelma (Zimmie) Rupp
for granting two interviews and opening her home and the records
of The Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club to me.
I. INTRODUCTION ............................................... 1
II. THE EARLY YEARS, 1881-1900 15
III. THE PROGRESSIVE YEARS, 1900-1914 60
IV. THE WORLD WAR I YEARS, 1914-1919.......................... 80
V. THE PROSPERITY AND DEPRESSION
YEARS, 1920-1940 97
VI. THE WORLD WAR II YEARS, 1941-1945 .................... 120
VII. THE TWILIGHT YEARS AND CONCLUSION..................... 139
The womans club movement In the United Sates was initiated
in 1868 by journalist Jane Cunningham Croly (Jennie June) who
founded the Sorosis Club in New York City and by reformer Caroline
Severance, who founded the New England Woman's Club in Boston.^
Between 1868 and 1900, white middle and upper class women banded
together to form women's clubs in cities across the nation. In
1890, Jane Croly called upon the clubwomen to form a national
organization of women's clubs for the benefit of all. In April,
^Karen J. Blair, The Clubwoman as Feminist: True Womanhood
Redefined, 1868-1914 (New York: Holmes and Meier Publishers, Inc.,
1980), 15, 31.
The General Federation of Women's Clubs was founded for
the clubs of white women. However, black women also formed clubs
to work for the moral, economic, social, and religious welfare of
women and children in their communities. Gerda Lerner, in The
Majority Finds Its Past: Placing Women in History (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1979), discusses the beginnings of local
black clubs in the 1890s and the founding of the National Associ-
ation of Colored Women in 1896. Organizers included Ida B. Wells,
Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, and Mary Church Terrell, who said
that the success of the white women's club movement influenced
them. In Colorado, the Federation of Colored Women's Clubs of
Colorado was founded by Mrs. E. Ensly of Colorado Springs in 1903.
The Denver club established the George Washington Carver Day
Nursery at Twenty-fourth Avenue and Clarkson Street in 1916. This
was later taken over by the Community Chest and then by the Mile
High Chapter of the United Way. See Papers of the Colorado
Colored Women's Clubs in the Western History Collection at the
Denver Public Library.
the General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC) was organized to
"bring into communication with each other the various clubs
throughout the world, in order that they may compare methods of
work and become mutually helpful." By the height of the Progres-
sive era in 1914, the GFWC had grown to a membership of nearly two
million American women who were active on numerous committees of
reform and philanthropy, such as legislation, public health,
conservation, household economics, civil service, and child labor.
The first women's literary clubs were formed primarily for
intellectual stimulation. The women studied classical literature,
languages, history, and art, as well as socialized with each other
The clubs became, in Mrs. Croly's words, "the middle-aged women's
universities.""* Meetings were held weekly or fortnightly for two
hours in the evening or afternoon between the months of October
and June. These months, when school was in session, allowed the
women the opportunity to meet, free of immediate motherly duties.
There were no club meetings or activities in the summer because
some families left town for extended vacations.^ To join, a
Jane Cunningham Croly, The History of the Women's Club
Movement in America, 1868-1898 (New York: Henry G. Allen and
Company, 1898), 98.
^Edward T. James, ed., Notable American Women (Cambridge:
Belknap Press, 1971), 410.
^Some Denver families sent their children back East to
school (see letters between Margaret Patterson Campbell and her
daughter Katharine in the family papers of Thomas M. Patterson at
candidate had to be sponsored by two or more members and approved by
a large percentage of the executive committee or by the entire club.
Because most sponsors had informally sounded out other members
before a formal nomination, it was rare that a candidate was
rejected for membership.^ In the early years of the club movement,
criticisms were often directed towards the clubs for being pro-
woman's suffrage. In order to avoid that label, many clubs did two
things: chose innocuous names and forbade discussion of suffrage
A city library was usually the first project the clubwomen
became involved in, many times in answer to their own need for books
Norlin Library, Western History Collection, University of Colorado,
Boulder). The minutes of the Monday Literary Club for 1903 to
1908 mention that the first meeting back in October was for "vaca-
tion story" papers. Trips mentioned were to California, Europe,
Vermont, and just "back East."
^Blair, 453. An examination of the Denver clubs' minutes
bears out this generalization: all prospective candidates were
favorably voted on in the meeting of the board of directors or
executive council and then voted in by the general membership. The
only evidence to the contrary is that in the Denver Fortnightly
Club some names for membership were dropped and never brought to a
vote because these women smoked!
Blair, 23. Croly discouraged discussion of suffrage and
religion so that a harmoniods environment would exist for unity and
to challenge injustice. In Denver, it is recorded in club minutes
that, at its founding, the Denver Fortnightly agreed that suffrage
would not be discussed. Innocuous names meant including the day
of the week the club met, the site, or other such methods. The
name for Croly's club, Sorosis, refers to plants with an aggrega-
tion of flowers that bore fruit (Blair, 21). Names for Denver
clubs include: Sphinx Club, Clio Club, Entre Nous, Fourth Avenue
Club, Friday Morning Club, and Reviewers Club.
for their club papers and discussions. Around the same time (the
1870s and 1880s) several clubs began studying the living and working
conditions of the poor, public and private charities organized to
help them, and laws concerning women. From this, the clubwomen
evolved a permanent concern for the poor and the need for reform
legislation. With the organization of the GFWC in 1890, the work
of the womens literary clubs was standardized with reform and
philanthropy becoming a permanent part of all club work. Newer
clubs were formed as "departmental clubs" which stressed philan-
thropy rather than beginning as literary clubs like the older
(usually pre-1890) clubs. Standardization was thus achieved: the
General Federation and state federations would establish permanent
committees or departments. Each of these would choose themes or
particular projects to work on. The individual clubs then would
take their cue from these, adapting the national and state projects
to the specific needs of their communities."^ But it was the early
literary study and discussions which had laid the foundation for all
that followed. The sense of sisterhood, increased self-confidence
Mildred White Wells, Unity in Diversity, Volume II (Wash-
ington, D.C.: General Federation of Womens Clubs, 1975), 3: "Some
four-fifths of the public libraries in the United States were
started originally by women's clubs and many clubs still maintain
the only public library in their community."
"^Interview with Mrs. Zelma (Zimmie) Rupp, Twenty-Second
Avenue Study Club, Denver, Colorado, 15 August 1986. Mrs. Rupp
is a past president, current president, and member of this club
in public speaking, in researching, and in their writing, skills
enabled the women to forge ahead. The leaders of the GFWC encour-
aged all member clubs to pursue some form of philanthropic project
among the poor in their communities and to lobby for the passage
of all forms of reform legislation in their state legislatures.
The reform spirit flourished in the GFWC and its member clubs from
1890 to 1914. At that point, the First World War arrived, bringing
new problems and concerns for clubwomen. For the next thirty years,
the events on the national and international scenes demanded more
of the clubwomen's efforts.
Just as they had answered the needs of the poor, the disad-
vantaged, the needy, and the women in their communities during the
Progressive era, the clubwomen shifted their priorities during the
following thirty years to answer the changing needs of the nation at
large and of their communities. During the two World Wars, this
meant buying and selling war bonds, participating in Red Cross
membership and blood donor drives, opening their homes to members
of the armed forces, sponsoring service canteens and recreational
activities, collecting "luxury" items for the servicemen and women,
conserving food and fuel, knitting and rolling bandages and medical
supplies, and visiting military hospitals. Where there was a need,
there was a club or clubwoman ready to answer the call to service.
The same was true during the Great Depression. Even though many of
the women and their families were also adversely affected by the
Depression, they tried to help those less fortunate and harder hit
than themselves. A common project for clubs at this time was the
"Pantry Shelf," a community food supply for the needy.^ And yet
still many clubs continued their literary studies and presentation
of papers. The needs of the world, the nation, and the community
altered, but did not end many clubs' original objectives.
In Colorado, the woman's club pattern was much the same as
for the rest of the nation. However, because of the youthfulness
of the state itself, the first woman's clubs were not organized
until the early 1880s. In the capital city of Denver, The Fort-
nightly Club and the Monday Literary Club were the first to be
organized. In subsequent years, these two were joined by other
women's clubs, including the Clio, the Reviewers, Woman's Club,
Round Table, Twenty-Second Avenue Study, North Side Woman's,
Sphinx, and the Tuesday Morning Class. In 1895, the four oldest
clubsThe Fortnightly, Monday, Round Table, and Clioand the
rapidly growing Woman's Club issued the call to other clubs in the
state to organize a state federation. Although many of these
clubs were already members of the GFWC, the organization of the
Colorado Federation of Women's Clubs (CFWC) brought greater
"^Yearbook of the North Side Woman's Club, 1933-1934.
Neata M. Preiss, The Colorado Federation of Women's
Clubs Seventy-fifth Anniversary Edition, 1895-1970 (Denver:
Colorado Federation of Women's Clubs, 1970), 12.
Jeannette Bain, History and Chronology of the Colorado
Federation of Women's Clubs, 1895-1955 (Denver: Colorado Feder-
ation of Women's Clubs, 1955), 6.
cooperation among the state clubs, more opportunities for leader-
ship roles, more effective lobbying, and greater visibility and
publicity for the clubs and their leaders. By 1899, the 108 state
federated clubs and their 4,700 members were participating in
committee work in education, travelling libraries, music, art,
school legislation, and the preservation and restoration of the
cliff and Pueblo ruins in southwest Colorado.
Through the Progressive era, the Colorado women's clubs
labored for a wide variety of reforms at the local, state, and
national levels. The list of. achievements is impressive indeed:'*"*
in conservation, the establishment of the Mesa Verde National Park,
the State Bureau of Forestry, Florissant Fossil Beds National
Monument, and legislation for the preservation of clean air and
clean water, and the protection of the Bristle Cone Pine areas. In
education, the clubwomen were instrumental in passing legislation
for a teachers minimum wage and for the establishment of kinder-
gartens, a state department of education, and a scholarship fund.
In addition, the clubs and their members promoted county libraries,
night schools, vocational training for girls and boys, and courses
in Domestic Science. In a similar vein, the work of the fine arts
committees included art and music education and the Penny Art Fund
which collected money to promote the work of local artists.
In the area of health, free baths, school nurses, and
simpler and more practical dresses were advocated by the Colorado
federated clubs. One famous clubwoman, Dr. Florence R. Sabin, was
instrumental in the successful fight for what is now known as the
Sabin Health Laws in the state of Colorado.
The welfare of women and children was a special concern of
the women's club movement in the United States, and Colorado was
no exception. Mother's compensation, an eight-hour workday for
women, and the child labor amendment were measures strongly lobbied
for by the clubwomen. In addition, pensions for the blind, the
Workshop for the Adult Blind,and equal pay for equal work were
supported by the women of the state during the Progressive period.
For the youth of the state, the federated clubs achieved
success in working with the Juvenile Detention Home and Judge
Benjamin Lindsey's Juvenile Court. The establishment of a Chil-
dren's Bureau and codification of children's laws can be attributed
to the work of the clubwomen.
These philanthropic activities continued after 1914, but
with Denver and the nation immersed in the two World Wars and the
Great Depression, these projects took a back seat to war service
and emergency aid to the needy. In Denver, six clubs, known for
their earlier philanthropic activities, took the lead in this new
work. The members of The Fortnightly, Monday Literary, Twenty-
Second Avenue Study, Round Table, Woman's Club, and North Side
clubs plunged into war work as did clubwomen across the nation.
In Denver, this meant belonging to the Red Cross, the Liberty Bond
Drives, the Council of Defense, and various other committees and
agencies organized at the time. Individually and collectively,
Denver clubwomen were a major reason why Denver was called "one
big United Service Organization center.
Although the accomplishments of the GFWC, the CFWC, and
the individual women's clubs are extensive, little has been written
on women's clubs or their leaders since Jane Cunningham Croly's
History of the Club Movement in America, 1868-1898 (New York: Henry
G. Allen and Company, 1898). This detailed study of the GFWC and
its member clubs from 1868 to 1898 carefully documents the many
reforms and philanthropic projects undertaken by women's clubs
which have been virtually ignored by later historians. The clubs
themselves have published their own histories but these, while
dwelling on their many achievements, lack an in-depth analysis.^
The only full-length analysis of women's clubs to date is The
Clubwoman as Feminist: True Womanhood Redefined, 1868-1914 (New
York: Holmes and Meier Publishers, Inc., 1980) by Karen J. Blair.
^"Eight Denver Centers Celebrate USO's Third Anniversary,"
Lowry Rev-Meter, 11 February 1944, 8.
^Club histories include: The Woman's Club of El Paso by
Mary S. Cunningham (El Paso: Texas Western Press, 1978); History
of the New England Woman's Club From 1868 to 1893 compiled by Julia
A. Sprague (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1894); and Progress and
Achievement: A History of the Massachusetts Federation of Women's
Clubs, 1893-1962 (Lexington, Massachusetts: State Federation of
Women's Clubs, 1962). The Colorado Federation has published two
This study deals primarily with the relationship of women's clubs
to the development of a feminist movement in the late nineteenth
century, rather than with the significance of the reform achieve-
ments of American clubwomen. Blair's study, however, shows how
clubwomen carved out public roles for themselves between 1869 and
1914. The editors of Notable American Women (Cambridge: Belknap
Press, 1971), a four volume biographical dictionary which includes
entries on Jane Cunningham Croly and other leading clubwomen, also
lament the scarcity of studies on these women:
Among them [possible areas of new investigation] could be
mentioned . the rise and subsequent decline of the
woman's club movement. Indeed, the whole role of women's
organizations in American social history has been largely
unexplored. . Little attempt has been made to put
into historical perspective the post-Civil War Association
for the Advancement of Women, the proliferation of local
clubs that began with the New England Women's Club in
Boston and Sorosis in New York: the International Council
of Women, organized in 1888; and the General Federation
of Women's Clubs.
Although written in 1971, the words of these editors still hold
true, with the exception of Blair's study. Full-length books
which briefly mention women's clubs are: William O'Neill's And
Everyone Was Brave: The Rise and Fall of Feminism in America
(Chicago: Quadrangle, 1969); Eleanor Flexner's Century of Struggle:
The Women's Rights Movement in the United States (Cambridge:
Belknap Press, 1975); Mary P. Ryan's Womanood in America From
Colonial Times to the Present (New York: New Viewpoints, 1975);
Anne Firor Scott's The Southern Lady; From Pedestal to Politics,
1830-1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970); and
Barbara Berg's The Remembered Gate: Origins of American Feminism
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1978) The only other work
on women's clubs is Mary Louise Sinton's "A History of the Woman's
Club of Denver, 1894-1915" (Master's thesis, University of Denver,
1980), which chronicles the work and leaders of that large depart-
mental club. Sinton, while greatly adding to the existing knowledge
of club work, limits her study to the Progressive era and does not
follow this club through the years of the two World Wars and the
Great Depression. There is, then, a need for further study of
women's clubs, especially in the West and for the period of time
beyond the Progressive era.
This thesis presents a study of six Denver women's clubs
affiliated with the GFWC and the CFWC from 1881 to 1945. It does
not attempt to cover the activities of all clubs in Denver which
were members of the GFWC or CFWC, but merely to provide an analysis
of six of the earliest, most enduring clubs. Nor does this study
examine other women's organizations during the same period. As
Robert H.. Wiebe (The Search for Order, 1877-1920 (New York: Hill
and Wang, 1967)) and other historians have stated, this was a
period of intense organization on the part of men, women, business,
and labor. In Denver alone, there were over a hundred organiza-
tions solely for women. These included professional organizations
(The Denver Womans Press Club founded in 1898 by Minnie J.
Reynolds, Minnie Peck Hall, Reva Sapp, Caroline Sheridan, and
Helen Marsh Wixson to advance and encourage women in literary
work); philanthropic groups (The Junior League established in
1918); religious or ethnic (National Council of Jewish Women
and Der Deutsche Damen); fraternal or patriotic (Order of Eastern
Star, Daughters of the American Revolution); and collegiate
(American Association of University Women and Smith College Club
of Colorado). A study which would do justice to all of these
organizations is beyond the scope of this thesis. Jerome C.
Smiley in A History of Denver (Denver: The Times-Sun Publishing
Company, 1901) briefly discussed the short history of a few of the
clubs in Denver, but, he, too, could not begin to discuss all of
the women's clubs or organizations in Denver:
"Woman's Press Club Has Its Heritage, Too," Rocky
Mountain News, 23 November 1980, 14, 44.
Scribblers Club, comp., "The History of the Junior League
of Denver, 1918-1948" (Denver: Junior League of Denver, 1948).
Established in 1918, the Junior League's purpose is "to foster
interest among its members in the social, economic, educational,
civic and cultural conditions of their community and to make more
efficient their volunteer service." In Denver, the league's work
includes the Needlework Guild, Junior League House, Arts Commit-
tee, Children's Theatre, Rude Park Community Center, and Children's
The need for such a study is great and would immensely
add to the knowledge of Denver and the role of women in her history.
This study modestly hopes to increase one's understanding and
knowledge of only a small segment of women's valuable contribution
Of womens clubs and associations, under what may for
convenience be termed the modern dispensation, there has
been, as we have heretofore remarked, a surprising and
significant development in recent years, in Denver and
elsewhere in Colorado. The statistics of "the club move-
ment" reveal the interesting facts that in number of
womens organizations and in aggregate membership there-
in, Colorado, in proportion to population, surpasses
every other State in the Union; and that Denver, in pro-
portion to population, not only leads in Colorado, but
is in advance of every other city in the Union. A recent
commentator on this interesting state of affairs thought
it worth while to declare that "for a city of its size
Denver is club mad." But in this view of the situation
he would probably find himself without support among the
thousands of Denver women who are members of one or more
of these helpful organizations.23
Thus, certain criteria were established which a club had to meet
to be included in this thesis. These were: (1) founded between
1880 and 1900; (2) a member of the GFWC and the CFWC; (3) a
literary study group or departmental club; and (4) in existence
through the 1970s. Of the six chosen, fiveThe Fortnightly, the
Monday Literary, Round Table, Twenty-Second Avenue Study, and
Woman's Clubwere charter members of the CFWC; the sixth, the
North Side Woman's Club, was not a charter member but did join the
state and national federations in 1895. As some of Denver's oldest
clubs, the six provided much of the leadership, direction, and
energy for the club work of the period. Many of the reforms and
services rendered in the city were initiated by these clubs. It
is hoped that this thesis will broaden the current knowledge of
Jerome C, Smiley, A History of Denver (Denver: The
Times-Sun Publishing Company, 1901), 784-85.
Colorado women reformers and the work of the clubwomen during
this volatile period as well as show that community involvement
and reform did not end with the Progressive era for the clubwomen
THE EARLY YEARS, 1881-1900
By the 1880s, Denver was an established western city.
Within two decades, it had been transformed from a collection of
makeshift shacks into the hub of a rapidly growing region. Two
major causes for this growth were the booster efforts of the
leaders of Denver and the presence of the railroads. Community
leadersmen like William Byers, Fred Z. Salomon, John Evans,
Charles and Luther Kountze, and David H. Moffathad consistently
publicized the virtues and advantages of the city and the Colorado
region. At their urging, the state legislature had created and
funded a Board of Immigration in 1872, whose job it was to encour-
age migration to Colorado.^ In addition, Evans, Moffat, Luther
Kountze, and Bela Hughes were instrumental in building the first
railroad from Denver to Cheyenne to connect with the transcon-
tinental line. Following that success, other rail lines were
built into and out of Denver until by 1890 there were 4,176 miles
of track in the state.
As Denver became the hub of Colorado's rail network,
wholesalers, warehousers, and merchandisers congregated there.
^"Lyle W. Dorsett, The Queen City: A History of Denver
(Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company, 1977), 57.
Smelters also moved into town contributing to the city's growth.
With this growth in the decades before 1900, came problems. Many
men had arrived in Denver with no money, hoping to strike it rich
in the mines. Some abandoned families in the town on the plains
as they headed into the mountains and the gold fields. Others had
fallen ill before having a chance to make money as retailers and
suppliers. Thus, intense poverty existed in the Queen City by
1860. But the power elite of Denver, intent on profit and growth,
did little to ease the burdens of those they had encouraged to
immigrate. In 1860, William N. Byers, editor of the Rocky Mountain
News and chief city booster, persuaded the city government to raise
a stipend for the poor and by 1862, the county levied a tax for
relief but it was never enough. City and county authorities tried
to push the burden off to each other. Many people felt that the
indigents were "unworthy" of any aid. But Elizabeth Byers, the
wife of William Byers, felt differently and in 1860 organized the
first charity devoted solely to poor relief. The Ladies Union
Aid Society, as it was called until 1874 when it was reorganized
into the Ladies Relief Society, healed the sick, tried to help
deserted children find homes, and solicited contributions of food,
clothing, and money. Ultimately, it established a kindergarten, a
day nursery, a free clinic, a home for destitute women and chil-
dren, and a home for the aged.
In contrast, instead of relief organizations, the citys
leaders were intent upon establishing private male-only clubs
for their own benefit. These were places to socialize and discuss
business. Established in 1880, the Denver Club was similar to
those in other cities for the power elite and a logical step in
this era of organizations and consolidation."* Their wivesmany
of whom were involved in the Ladies Relief Society or church
organizationsalso felt the need to broaden their knowledge and
horizons. They, too, took their cue from the East.
On 13 April 1881, eleven women met at the home of Ella
S. Denison (Mrs. Charles) to organize a woman's literary club on
the model of the Fortnightly Club of Chicago to which Mrs.
Denison's mother had belonged. Most of the women present lived
in the neighborhood of Tenth and Lawrence streets while Mrs.
Denison lived at Fourteenth and Champa. Besides the hostess, the
other charter members of this newly formed Fortnightly Club of
Denver (DFC) were: Susan Riley Ashley (Mrs. Eli M.), Mrs.
David D. Belden, Mary L. Brown (Mrs. Junius F.), Helen Coy (Mrs.
Nathan B.), Mrs. Albert R. Dyer, Margaret Gray Evans (Mrs.
John), lone Hanna (Mrs. John R.), Mrs. John V. Hilton, Lucy E. R.
Scott (Mrs. George L.), and Lavinia Spalding (Mrs. John F.).
Within the next few months, Mrs. 0. B. Super and Mary Kountze
(Mrs. Charles) joined. The first minutes describe the purpose
of the club as "a union of congenial minds for study and discus-
sion and for the furtherance of good in practical ways."7 The
first officers were Margaret Evans, president; Hilton and Ashley
vice-presidents; and lone Hanna, secretary-treasurer.
Between 1881 and 1900, the club met on the second and
fourth Wednesdays from October through April, presenting a yearly
total of twelve papers on any subject. Following a members
reading of her paper, an open discussion ensued, but without
unkind words: "This seems to prove that intelligent study makes
one tollerant [sic] of another's views, even when not agreeing with
them." Topics given during the first two decades of this club
include: "Womans Influence Through Literature" by Helen Coy;
"A Plea for Some Neglected Points in the Education of Women" by
Ella Denison; "French Art" by Eliza Routt; "Industrial Education"
by Rachel Hallack; and "The Ideal American Citizen" by Susan
Ashley in 1891. From an examination of the full list of papers,
Mary Caroline Bancroft, "A Retrospective Sketch of the
Fortnightly Club, 1881-1888" (Denver, 1888). In a few cases, the
first name of a member was unavailable from club records and the
city directories. In those cases, the woman will be identified
by "Mrs." preceding the first and last name of her husband. All
unmarried women's names will be preceded by "Miss" as was the
custom during the years discussed.
Susan Riley Ashley, "A Very Brief Chronicle of the
Denver Fortnightly's First Thirty-five Years" (Denver, 8 November
one can see that the women combined topics of general interest
and of the classics in art and literature with relevant issues
of the era, in particular Ella Denison's paper of 1896. In "How
Can the Labor Problem Be Solved," she discusses conciliation and
arbitration, profit-sharing, and cooperation as possible solu-
Like the Denver Fortnightly Club, the Pleasant Hours Club
was organized in 1881. This club, renamed the Monday Literary
Club (MLC) in 1889, was founded by Mrs. Ermina D. Ferris.
Meeting every Monday, these clubwomen studied and discussed the
works of well-known authors on a variety of subjects. Early
members included Ferris (the first president), Leonora Snyder
Bosworth (Mrs. Joab 0.), Alice C. Hood, Ida Winne Ballantine (Mrs.
George W.), Helen Marsh Wixson (Mrs. Elmer A.), and Miss Ada
Bingham.^ The initial limit of members to twenty was later
increased to twenty-five before being finally set at thirty. After
organizing and joining the CFWC as a charter member, the Monday
Literary Club grouped their studies into art, philosophy, education,
literature, and science. In the 1890s, American men and women were
concerned about imperial expansion, business consolidations, and
municipal government. While their husbands, in board meetings and
Yearbooks of the Denver Fortnightly Club, 1895-1900.
^Mabel Mann Runnette, "In a Changing World, Volume I"
at the Denver Club, debated these issues, the clubwomen prepared
and gave papers on "Protection and Free Trade," "Industrial
Problems," "Socialism," "Social Regeneration," "The Trends of
Education," and "Municipal Reform." On 19 December 1898, the
Monday Literary Club held a debate on the question of annexation of
the Philippines. Mrs. D. C. Packard argued in favor of annexa-
tion on the grounds that the growth of a nation is in proportion to
her territorial expansion. Mary J. Smith, in opposition, reasoned
that the alien, inferior population of the islands were non-
assimiliable. Contrary to many clubs, in 1897 the MLC discussed
suffrage at one of their meetings. It is worth noting, however,
that this was three years after Colorado women had received the
right to vote.
The third club, the Round Table Club (RTC), was founded
in 1889 with twenty-five charter members. Founded, led, and
dominated for thirty-two years by Mrs. Alice Polk Hill, Colorados
first poet laureate, the RTC concentrated on the presentation and
discussion of three members' papers at each Friday meeting. An
examination of the earliest extant yearbooks available shows that
each year had a theme and that papers were presented relevant to
that theme. For 1897-98, the theme was the French Revolution.
Paper topics included Louis XIII, "The Struggle for the Austrian
Succession," "Constitution of 1790-91," and "The Reign of Terror." 13
^Yearbooks of the Monday Literary Club, 1893-1900.
"Minutes of the Monday Literary Club, 1893-1903."
The RTC joined the GFWC in 1893 and the CFWC as a charter member
in 1895, but its early literary beginnings always dominated.
Unlike some clubs, the RTC had no mention of "good works" in its
stated purpose ("for the mutual improvement of its members in
history, literature, art, science, and the vital interests of
the day"). By the mid-1930s, the club withdrew from the two
federations. Charter members included Mrs. J. W. Bonney,
Josephine Seifried (Mrs. Frank), Sue T. McCrary (Mrs. Napoleon),
Virginia M. Shafroth (Mrs. John F.), Nettie C. Jacobson (Mrs.
Charles H.), and Mary F. Fisher (Mrs. William G.)."^
Unlike the three earlier organizations which had begun
as literary clubs, the Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club was orig-
inally founded as a suffrage organization. In October of 1893,
the Twenty-Second Avenue Non-Partisan Equal Suffrage League was
organized as an auxiliary to the Colorado Equal Suffrage Associ-
ation (founded in 1870 after Carrie Chapman Catt and Susan B.
Anthony visited this region at the request of the wife of Governor
Edward McCook). Louise Tyler, state organizer, and lone T. Hanna
aided in the organization. Meetings were held weekly, presided
over by the president, Nettie E. Casper (Mrs. Stanley M.).
Addresses to the clubwomen were made by suffragists Miss Martha
Pease and Frances Belford (Mrs. James), Hanna, and Carrie Lane
"Minutes of the Round Table Club,
Chapman. The work of the TwentySecond Avenue Non-Partisan Equal
Suffrage League and other state suffrage organizations proved
successful as Colorado's suffrage amendment passed on 7 November
1893. Ten days later, a meeting of the League was called to
discuss a further course of action. It was voted to study Fiske's
Civil Government of the United States, to report on the leading
political questions of the day, and to study Shattuck's Parlia-
mentary Rules. In March and April of 1894, the members attended
a series of lectures on civil government given by Chancellor
William F. McDowell of the University of Denver, under the
auspices of the Colorado Equal Suffrage Association. During the
summer and fall, the members devoted their time to activities
relevant to the November election. Due to their efforts, their
own lone Hanna was elected to the school board.^
Having succeeded in winning suffrage rights for Colorado
women and becoming educated voters, the members voted to dissolve
the league at their meeting on 28 December 1894, and form, in its
place, the Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club with nineteen charter
members. Twenty former members of the league did not join the
new club, which decided to study Hatch's Constitution and Civil
Government of Colorado, and current events."^ Meetings were held 16
Mary E. Hiatt, "History of the Twenty-Second Avenue Study
^Ibid. There is no mention in the history as to why some
members of the suffrage league did not join the study club.
twice a month. By 1895, a constitution and bylaws were adopted
as well as the motto "Neglect not the Gift that is in Thee"
(I Timothy 4:14, proposed by Mrs. Mahlon V. Johnson). Programs in
the first five years included "Principal Cities of the World and
Current Events," "Current Events and Colorado Laws Relating to
Women," and "The United States." Also during these early years,
four charter members resigned and were replaced by nine new members
to bring the total club membership to twenty-five, its limit.
Among these twenty-five were two mothers and daughters: Louisa
Hiatt (Mrs. R. J.) and her unmarried daughter, Mary E., and
Christine Duling (Mrs. David) and her daughter, Maude D. Weisser
(Mrs. William B.). Mary Hiatt never married, was the club
historian, and the last surviving charter member. She died in the
1940s. Maude Weisser, who joined in 1898 with her mother, died
in the 1960s after sixty-plus years of active membership! Also
among the charter members was Miss Ella S. Fee, who remained an
active member until her move to California at which point she
remained an honorary member until her death in 1930.
By 1894, there existed in Colorado considerable interest
in forming a large departmental club (a club which was subdivided
into departments such as reform, philanthropy, and art and
literature) similar to those found in eastern cities.
Yearbooks of the Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club, 1895-
Yearbooks of the Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club, 1895-
Ella Denison, the founder of the DFC, led the drive along with
twelve other members of the DFC, MLC, and RTC. In March, these
women announced a public meeting to organize the Woman's Club of
Denver (WCD). Two hundred clubwomensuffragists, reformers, and
working womenmet in April 1894 and organized the club. Sarah
Platt, the club's first president, presided over the early
meetings held at the YMCA at Champa and Eighteenth streets.
Divided into the departments of Home, Education, Philanthropy,
Art and Literature, Reform, and Science and Philosophy, the club's
membership increased rapidly, reaching 1,000 members within a
decade. When the four older clubs met to issue the call for a
state federation of women's clubs, the WCD was included because it
was the largest club in the Denver area (most literary clubs
limited their membership; the departmental clubs did not).
Due to the departmental nature of this club, reform and
philanthropic work dominated its activities although literary study
was pursued. In fact, the Department of Art and Literature had the
most members for several years and every department did papers or
had speakers and lecturers to their meetings. A sampling from the
early years shows: "Kitchen Gardening," "Obstacles to Improvement
in Our Schools," "Charity Organizations in the United States,"
Cora V. Collett and Lisbeth G. Fish, History of the
Woman's Club of Denver, 1894-1930 (Denver: The Woman's Club of
Australian Ballot System," "Geography and Early History of
Holland," "Beginnings of Life," "Responsibilities of the Citizen,"
"New Occupations for Women," "Madrid," "Egyptian Archeology," and
"Defects of the Present City Charter."
The last of the six clubs, the North Side Woman's Club
(NSWC), benefited from the popularity and success of the earlier
clubs. One hundred sixty-six women signed the charter roll in
1895 which listed Mrs. Sarah A. Wolff as founder and temporary
chairman. The organizational meeting was held at 155 Gray Street,
the home of Frances M. Wheeler (Mrs. Charles). A constitution was
drawn up and Martha A. B. Conine (Mrs. John) was elected president
with Sarah Wolff, first vice president. Arbuckle Hall was chosen
as the club's meeting place. Departments, modeled on the GFWC
and CFWC plans, were established. These were: Home and Education,
Literature and Science, and Reform and Philanthropy. The following
year, the Department of Social Affairs was added, but not before
the death of Sarah Wolff, to whom the club owed its origin.
Although not a charter member of the CFWC, the North Side Club
joined as soon as possible and thereafter faithfully the federa-
tion's guidelines. Between 1895 and 1900, the Department of Home
and Education under the guidance of Sarah Irish, Millie Johnston,
and Mary L. Parks, reflected the issues of the period. Studied 22
Yearbooks of the Woman's Club of Denver, 1895-1900.
^"Minutes of the North Side Woman's Club, 1895-1896."
were scientific cooking, home life in other countries, dietetics,
practical education, manual training programs, methods of disci-
pline, and the more responsibility of mothers in heredity. The
increasing opportunities for women in higher education was
addressed in 1899 with the question, "Does higher education make
our girls unfit for wifehood and motherhood?" Members of the
Literature and Science Department led by Mary Chase, Harriet
G. R. Wright, and Jeannette M. Starr, discussed American humorists,
poetry, the Crusades, and writers from different American regions.
Advances in scientific endeavors were studied: heredity, elec-
trical science, and aerial navigation. For 1898-99, the depart-
ment's theme centered on Germany. Topics included German liter-
ature, the Thirty Years' War, Frederick the Great, Goethe, the
Franco-Prussian War, and German universities. Although smallest
in number, the Department of Reform and Philanthropy furnished
many of the studies and initiated much of the work which would
become so important to the club and its members. The range of
topics studied was wide: from local charities to economic issues
("Single tax," "Women as wage earners," "Money and its functions,"
and "Does the great concentration of capital benefit the masses?")
to political questions of the day ("Initiative and referendum,"
"Civil service," "Prominent socialists," and "Does a colonial
policy benefit us or the world?"). These discussions naturally
Yearbooks of the North Side Women's Club, 1895-1900*
led to agitation and reform and philanthropic work on the part of
the women in the North Side Women's Club and other clubs.
. . the club movement served as a kind of forcing area
which propelled them into a world of enlarging horizons,
new experiences, and new contacts. ... to the extent
that a woman moved into leadership posts and traveled to
state or even national conventions, she came into contact
with a powerful mix of ideas and activities.25
Between the 1880s and the end of the First World War,
Denver clubwomen initiated, directed, and supported numerous
reforms and philanthropic endeavors. It is important to know more
about the women themselves and their attitudes toward their club
and sister members before discussing their many accomplishments.
From an examination of club records, city directories and news-
paper obituaries, several conclusions can be drawn. The Denver
Fortnightly Club began with thirteen members in 1881. Of these
thirteen, all were currently married to or widows of businessmen,
physicians, educators, public servants, and religious leaders.
No occupations for the women themselves were listed, probably
because none of them worked outside the home at the time (though
Eleanor Flexner, Century of Struggle: The Woman's
Rights Movement in the United States (Cambridge: Belknap Press,
The minutes and yearbooks of the clubs often indicate the
occupation of the member, her husband, her address, and the date of
joining the club. City directories, located at the Denver Public
Library, list the occupations of the women, their husbands, and
addresses. Newspaper obituaries located at the Denver Public
Library were used to glean biographical data on the women and
their husbands as were general books on Colorado and Denver his-
tory. These include: Dorsett's The Queen City, James Alexander
Semple's Representative Women of Colorado, and Elinor Bluemel's
One Hundred Years of Colorado Women.
some of them might have at one time). Of particular note was
Ella Denison's husband, Charles, who was a well-known tuberculosis
physician; Susan R. Ashley's husband, Eli M., had been secretary
of state under Territorial Governor John Evans; Lavinia Spalding's
husband, John F., was Bishop of Wyoming and Colorado; Margaret
Gray Evans' husband was Colorado's second territorial governor;
and Mary Kountze's husband, Charles, was co-founder of the Colorado
National Bank. Among the women, Ella Denison, Margaret Gray Evans,
and lone Hanna had long histories of involvement in city affairs.
Ella Denison was born in Northamptom, Massachusetts, on 14 September
1855. Educated at the Farmington School in Connecticut, she
was a director of the Denver Orphans' Home, a founder of the
Denver YWCA in 1887, an organizer of the Civil Service Reform
League and City Improvement Society, and president of the Old
Ladies' Home in 1900. Margaret Evans, the second wife of John
Evans, was a member of the Ladies Union Aid Society, an organizer
For this study, businessmen shall include real estate
dealers, investment brokers, shop owners, bank clerks, tellers,
and founders, salesmen, railroad engineers, managers, and develop-
ers, and officers of corporation and companies. These then were
not blue collar workers. In the field of law, attorneys and
judges will be combined under one heading. In a like manner,
educators will mean teachers and educational institutions' offi-
cials. Public servants will refer to public officials and
employees of an elected or appointed nature. A final note:
although cognizant of the fact that wives and mothers dÂ£ work
and very hard at that, the term working woman will refer to those
working outside of the home at a paid job. Those with elected
or appointed positions of a non-monetary type, such as school
board member, committee or agency work, will be noted but not
counted in the tally.
of the Ladies Relief Society in 1874, and president of the Denver
Orphans' Home. lone Hanna, avid suffragist, was the state
suffrage organizer and led the successful fight for Colorado's
equal suffrage amendment in 1893.
By 1916, the club had had seventy members. Of the thirty-
seven who were no longer with the club, eighteen had died, thirteen
had moved, and six had resigned. Although this indicates stability
and long-term membership (by the end of the First World War 36
perceftt of the current members had been members over twenty years
and 41 percent less than ten years), club minutes imply a lack of
participation and attendance at meetings on the part of a signif-
icant number of women. In 1898-99, six new members revived the
club. These six were: Kate Gray Hallack (Mrs. Charles), Miss
Anna L. Wolcott, Helen H. Benedict (Mrs. Mitchell), Adele Brown
(Mrs. J. Sidney), Edith Carlton (Mrs. James J.), and Mrs. Sidney
M. Culbertson. Of the six new members, Anna Wolcott is better
known. The sister of Edward Wolcott, United States Senator (1889-
1901) and builder of Wolhurst, and of Henry Roger Wolcott,
Republican politician and state senator, Miss Wolcott graduated
from Wellesley College before becoming the principal of Wolfe Hall
in Denver (1892-1898). The same year she joined the DFC, she
founded Wolcott School as a "high-class college preparatory school"
with courses in English, mathematics, history, science, foreign
2 Q \
Carla Swan Coleman, "The Turn of the Century" (Denver,
languages, art, and literature. Located at the corner of Marion
Street and East Fourteenth Avenue, the school averaged three
hundred students a year in its four levels (kindergarten, lower
and upper primary, intermediate, and sub-academic which was eighth
grade). Not only did the students receive a quality academic
education but were also exposed to the social issues of the day:
the school program for 1909-10 included the lecture, "Relation of
Playgrounds to Child Labor" presented by Miss Jane Addams of
Chicago's Hull House. Graduates of the Wolcott School included
the daughters of Denver's elite, many of whom would later join
the city's women's clubs as their mothers had done. E. Frederica
LeFevre Bellamy (daughter of Eva LeFevre, MLC president), Estelle
Kramer Sudler, and Carla Swan Coleman (daughter of Ella Denison
and a graduate of Bryn Mawr) are three who joined the DFC. Miss
Anna McClintock, also a Wolcott graduate, joined the MLC in 1921.
In 1913, the DFC again faced problems with members not
attending meetings. The minutes for that year record Harriet
The year was an unusual one, as most years are. The Presi-
dent was unusual in being present at every Club and Board
meeting. The only really usual thing was the absence of
about one-third of the membership, not always the same
individuals, but the same proportion. 30
The Wolcott School, Number 12 (Denver, 1909).
This, of course, made it extremely difficult to elect new members
to the club as the necessary quorum was often not met. Another
problem was smoking. In Coleman's words,
During the reading of the minutes for the years previous
to World War I, I saw the pages where several times names
proposed for membership in the club had been stricken
from the minutes. Rumor hath it that these ladies smoked.
When she was of age Fortnightly did not smoke and even
when she became forty years old still Fortnightly did not
Finally, in 1915, the election of Anna Morse (Mrs. Bradish) and
Gertrude Taussig (Mrs. Claude) saved the club "from the brink of
oblivion." It appears that the older members, after two to
three decades of literary study and the presentation of papers,
were ready to turn over the reins to newer and younger members.
But still the bonds between the women and to their club were
very strong. A charter member, Susan Ashley, wrote in 1916 after
thirty-five years of club membership:
Of the true and lasting friendship of Fortnightly members,
another is to speak, but I must add that the close and
loving sympathy that binds this sisterhood together, is to
me, one of its greatest assets, its strongest charms.^3
And in 1937, Harriet Campbell commented on the pull of the club
for one charter member, Mary L. Brown (Mrs. Junius) over that of
her husband's wishes: 31
Ashley, p. 17.
You cannot know the feeling which the word "club" evoked
in men and many women of that time. It was so disagree-
able to Mr. Brown that his wife withdrew from the Fort-
nightly. She must have found some potent argument for
return, for she was again shortly an active member.
Mary Brown is not listed as presenting a paper in 1890 or 1891,
presumably when Mr. Brown put his foot down, but is listed after
Thus, from 1881 to the end of the First World War, the DFC
remained fairly stable in membership numbers while actual attendance
and participation lagged until the introduction of new members. The
make-up of the members remained much the same: married women of the
middle or upper class. New members of note after 1900 include:
Margaret Patterson Campbell, daughter of United States Senator and
Rocky Mountain News owner and publisher, Thomas M. Patterson, and
Katharine Grafton Patterson, herself a member of the WCD, the DFC,
and the Colorado Equal Suffrage Association. A graduate of Denver's
East High School and Bryn Mawr College, Margaret Patterson married
Richard Crawford Campbell, the business manager of the Rocky
Mountain News. Following in her active mother's footsteps,
Margaret Campbell belonged to the DFC, the MLC, the WCD, Der
Deutsche Damen, Woman's Press Club, Drama League of America, and
the Colorado Branch of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae.
Another daughter of a club member was Elisabeth Spalding who
joined in 1916. An accomplished watercolor painter, Miss Spalding
Harriet Campbell, "There Were Giants in Those Irre-
claimable Days" (Denver, 1937), 5.
was one of the founders of the Denver Artists' Club and the presi-
dent of the DFC from 1925 to 1926. She died in 1954, having never
married. Her younger sister, Sarah Griswold Spalding, joined the
DFC in 1940. An 1896 graduate of Vassar College, Sarah Spalding
was assistant head mistress of Madeira School for over twenty years
before retiring in 1939. Besides being DFC president from 1947 to
1948, she devoted a great deal of time and energy to St. John's
Cathedral and St. Luke's Hospital. The daughter of Alberta Bloom
Iliff (Mrs. William, the cattle king), Miss Louise Iliff also joined
her mother in the Fortnightly. Like the two Spalding sisters, she
The make-up of members in the Monday Literary Club was
similar to that in the DFC. Of the twenty-three members listed
in the 1893-1894 yearbook (the earliest extant book), seventeen
were married to businessmen and one each to a lawyer, a teacher,
and a physician. Occupations for two husbands were unavailable.
One woman, Mary Barker Bates, was a physician. The lone single
woman, Miss Ada Bingham, had no occupation listed in the direc-
While the MLC remained at or near its membership limit
of twenty-five and then thirty from the 1880s through the First
World War, attendance was as much of a problem as it was for the
DFC. Between 1881 and 1889, average attendance was twelve. How-
ever, in October of 1887, the five meetings had only an average of
five members present. Reasons given in the minutes were sickness,
bad weather, and members being out of town. In the 1890s,
average attendance rose slightly to sixteen women. One possible
reason for the poor attendance besides those given in the minutes
may be the fact that the club had meetings every week. Most clubs
only met once or twice a month.
By 1918, there were thirty active members and three life
members. Life members had all the privileges of active membership
(voting, attendance, etc.), but none of the work! These three and
the dates they joined the club were: Frances Belford (1886),
Simeon B. Smith (1892), and Dr. Mary Barker Bates (1889). Dr.
Bates was born on 16 December 1843, in Sandy Hill, New York. After
graduating from Fort Edward Collegiate Institute and Northwestern
Women's College, Miss Barker received her medical training at the
Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. She married George C.
Bates, an attorney, in 1877. He died in 1885, four years after
she opened her Denver office. Her philanthropic activities include
serving six years on the Denver board of education and helping to
establish one of the first medical dispensaries in Denver. She
was a staff member of the Florence Crittenton Home (for unwed
mothers), the Cottage Home, and Woman's Hospital. Dr. Bates
remained a life member of the MLC until her death in August of
1924. Of the husbands of active members, eighteen were businessmen, 35 36
"Minutes of the Monday Literary Club, 1887."
The minutes of the club for 1908 to 1926 have been lost
and therefore no comparision with later years is possible.
seven were physicians, five were lawyers, and one was a public
servant. Many women who joined in the 1890s and the early 1900s
were not only wives of the city's leaders, but well known in their
own right as community leaders and doers. When she joined in
1907, Sara Taylor Arneill (Mrs. James Rae) was already a member
of the Colorado Equal Suffrage Association, the Colorado Chapter
of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Drama League,
the Government Science Club, and the National Congress of Mothers
of which she became vice-president in 1910. This organization
preceded the Parent-Teacher Association of later years. Mrs.
Arneill and her physician husband lived on "Capitol Hill" (1055
Pennsylvania Street). Joining five years after Sara Arneill was
Margaret Patterson Campbell of the DFC and WCD. Nettie E. Caspar,
a graduate of Lake Erie College, was a founder and president of
the Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club, a member of the MLC since
1896, and president of the MLC from 1907 to 1908. This renais-
sance woman was an artist, on the board of the YWCA, a member of
the Archaelogical Institute, and past president of the State Board
of Charities and Corrections.
The wives of prominent attorneys with their own claim to
fame were Mary E. Dunklee (Mrs. George F.), Eva F. LeFevre (Mrs.
Owen), and Phoebe McAllister (Mrs. Henry). Mary Dunklee graduated
from St. Johnsbury Academy (Vermont) before becoming a teacher in
Trinidad. After her marriage in 1883, she taught at Gilpin School
in Denver. Later she wrote two books of poetry, was an MLC
president (1908-1909), and a member of the WCD. Eva LeFevre, an
1871 graduate of Ohio Wesleyan, belonged to the Artists' Club, the
Denver Woman's Press Club, and the American Association of Univer-
sity Women. She had done previous philanthropic work through the
Ladies Relief Society and had served as the first secretary of the
Board of Miss Wolcott's School. Phoebe McAllister's husband,
Henry, was an attorney and counsel for the Denver and Rio Grande
Western Railway Company. Phoebe, "Gussie" to her friends,
belonged to the Reviewers' Club and Woman's Union for Political
Action as well as serving as MLC president from 1921 to 1922. The
McAllisters' home at 1880 Gaylord is now designated an official
Denver Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic
Places as the Pearce-McAllister Cottage. Of Dutch Colonial archi-
tecture, the house is presently a museum operated by the Colorado
Equally well known in the city as she was in the state was
Virginia Morrison Shafroth, the wife of John Franklin Shafroth,
city attorney (1887-1891), member of the House of Representatives
(1895-1905), state governor (1909-1913), and United States Senator
(1913-1919). Virginia, after graduation from Howard Payne 37 39
Colorado Historical Society, "Pearce-McAllister Cottage"
(Denver: The Colorado Historical Society).
"Mrs. John Franklin Shafroth," Rocky Mountain News,
19 January 1941, 7-8.
College, taught school in Missouri prior to marrying in 1881.
That same year, she helped organize the RTC. Later club member-
ships include the MLC, Mittwoch, Daughters of the American Revolu-
tion, and the WCD.
Journalism was one of several professions which allowed
women a chance to combine making a living with reform or philan-
thropic work. Two members of the MLC were well known journalists
who became important in their efforts for women and children in the
state. Helen Marsh Wixson (Mrs. Elmer A.) was an established
magazine and newspaper writer when she joined the MLC, WCD, and the
Denver Woman's Press Club in the 1890s. Her work soon brought her
to the attention of others and in 1909 she was elected State
Superintendent of Public Instruction, a position she held for four
years. Another writer was Helen Ring Robinson (Mrs. Ewing). A
graduate of Wellesley College, Helen taught at Wolfe Hall and
Wolcott's. As president of the Denver Woman's Press Club and the
MLC, and as a speaker for the United States Suffrage Association,
Robinson gained many supporters and admirers. In 1912, she was
the first woman to be elected to the state senate. In that posi-
tion, she became known as the spokeswoman of the women and children
in Colorado in the legislature.
^"Mrs. Virginia Shafroth Dies at Age of 95," Rocky
Mountain News, 1 July 1950, 12. 8
^"Helen Marsh Wixson," Rocky Mountain News, 23 April 1925.
"Helen Ring Robinson: First Lady Senator," Republican,
8 November 1912, 10.
Thus, by 1918, one-third of the current members of the MLC
had been members over twenty years and two-thirds had been members
over eleven years, demonstrating again the dedication of the club's
members. Although a few were considered "working women," the
majority of the women were married, did not work outside the home,
belonged to two or more clubs, and were involved in philanthropic
As with the other two clubs, the Round Table Club consisted
of the wives of businessmen. In 1895, only two of the twenty-two
members were single (no occupations listed). Twenty-two years
later, there were still only two single women of the thirty-one
total; however, they were not the same women as in 1895. One,
Miss Brent, was a schoolteacher; no occupation was listed for Miss
Alverta Ellis, although her mother, also a member, was married to
a Denver and Rio Grande Railroad conductor. This would indicate
that Miss Ellis was from a middle class family and did not need
to support herself at that time (she lived at home).
While 85 percent of the husbands in 1895 were businessmen,
only 47 percent were in 1918. Lawyers, instead, had increased from 43 44
Denver City Directory, 1895. Records for the Round Table
Club are scanty. The earliest extant yearbook is for 1895-1896
and, as with all the club's records, only the first name of the
husbands is given. While many clubs made it a practice to list
both the husbands' and the woman's first name, the RTC through
1979-1980 (the latest yearbook available), still did not list the
Ibid. Through 1940, the directories listed no occupation
for Miss Ellis. In the 1940 directory, Mr. Henry Ellis, her father,
is listed as with investments.
none in 1895 to eight in 1918 (27 percent of the total membership
in 1918). As one would expect from the lack of attorneys and
physicians in 1895, the husbands were not well known in the city.
But this changed by 1918. Horace W. Bennett (Cripple Creek
developer), Clayton C. Dorsey (of Hughes and Dorsey law firm),
John Shafroth (Colorado politician), and John L. Stearns (president
of German-Ameriean Life Insurance Company) all had wives who were
members of the RTC.
Although Mrs. Alice Polk Hill, founder and president from
1889 to her death in 1921, was the dominant force in the RTC,
other women were recognized as club leaders, too. College gradu-
ates included Josephine Seifried (Mrs. Frank), Virginia Shafroth,
Florence McCrea (Mrs. Harry), Emma Miller, (Mrs. Arthur Scott), and
Mrs. Fred C. Shaw. Mrs. Hill herself graduated from an academy in
Kentucky. In Colorado, she was a charter member of the RTC, WCD,
Woman's Press Club as well as a member of the State Historical
Society, the DAR, the Daughters of the Confederacy, and the League
of American Pen Women. This versatile woman taught music, was a
Denver newspaper writer and correspondent, wrote two books, and
was named Colorado's first poet laureate in 1919.
Perhaps it was the magnetism of Mrs. Hill's personality or
the variety of papers presented each meeting which brought so many
members to attend. Minutes from 1891 to 1921 list an average of
Alice Polk Hill Papers, Denver.
twenty-one members at each meeting. This is approximately 70
percent of the active members in comparison to the 33 and 40
percent of the DFC and the MLC. The reason for such high attend-
ance cannot be explained by the repeated entrance of new members
since 1918 over 60 percent of the current members had belonged
for over twenty years. There are, unfortunately, no subjective
comments recorded in the club minutes regarding this phenomenon.
The fourth and last small club was the Twenty-Second Avenue
Study Club. It, too, limited its membership. In 1898, its twenty-
five members were wives of businessmen, lawyers, and a pastor.
Two were single with no listed occupations. In 1918, at its
limit of thirty, the clubwomen were again the wives of businessmen.
The most stable of any of the clubs, the 22ASC had a waiting list
for much of its early history. For over five years no members
left the club voluntarily, although four died and three moved from
the city and had to resign. Then, beginning in 1903, five of the 47 48
^"Minutes of the Round Table Club, 1891-1921."
The two single members were Miss Ella Fee and Miss
Mary E. Hiatt. Miss Fee moved to California but never married.
Miss Hiatt was a life-long active member. No occupation was ever
listed in the city directories for her, however. In an interview
with Mrs. Zimmie Rupp (20 May 1987), a member since 1926, she
stated that she never knew of any occupation for Miss Hiatt.. Miss
Hiatt, however, felt that she knew Mrs. Rupp well enough to entrust
to her the brown dress she had worn the day the Twenty-Second Avenue
Study Club was founded (Interview with Mrs. Rupp, 15 October 1986).
Interview with Zimmie Rupp, Twenty-Second Avenue Study
Club, Denver, Colorado, 15 October 1986.
original members resigned over the next five years. After 1907,
only death removed any of the original members from the rolls, the
last one in 1964. Such dedication meant that most of these women
could claim decades of membership. While no mention is made of the
degree of participation of these women, a number of them were
regularly officers or board members, which would seem to indicate
a fair amount of involvement. Nettie E. Casper was founder and
president from 1893 to 1924 at which time declining health forced
her to step down. Maude Weisser, another charter member, was
elected acting president, but the women's loyalty to Nettie Caspar
entreated them to retain her as their honorary president. Her
death in 1932 was met with heartfelt grief and a sense of loss by
the five surviving charter members and the rest of the club and
The experiences of the two departmental clubs, the Woman's
Club of Denver and the North Side Woman's Club, differed from those
of the smaller clubs. With no membership limits, the clubs were
free to grow as much as possible. The WCD reached 1,000 within a
decade, the NSWC 150.^ But the turnover was very great. By
1918, fewer than 10 percent of the members in each club had been
members over twenty years as compared to the other clubs which had
36 percent (DFC), 30 percent (MLC), 60 percent (RTC), and 50 percent
Collett and Fish.
(Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club). Possible reasons for drastic
increases and decreases (none are given in the club minutes)
include: personal leadership, a new clubhouse, and alienation due
to the size of the club and the number of members in each depart-
ment. Between 1894 and 1899, the WCD president was Sarah Platt
Decker, a woman of immense personal magnetism and energy. Born in
1852 in Vermont, Sarah Sophia Chase graduated from high school in
Holyoke, Massachusetts. She and her second husband, James H.
Platt, moved to Denver where he died in 1894. In 1899, she married
Westbrook S. Decker, a well-known member of the Colorado bar.
Although she took a vigorous part in the 1893 suffrage campaign,
it was in the womens club movement that she achieved her reputa-
tion. As the first WCD president, she directed the club in its
early social welfare work and impressed the GFWC delegates at the
1896 biennial convention held in Denver. In 1898, she was elected
vice president of the GFWC, refused the presidential nomination in
1902, but accepted it in 1904 (her husband had died in 1903), and
served two terms (1904-1908).
Her vigor, sense of humor, careful judgement, and easy
platform manner all aided her efforts as president to cen-
tralize and strengthen the federation. In 1906, she per-
suaded the board of directors to establish a Bureau of
Information to form a closer link between the federation
and individual clubs. Too few clubs, she observed, were
availing themselves of the guidance in social service
programs which the federation could furnish. Her addresses
to the federation, as preserved in the minutes of its con-
ventions, reveal a keen sense of the practical, an ability
to cut to the core of a problem and devise workable solu-
tions. Illustrative of her incisiveness was her terse
reply to the president of a New York musical club who had
complained that its members were bored with singing to
themselves: "Try to sing to others. My busy day.
Excuse brevity." (A year later, after the club had sung
in hospitals, orphanages, and schools, President Decker
received a warm letter of thanks.
Her talents also brought her recognition and honors outside
the club work. In 1908, she was the only woman among the national
leaders invited to President Theodore Roosevelt's conference on
the conservation of natural resources. In Colorado, she was a
member of the Board of Charities and Corrections (1898-1912), the
state civil service commission, the Denver Civic Federation, and
the Woman's Public Service League. Mrs. Decker died suddenly
in 1912 while attending the GFWC biennial convention. On the day
of her funeral in Denver, city and county offices closed at noon
and flags were flown at half-mast, attesting to the love and admir-
ation she had earned from her fellow citizens and sister clubwomen.
The memorial held in her honor later that summer was attended by
members of the City Federation, the Public Service League, the
Daughters of the American Revolution, the Colorado Federation of
Women's Clubs, the Equal Suffrage Association, the Women's
Christian Temperance Union, the Woman's Relief Corps, and the
^Edward T. James, ed., Notable American Women (Cambridge:
Belknap Press, 1971), 451-52.
Woman's Club of Denver.A branch of the Denver Public Library,
The Sarah Platt Decker Branch Library at 1501 Logan Street is
named in honor of the suffragist, clubwoman, and reformer.
Under such a leadership, it is no surprise that the WCD
grew so rapidly in its first years. In 1902, when the WCD opened
a new clubhouse, membership again grew dramatically. However, a
large number of members can also be a detriment as President
Laurena Senter reported in 1938:
One of our major problems has been the necessity of
giving new members an active part in the Club. There has
been, in the past, a tendency of refusal to appreciate the
ability of new members coming into the Club, with the
result that other Clubs have received potential leaders
and our Club's failure to do so, lost excellent material
for future offices and chairmanships. This administra-
tion has made an earnest effort to correct this condition
and make each member feel she has a place in the Club.-^
While smaller, the NSWC also experienced fluctuations in member-
ship until the early 1900s when membership stabilized around one
hundred for a decade.
While these two clubs had a majority of members who were
wives of businessmen, lawyers, physicians, public servants,
educators, and religious leaders, they also, especially the WCD,
had a large number of reformers, suffragists, public servants, and
working women. Reformers in the WCD included Elizabeth Byers who
founded the Ladies Union Aid Society and Working Boys' Home;
"^"Memorial Planned," Republican, 5 August 1912, p. 10.
^Yearbook of the Woman's Club of Denver, 1938-1939.
Margaret P. Campbell, Eliza F. Routt, and Elizabeth Iliff Warren
who helped form the Denver Orphans Home in 1872; and Alice Hale
Hill (Mrs. Nathaniel P.) who founded the Denver Free Kindergarten
Association in 1890.
Suffragists who were charter members of the WCD include
lone Hanna, Katharine Patterson, Mary C. C. Bradford, Ellis
Meredith, Minnie J. Reynolds, Ella Adams, Eliza Routt, Harriett
Scott Saxton, and Helen Marsh Wixson. These women had been instru
mental in the Colorado fight for suffrage and continued to lend
support to other states and to the national suffrage organizations
One of these, Mary C. C. Bradford was president of the National
Women's Suffrage Association in 1901. A teacher and writer, she
later served as Colorado's Superintendent of Public Instruction
and as president of the National Education Association. Minnie J.
Reynolds was also the first president of the Woman's Press Club
formed in 1898.
The WCD also brought together many of the women public
office holders in Colorado. These women dominated the offices of
the Board of Control of the State Industrial School for Girls,
the Board of the State Home for Dependent Children, the State
Superintendency of Public Instruction, the State Assistant
Librarianship, and the Colorado State Board of Charities and
Corrections. Amelia Eddy, Thalia P. Rhoads, Minerva C. Welch,
and lone T. Hanna served on the Board of Control of the State
Industrial School for Girls. Susan Ashley, Frances K. Thatcher,
and Laura P. Coleman served on the Board of Lady Managers of the
World's Fair from 1891 to 1895. Helen Wixson served as Assistant
State Librarian from 1894 to 1896. Dr. Minnie C. T. Love (1893-
1895), Sarah Platt Decker (1895-1901), Dr. Eleanor Lawney (1901-
1907), Nettie E. Caspar (1905-1907), Ella S. Williams (1907-1915),
and Anna G. Williams (1907-1915) served on the Board of Charities
arid Corrections. Non-charter members of the WCD who held public
office prior to 1900 were Angenette J. Peavey (State Superin-
tendent of Public Instruction, 1893-1895), LouiseL. Arkins and
Sarah O'Bryan (Board of Control of the State Industrial School for
Girls), and Dora E. Reynolds, Louise Arkins, Anna Cochran, and Luna
Thatcher (Board of the State Home for Dependent Children).These
women, well-placed for reform work, were to be instrumental in the
work of the WCD and the other Denver Clubs in the last years of
the nineteenth century and into the Progressive era.
Among the two hundred charter members of the WCD were
twenty-six working women, including several professionals. The
Denver City Directory of 1894-1895 lists eighty women physicians,
two newspaper reporters, one writer, one lecturer, one milliner,
three county clerks, two college professors, and eight public
^Officials of Denver and Colorado, 1858-1933 (Denver: The
Denver Museum, 1934).
Mary Louise Sinton, "A History of the Woman's Club of
Denver, 1894-1915" (Master;s thesis, University of Denver, 1980), 24.
In 1896, there were 14 single women in the North Side
Woman's Club among the total membership of 163. Of this 14, there
is no occupation listed for 7 women, 5 were employed in business,
and 2 in education. By 1918, membership had stabilized at 125,
including 3 single women. ^ All of these North Side members lived
in the area first known as Highlands before it was annexed by the
City of Denver. As indicated in the Denver City Directory, the
majority of these North Side clubwomen in 1918 were the wives of
white collar or professional men.^
In summary, the vast majority of clubwomen from the 1880s
to the First World War were from the middle and upper class of
Denver society. This correlates with,other studies. Except in
the case of the two large departmental clubs, members remained in
the clubs for decades. In contrast, the larger clubs showed a
great deal of turnover in membership. Most women of the small
clubs were unemployed outside the home; in the WCD, on the other
hand, reformers, suffragists, public office holders, and working
women were brought together. The North Side Woman's Club most
closely followed the pattern of the smaller clubs.
^Yearbook of the North Side Woman's Club, 1917-1918.
Denver City Directory, 1918.
Karen J. Blair, The Clubwoman as Feminist: True Woman-
hood Redefined, 1868-1914 (New York: Holmes and Meier Publishers,
Inc., 1980), 15.
For the members, the bonds between their sister members
and the club were great. This can be seen in the length of
membership in a club or clubs and in remarks recorded in papers of
the members, their club histories, and club minutes. Resignations
submitted due to declining health or increased family obligations
were often rejected by the clubwomen in the hope that the member
would soon rejoin the club as an active participant. In the case
of a rejected resignation, the woman would be listed as an honorary
member until she could return to full participation. Other resig-
nations were accepted with "deep regret." Oftentimes the woman
kept in touch with her club through the years. Miss Fee, in
California, wrote to her old friends in the Twenty-Second Avenue
Study Club and they in turn sent her a yearbook and history
annually. In this manner, she retained her non-residence status
with the club. A member who died was honored with resolutions which
were then sent to the woman's family. Upon the death of Mrs. Alice
Polk Hill, who was so well known among the clubwomen, the Monday
Literary Club forwarded a copy of their resolution to the Round
Our city has lost one of its representative and forward
looking citizens. All Clubwomen have lost one of the
JNancy F. Cott, The Bonds of Womanhood: "Women's Sphere"
in New England, 1780-1835 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977),
^"Minutes of the Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club, 1910-
Pioneers in the club movement that has meant so much
to the women of the world, and we who knew her lost a
dear and valued friend and companion.65
Members of the club she had founded and led for so long joined in
grieving for their "beloved leader and friend" of "lovable and
The Denver Fortnightly Club chose to honor their deceased
members with memorial books which were presented to the Denver
Public Library, long a special recipient of the club's charity.
The requirements for the memorial book are that it was to be
something the library wants, must be beautiful, and on a subject
of interest to the deceased. In memory of Elisabeth Spalding, the
gift was a book of her watercolors; for Mrs. William Spalding,
it was "The Overland Diary of James A Pritchard" as edited by Dale
Finally, the clubs and their members interacted with one
another. Some women, especially those who would be the leaders of
reform and philanthropic work, were members of more than one club.
The women attended the same churches and socialized through their
husbands and children. If there were serious problems, jealousies,
^"Resolution of the Monday Literary Club," 4 October
^"Resolution of the Round Table Club," 21 September
^Mellicent Van Riper, "Book Presentation of the Denver
Fortnightly Club" (Denver, 17 November 1959).
or tensions, no records can be found. The clubs themselves held
yearly guest days to which other clubs were invited and often held
joint meetings when a particular speaker was in town. In 1901, the
MLC accepted an invitation from the WCD for a joint meeting in
April. On 1 November 1911, the secretary of the 22ASC read an
invitation to the club to meet at the WCD to take part in the
suffragist parade celebrating California's victory.^ The WCD,
with its own large clubhouse, was often the site for these gather-
* * *
Between the 1880s and 1900, the clubwomen of Denver,
awakened to the troubles about them through their research and
study methods, built upon the social welfare work begun by some
of their members in early years. Although not successful in all
of their endeavors, the women did make headway and laid the
foundations for future success in the Progressive years.
With their origins in literary study, the clubwomen very
early on recognized the city's need for a public library. In 69 *
This is what one would expect from the backgrounds of
these women. In addition, many clubs simply recorded the business
of the meetings and not subjective comments or the exact nature
of the discussions. Subjective comments, when found, were only
of the positive kind.
"Minutes of the Monday Literary Club, 1893-1903."
^"Minutes of the Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club, 1910-
1924." Unfortunately, there is no record of the action taken by
January of 1885, the City Library Association forming committee was
composed of seven members, three of the four women of whom were DFC
members. These three were Ella Denison, Mrs. Mitchell, and Lucy
Scott.* 72 73 With the establishment of the Denver Public Library in
1889, the Denver Fortnightly Club began its tradition of presenting
the library with a memorial book in honor of a deceased club member.
Members in the Womans Club of Denver also saw the need for
books for clubwomen and the general public at large. Realizing
that many people did not have a library in their community, the WCD
began the Travelling Library project in 1896. Boxes of books were
sent all over the state by the WCD for free until the CFWC took
over the project. Under the CFWC, federated clubs donated boxes of
books, usually in a past president's honor. Early directors were
Minnie J. Reynolds and Julia V. Welles, who became nationally
known for her work on this project. In 1903, the state legislature
authorized Free Traveling Libraries with a one thousand dollar
appropriation. That year, sixty rural schools received chests of
books. The six Denver clubs actively participated in this pro-
ject which was the forerunner of bookmobiles. By 1921, the DFC
alone had donated eleven boxes of books for a total of 1,100 to
73"Minutes of the Denver Fortnightly Club, 1885-1886."
Neata M. Preiss, The Colorado Federation of Women's Club
Seventy-fifth Anniversary Edition (Denver: Colorado Federation
of Women's Clubs, 1970), 33.
Prior to the founding of the Colorado Federation of Women's
Clubs, the Monday Literary Club and the Denver Fortnightly Club
jointly signed a petition for the designation of the cliff dwell-
ings at Mesa Verda as a national park. For the next twelve years,
the individual clubs, the CFWC, and the GFWC lobbied vigorously
for this. Success finally came in 1906 as the Mesa Verde National
Park was created by the federal government. Later, additional
efforts would be made in conservation and preservation of our
natural and historical lands.
Both the WCD and the NSWC began Pingree Gardens in the
1890s.^ The purpose of these were to "keep aimless persons
continuously working and learning the value of self-support."
The Charity Organization Society (COS), an umbrella organization
of several private charities, provided the funds, tools, and seeds,
while the land was donated by Denverites.^ By 1899, seventy-
five families were using the WCD gardens.
Vigorously pushed for was the establishment of the State
Home for Dependent Children (1895) and the State Industrial School
^"""Pingree' s Potato Plan," Rocky Mountain News, 21 April
1895. Yearbook of the North Side Woman's Club, 1897-1898.
^Denver Times, 22 October 1899.
^Yearbook of the Woman's Club of Denver, 1900-1901.
for Girls (1899). Once founded, their boards of control were
dominated by the clubwomen of Denver (see Chapter I, the members
of the WCD). The first president of the industrial school was
Jane 0. Cooper, a member of the DFC and the WCD. Dora Reynolds
was on the board of the state home from its inception until her
death. She, too, was a member of the DFC. The other clubs in
the city and throughout the state supported these institutions
with contributions of money, supplies, entertainment, and magazines
Other institutions which drew the attention of the club-
women were the Newsboys' Union, the county hospital, the city jail,
the Florence Crittenton Home (for unwed mothers), and the Old
Ladies' Home which developed from the Ladies Aid Society. Each
of these were regularly reported on in club meetings and supported
through the years. In particular, the Old Ladies' Home has been a
favorite project of the clubs, many of which have furnished rooms
at the home and supplied magazine subscriptions.
The School of Domestic Science was begun by the WCD in
August of 1897. After studying methods of teaching kitchen-
gardening, or scientific housekeeping, and cooking, the club
Yearbooks of the Woman's Club of Denver, the Twenty-
Second Avenue Study Club, the North Side Woman's Club, the Monday
Literary Club, and the Round Table Club all show contributions for
these institutions in one form or another.
organized the school under the leadership of Annie G. Whitmore.
The classes in cooking and kitchen-gardening were taught by
members of the WCD to poor children in the Delgany and Colfax
districts, the People's Tabernacle, Haymarket Haven, and Cathedral
Missions. This became such a popular project that it became
independent of the club and even was able to set up an employment
bureau for its graduates.
In addition to the establishment of new organizations,
projects, and institutions to help the people of their community,
the Denver clubwomen supported existing groups. The Salvation
Army, the Recreation and Reading Rooms at the YMCA, the State
Industrial School for Boys, and Parson Thomas Uzzell's Mission
were also recipients of the generosity and labor of the federated
, , 84
ft ft ft ft ft
Although the clubwomen of Denver had, from the start,
widened woman's sphere, criticism were few. There are a number
of reasons for this general lack of hostility. First, the earliest
clubs were organized for literary study by middle and upper class
women who were married and had children. It would have been
difficult to paint these women as rabble-rousers or rabid
Rocky Mountain News, 24 October 1898.
Denver Times, 22 October 1899.
Dorsett, 115; and yearbooks of the Denver clubs.
destroyers of the status quo. The clubs were given innocuous
names, generally indicating the meeting day and/or purpose (i.e.,
Fortnightly, Monday Literary, Tuesday Musical). Discussion of
controversial topics such as suffrage and religion was forbidden,
at least until suffrage was a fact in Colorado:
Although a goodly number of the clubs members believed
in, and worked for the suffrage of women, it was tacitly
agreed not to write upon this subject, nor discuss it
in the club. But immediately after getting it, the club
invited Professor McDowell, chancellor of the University
of Denver, to give lectures on "The Duties of Citizens."
These were open to the public and paid for by the Denver
Thus, to all outward appearances, the clubs were "universities for
Second, the women thoroughly studied conditions, laws,
and possible solutions before presenting themselves to those in
control. Wisely, they asked prominent men, such as Professor
Willaim F. McDowell, governors, and university and institutional
officials, to their meetings to give lectures. In 1908, the
Reverend Thomas Uzzell and William Jennings Bryan were both guests
of the Womans Club of Denver. In 1914, the NSWC heard Judge
Benjamin Lindsey speak on the juvenile court, in 1916 on sociology.
In 1915, Mayor Robert Speer addressed the club on the topic of
Jane Cunningham Croly, The History of the Women's Club
Movement in America, 1868-1898 (New York: Henry G. Allen &
Company, 1898), 98.
'Yearbook of the Woman's Club of Denver, 1908-1909.
"Our City." That same year, Governor George Carlson addressed
the club. The men were often won over by the women's sincerity,
knowledge, and well-placed praise. So impressed were they with the
political acumen of Susan R. Ashley, that the state legislators
held a special evening session to hear her speak on the need for
a state home for dependent children after which that body voted in
favor of such an institution.
A third reason for their success was their choice of
causesthe rights of children, the aged, women, and the disad-
vantaged. Not until later did clubwomen turn their attention to
monopolies and boss politics. By slowly widening the domestic
sphere, the clubwomen were sure to offend fewer people.
Fourth, the women had the support of some the leading
progressive men of Colorado and Denver. John Shafroth, Judge
Lindsey, Thomas Patterson, and George Creel are but a few of the
women's supporters and co-reformers. The newspapers regularly
published a woman's section which included articles on the women's
clubs. These objectively stated the officers, meeting dates,
programs, and speakers and special events forthcoming. With so
many clubs in the metropolitan area, this section often ran several
pages. In addition, Thomas Patterson allowed the Woman's Club of
Denver to publish the 18.94 Christmas edition of the Rocky Mountain
Yearbook of the North Side Women's Club, 1913-1916.
News and keep the profits. City news was covered but the major
emphasis was on Denver womens clubs and the Colorado woman
suffrage campaigns of 1878 and 1893. Mary C. C. Bradford, Ellis
Meredith, Angenette Peavey, lone Hanna, and Sarah Decker gave
their views on municipal reform, manual training courses, gambling,
and the duties of clubwomen on reform and philanthropic work.
Yet no matter how meticulously, tactfully, and slowly the
clubwomen pushed for reform, they still met with resistance, and
in some cases, hostility. On the national level, ex-United States
president Grover Cleveland wrote an article in 1905 for the Ladies
Home Journal,criticizing the suffrage movement and the federated
To those of us who suffer periods of social pessimism,
but who, in the midst of it all, cling to our faith in
the saving grace of simple and unadulterated womanhood,
any discontent on the part of woman with her ordained
lot, or a restless desire on her part to be and to do
something not within the sphere of her appointed mini-
strations, cannot appear otherwise than as perversions
of a gift of God to the human race. These perversions
have made their appearance; . .91
Continuing, Cleveland insisted that the General federation of
Women's Clubs would mar home life, the community, and the nation
as women got into "the club habit ." Stating that "the best and
safest club for a woman to patronize is her home," the past
Yearbook of the Woman's Club of Denver, 1895-1896.
^Grover Cleveland, "Woman's Mission and Woman's Clubs,"
The Ladies Home Journal 22 (May 1905) :3.
president termed the suffrage movement "dangerous," and having an
undermining effect on wives' and mothers' characters.
Cleveland was not the only critic of the women's clubs.
Closer to home, Henry Buchtel, former governor of the state
(1907-1909), was quoted as saying that only the "dregs of woman-
hood" voted in Colorado and that mothers had to be driven to the
polls to vote. Adelle Bailey, WCD president, and Governor John
Shafroth disagreed with Buchtel's accusations, asserting that
women had had a positive effect on Colorado through the use of
Thus, from the 1880s to 1900, the Denver women's clubs
evolved from groups concentrating on literary study to organiza-
tions concerned with reform and philanthropic work. Very few
criticisms arose from their early work because the women were
careful and methodical in their efforts, and remained within the
sphere of domesticity, albeit widening it as they went. The
women's research and public speaking skills, honed through years
of study and presentation of papers, would enable them to step
confidently beyond the clubhouse to city hall and the state
legislature. Extending the boundaries of woman's sphere, the
clubwomen would bring vast changes to their community and state.
"Buchtel Again Vilifies the Women of His State," undated
newspaper article in Martha A. Bushnell Conine Scrapbook, 1896-
1910, located in the Western History Collection, Denver Public
In these early years of philanthropic work, the clubwomen only
planted the seeds. The true harvest of their labor in social
welfare would come in the Progressive years between 1900 and
THE PROGRESSIVE YEARS, 1900-1914
The arrival of a new century generated enthusiasm and hope
that many old problems could be solved in the coming years. In
the United States, this period, from 1900 to 1914, is commonly
referred to as the Progressive Era. During this time, men and
women began vigorously working for change. They wanted honest
government in the hands of the people rather than in the clutches
of Big Business. They favored social reforms that would make
life better for people in the cities and they supported improved
labor conditions for workers, especially women and children.
Abuses by Big Business and municipal government were graphically
portrayed by the muckrakers. Ida Tarbell's History of the Standard
Oil Company, Lincoln Steffen's The Shame of the Cities, and Upton
Sinclair's The Jungle, all appearing with the first decade of the
twentieth century, exposed the abuses which were present in Ameri-
can society. Awakened by these books, by numerous articles in
magazines and newspapers of the day and by their own work with the
city poor and disadvantaged, the progressives worked for change at
all levels of government. Their chief champion at the national
level was Theordore Roosevelt, U.S. President from 1901 to 1909.
His years in office brought to fruition a number of reforms
including the conservation of natural resources and legislation
providing for meat inspection and pure food and drugs.
In Denver and Colorado, the progressive movement joined
together professionals in the fields of law, education, medicine,
and business with members of muncipal agencies, civic organiza-
tions, and, of course, womens clubs. At the state level, John
Shafroth and Edward Costigan would become well known for their
reform work. Individuals who worked at the city level include
Judge Benjamin Lindsey who began the Juvenile Court, Emily
Griffith, the founder of the innovative Opportunity School, and
Robert Speer, who transformed the city through his City Beautiful
programs. In addition, Josephine Roche, police matron, and Georg
Creel, "A voice of the people," made their impact on the city
during this time.'*' Together, working at the various levels, the
progressive-minded of Denver were able to accomplish much in the
way of positive change for the city, state, and nation. For the
first time in American history women played a key role.
* A A *
While embarking on these works of reform and philanthropy
the clubwomen continued to combine literary study of the classics
with research and discussions of the important social, political,
and economic issues of the day. In fact, the continuing study
helped prepare the women for their increasing roles outside the
*"Lyle W. Dorsett, The Queen City: A History of Denver
(Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company, 1977), 154.
home and family. In Denver, some clubs used yearly themes to
educate their members on the issues of the day. The DFC members,
as was the club tradition, could choose any subject to write a
paper on. Some chose famous people: "Ibsen" by Rachel F. Hallack
and "Jane Addams" by Dora Reynolds. Others chose to write papers
intimately related to the events at hand: "Child Labor" by
Angenette Peavey; "Suffragette" by Amelia Foss Thorpe; and, in
tune with the conservation movement, "Archaeological Research"
by Elizabeth Sayre and "National Parks" by Anna Wolcott Vaile.
In the Monday Literary Club, current events in literature,
domestic and foreign policies, education, and the social sciences
were studied during the presidency of Miss Ada Bingham. Fore-
seeing the Russo-Japanese War was Caroline Walker's presentation.
On 4 January 1904, "Mrs. Walker, in a most graceful manner, con-
ducted the Club on a political tour around the world, giving the
most important events of the summer, and up to the present time
when Russia and Japan are showing their teeth at each other in a
most threatening manner." Later terms discussed "The New Educa-
tional Problems" (1906-1907, Jeannette Welch, president) and
"Modern Wizards of Science" (1907-1908, Nettie Caspar, president).
In celebration of the work being accomplished in conservation, the
club set aside their meeting on 18 January 1909, as Forestry Day.
Yearbooks of the Denver Fortnightly Club, 1900-1904.
^"Minutes of the Monday Literary Club, 1903-1908."
Biographies were also a favorite of the club: Edward Everett
Hale, Charles Darwin, Samuel Clemens, Lewis Carroll, and Henry
Irving (1910-1911, Hester M. Bayly, president); Queen Louise,
Frances Willard, and Mary Lyon (1911-1912, Helen Ring Robinson,
president); and Benjamin Disraeli, Henry David Thoreau, John
Stuart Mill, William Gladstone, and Otto Bismarck (1912-1913,
Frances Belford, president).
The Round Table Club spent the Progressive years engrossed
in the study of other countries. These included Russia, China,
and Egypt. Always ambitious in their academic endeavors, the RTC
members studied the whole of United States history from "Early
Explorations" to "Present Day Problems" during 1912-1913. This
meant an average of three to five papers each meeting. The
following year, The State by Woodrow Wilson was examined with six
papers a meetxng.
The Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club alternated years of
themes with "miscellaneous" programs. Yearly themes of the period
included: "Africa," "The Victorian Age of Literature," "England,"
"Germany" (1907-1908), "India," and, in 1909-1910, the "United
States and Possessions" with a stereoptican lecture on Alaska by
Professor H. V. Kepner. Included among the miscellaneous programs
were an illustrated talk of book plates by Chalmers Hadley, a talk
Yearbooks of the Monday Literary Club, 1900-1914.
^Yearbooks of the Round Table Club, 1900-1914.
by the Boy Scout Commissioner, and astereoptican lecture on Rome
by Professor Wellington Rhodes at Manual Training High School.
As departmental clubs, the Woman's Club of Denver and the
North Side Woman's Club divided their studies into topics as
decided upon by the departments. At times these clubs relied on
the services of the Reciprocity Bureau. This subcommittee of the
CFWC received papers developed by the members of federated clubs.
Other clubs could then request the use of these papers. However,
in the DFC, the idea was "greeted with such horror and withering
scorn that no one dared mention this possible source again.
Following the Spanish-American War and the acquisition of overseas
territory, the Home and Education Department of the WCD appro-
priately discussed "Our New PossessionsThe Philippines, Hawaii,
Puerto Rico, and Samoa" at one of their meetings. The Department
of Social Science also held meetings relevant to present situa-
tions: "The Economic Condition of Women," "Race Suicide," and
"Japanese Immigration: Is It a Benefit or a Menace?" all struck
responsive chords in a society where women were leaving the home
for outside employment, where eugenics was a new "scientific"
theory embraced by many, and where the restriction of Japanese
immigration to the United States was disrupting the relations
Yearbooks of the Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club, 1900-
^Carla Swan Coleman, "The Turn of the Century" (Denver,
2 February 1971), 8.
between the two countries. Also in keeping with the world events of
the period was "The Russian Situation" in 1906.
Because the vast majority of them were mothers, the club-
women formed the vanguard of the reform movement in education.
Another reason for their involvement in this issue was that some
of these women had been teachers themselves before marriage (at
which point, school policies, household duties, and societal
expectations forced most of them to quit the profession). In the
North Side Womans Club's Department of Home and Education, discus-
sion on education reflected the concerns of the clubwomen as well
as the evolutionary progress of the field in the United States.
In 1901, one paper asked "Is Anything Better Than the United
States School System?" In 1903, "Is Home Leaving Too Much to the
Schools?" addressed a question still being debated eighty years
later. The movement for vocatipnal and physical education
received attention also: "Trade School," "Physical Training of
the Twentieth Century Child," and "Is the Extension of a Manual
Training High School System in the City Desirable?" Perhaps "The
School and Home as Allies," "What Can the North Side Woman's Club
Do for Schools?" and "The Co-operation of Parents and Teachers"
arose from the women who had been on both sides of the desk at
Prior to being reorganized as the Department of Social
Science, the Department of Reform and Philanthropy in the NSWC
^Yearbooks of the Woman's Club of Denver, 1900-1914.
combined studies of social work ("Social Settlements," and "City
Missions"), state institutions ("Do state reformatories reform?"
and "Asylums for the feebleminded"), and political issues ("Munici-
pal Reforms" and "The Condition of Local Government").
After such heated debates in the departments of Home and
Education and Reform and Philanthropy, it must have been soothing
to listen to papers from the Art and Literature Department. Here,
the works of authors (Edgar Allen Poe, Oliver Wendell Holmes,
William Cullen Bryant), book reviews, and travelogues (Washington,
D.C., Alaska, and Yellowstone National Park) were presented.
But whatever the programs chosen and the topics selected,
the process itselfthe reading, researching, writing, speaking,
and discussingincreased the self-confidence, knowledge, and
skills of the clubwoman. She was made aware of her own abilities
and of the social issues of her community. Awakened to these
problems, fortified by their network system within the club world,
backed by the resources of the CFWC and GFWC, and led by some of
the city's most experienced reformers, suffragists, philanthropists,
and professional working women, the Denver clubs embarked on a
twenty year campaign of reform.
^Yearbooks of the North Side Woman's Club, 1900-1914.
^Member clubs paid dues to the CFWC and the GFWC which in
turn provided speakers, the exchange of ideas and methods through
a newsletter and state meetings and visits, and the ability to
mobilize large numbers of women for a particular cause or piece of
Much of the reform and philanthropic work of the Denver
clubs during the Progressive era can be divided into four major
areas: Libraries and Education, Health and Welfare, Youth, and
Conservation. The Traveling Library continuously received help
from the federated clubs. The project was unique to Colorado among
the nation's federated clubs. For that reason, the CFWC, in 1902,
was asked to submit one of the boxes of books to the St. Louis
Exposition in 1902 as an example of the contributions of American
club women to their communities and state. The following year, a
Library Commission was established in the state to handle the
Traveling Library. Three of the five members of the commission
were to be women of federated clubs. The clubs continued to donate
books to this project. In 1906, the 22ASC honored their long-term
president Nettie Caspar with a donation of books in her name.
Another box was submitted in 1910 in honor of deceased club
members. The NSWC, being a larger club, was able to send a box
every other year during the Progressive period. The project
flourished until the death of its chief promoter and director,
Julia V. Welles in 1912. When the state legislature failed to appro
priate sufficient funds for the Traveling Library Commission in 1913
the 22ASC joined with another Denver club, the Reviewers' Club,
in petitioning the governor for immediate relief. These two
"Minutes of the Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club, 1910-
clubs received additional help from the other federated clubs and
the CFWC, but all their efforts were nearly in vain. In 1914, the
Libraries were temporarily lost. Once found, they were placed in
the State Historical Society Room and catalogued. The following
year, money was finally available for the Library from state
appropriations. By 1918, the Traveling Library was still function-
ing with 303 trunks containing over 9,000 books.
The clubwomen's goal of improved education was fought on
all fronts. During the administration of Minnie L. Harding, CFWC
president, a scholarship and loan fund was established for girls
in Colorado. Later named in honor of its originator, the Scholar-
ship Fund was a favorite of the member clubs. Money was regularly
sent and the women took great pride in being able to provide an
education for girls who otherwise would not have been able to
obtain one. The first subscriptions of money were received from a
Canon City banker (Mrs. Harding's home' club was the "Friends in
Council Club" in Canon City), Mrs. Sarah Platt Decker, GFWC vice-
president, and Mrs. Harding herself. The success of "their" girls
made the clubwomen especially proud:
Our first loan girls was Edna V. Fisher of Pueblo who
borrowed $105.00 in 1902. She graduated with honors from
the State Normal School at Greeley in 1903. She then
taught in the Public Schools of Pueblo. Later she gradu-
ated from Teachers College of Columbia University in New
Neata M. Preiss, The Colorado Federation of Women's
Clubs Seventy-fifth Anniversary Edition (Denver: Colorado Feder-
ation of Women's Clubs, 1970), 34.
York City and taught in Carnegie Technical School in Pitts-
burgh, Pennsylvania. She married the secretary of the
National Playground Association of America.^
This, too, was a GFWC "first" project for the Colorado clubs.
The legislative committees in each of the clubs as well as
in the CFWC urged the passage of bills and resolutions designed to
enhance educational opportunities, to provide for special educa-
tional programs, and to better provide for the teachers of the
state. In this vein, the clubs advocated many new ideas in
education: consolidated schools, teacherages for teacher resi-
dences in rural districts, manual training programs, art and music
education, and Domestic Science classes. Legislative bills endorsed
by the clubs included a public school teachers' pension bill,
increased salaries for teachers, a measure for the establishment
of manual training and a trade school, and a bill for the inspec-
tion of school buildings. Realizing that their voices would be
more readily heard if they were members of the educational
community, the clubwomen ran for school boards and pushed for
the appointment of their sister clubwomen to university boards and
state educational agencies. A number of women, beginning with
lone Hanna of the DFC, were elected to the school boards. Miss
Anne Shuler was the first Dean of Women at the University of
Denver; and Anna Wolcott Vaile, who had taught at Wolfe Hall and
had founded Miss Wolcott's School in 1898, was appointed the first
woman regent for the State University. All of these women were
members of the DFC.^~* Besides those women mentioned in Chapter
II, Katherine Craig continued the clubwomen's domination of the
State Superintendency of Public Instruction. She held this
position from 1904 to 1906, 1906 to 1908, and 1920 to 1922.^
In addition to advocating certain educational reforms and
endorsing legislative bills, the clubwomen did the "small things"
which endeared them to the educational communities. During the
club year 1912-1913, the North Side Woman's Club entertained the
women teachers of their district and in 1902-1903, held a school
picnic which netted three hundred dollars for beautifying the
walls of the school buildings. That same year, the women placed
architectural photos in the halls of the high school.
An even more extensive list of achievement can be found
in the area of Health and Welfare. The Old Ladies' Home, a free
employment bureau, free dispensary, and Day Nursery were initiated
by clubwomen. Several clubs maintained rooms at the Old Ladies'
Home, periodically refurnishing them and providing aid and enter-
tainment to the women there, especially around the holidays. The
^Harriet Campbell, "There Were Giants in Those Irreclaim-
able Days" (Denver, 2 February 1937), 8.
"^Papers of Katharine Craig.
^Yearbooks of the North Side Woman's Club, 1902-1912.
Home, now called Argyle Park Square, is located at 4115 West
Thirty-eighth Avenue. It has a nursing-home unit besides the
dormitory-style older wing. By 1988, the old building will be
replaced with a new one which will provide individual bathrooms
and be co-ed. The city of Denver later took over the employment
bureau and the city hospital grew out of the free dispensary of
the WCD. The Day Nursery for the children of working women,
long a project of the WCD, which had initiated it, is now the
Marjory Reed Mayo Nursery after its later benefactor. Legis-
lation sponsored or supported by the clubs include equal guardian-
ship of children, the State Employment Bureau, which became a
reality in 1910, a State Board of Charities and Corrections, the
Mothers Compensation Act, and the Child Labor Act passed in 1912.
In support of the latter, Frances Belford "spoke enthusiastically
of Senator Beveridge's efforts in behalf of the Child Labor Bill"
at the 18 February 1907, meeting of the MLC.
While most of the clubs supported the same projects and
legislative bills, the Denver Fortnightly Club was much more
"Home's Revamping Trades Tradition for Amenities,"
Rocky Mountain News, 12 July 1987, 10.
Cora V. Collette.and Lisbeth G. Fish, comp., History of
the Woman's Club of Denver, 1894-1930 (Denver: The Woman's Club
of Denver, 1930), 25.
^"Minutes of the Monday Literary Club, 1903-1908."
independently-minded. At the county level, the DFC joined with
other clubs in "protesting expectorations in public places and
other uncleanliness" but were most unimpressed with Sanitary
Inspector Mr. Madaris when he spoke at their meeting on the
subject. Although the club joined with the others in support of
the traveling library appropriation bill, the teachers' pension,
the establishment of a Children's Bureau, and the establishment of
a state home for dependent children, the DFC did not extend this
support to the Consumers' League, the Prisoner's Aid Society, the
Women's Auxiliary to the Juvenile Court, and the pure food bill of
the Colorado state legislature. Although concerned with the plight
of the poor, the children, and the women of the state, the club
would not fund the Florence Crittenton Home, the Visiting Nurse
Association, or the Salvation Army. Nor did the Day Nursery, State
Home for Mental Defectives and the Federal Employment Bureau of
Women receive club monies. Perhaps one reason for their refusal
to support these is given by the daughter of one of their charter
The Federal Employment Bureau for Womenreading between
the lines the rights of women seemed important when ques-
tions were local, were associated with the YWCA (of which
Mrs. Vincent was president for so many years) or concerned
suffrage. They were too "close to their own homes" to
consider the problem of women playing any other role such
as job holders, career women, or those in the business
It also appears that the women of the DFC did their philanthropic
work outside of the club and not as par't of their club work as the
others did. As stated by Harriet Campbell in her history, the
club "... has no philanthropic committee because so many members
are actively connected with philanthropic institutions on their
own and the first objective has been the union of congenial minds
for study and discussion." It is important, also, to note that
from the beginning of the WCD, members of the DFC have belonged
to that club and undoubtedly did philanthropic work through that
Other reforms in Health and Welfare supported by the
Denver clubs as a whole include the Workshop for the Adult Blind,
an eight-hour day for laundry workers, and factory inspections.
Legislative bills which were passed by the legislature to become
laws were: free state employment bureaus, a miners eight-hour
work day, the establishment of a "School for the Feeble-Minded,"
a mothers compensation act, and an eight-hour day for working
In the area of youth, the womens clubs continued with
their support of the State Industrial Home for Girls, the State
Industrial Home for Boys, and the State Home for Dependent
Yearbooks of the Denver Fortnightly Club and Yearbooks
of the Woman's Club of Denver.
Children. This support came in the form of magazine subscriptions,
entertainment, money for the maintenance of the homes, and time and
energy spent as members of the Boards of Control. The club-
women also supported the efforts of Judge Benjamin Lindsey and
deferred to his judgment in regard to juveniles. With the
support of the women, a Children's Bureau was established and laws
regarding the use of child labor were passed. Judge Lindsey and
George Creel wrote Ellis Meredith, "... had it not been for the
votes of women and their unceasing donations of time and money,
few if any of our great welfare measures would have been enacted
- ! -.30
Conservation was one of the favorite areas of progressive
reforms, especially for President Theodore Roosevelt. With him
in the White House, the clubwomen were finally successful in their
attempt to get the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings designated a national
park. In 1894, the Denver Fortnightly and Monday Literary clubs
had signed petitions addressing this matter. In 1897, the CFWC
formed the Committee for the Preservation and Restoration of the
Cliff and Pueblo Ruins of Colorado. For years, the individual clubs
Yearbooks of the Denver Fortnightly Club, the Monday
Literary Club., the Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club, the Woman's
Club of Denver, and the North Side Woman's Club. Taussig served
on the Board of Control of the State Industrial School for Girls
Yearbooks of the North Side Woman's Club, 1913-1916.
Letter to Ellie Meredith, from Judge Benjamin Lindsey and
George Creel, Denver, 16 October 1915.
held stereoptican lectures on the ruins, invited speakers to their
meetings, and petitioned the state and national legislatures.
Established in 1906, "its creation had resulted from the relenting
pressure maintained by a group of some two hundred women for
approximately a quarter of a century." Other measures of con-
servation were the establishment of the State Bureau of Forestry
in 1909, and the National Park Service in 1916. Ella McNeil, of
the DFC, was a member of the State Board of Forestry.
Besides reform work coordinated through the CFWC and the
GFWC, the Denver clubs also contributed to their own "pet
projects." Frpm the DFC, donations were made to the Endowment
Fund for the Maria Mitchell Chair of Astronomy at Vassar College,
and the local YWCA Rest and Recreation Rooms. In the Twenty-
Second Avenue Study Club, resolutions were passed urging the
passage of the Esch bill in 1912 to prohibit the use of poisonous
phosphorus in the manufacture of matches; to endorse the work of
the Citizen's Protective League (19 February 1913); to protest the
proposed construction of the Hetch Hetchy Valley Dam in California
(1914); and to endorse resolutions sent by the Woman's Public
Robert G. Athearn, The Coloradoans (Albuquerque: Univer-
sity of New Mexico Press, 1976), 221-22.
Susan Riley Ashley, "A Very Brief Chronicle of the Denver
Fortnightly's First Thirty-five Years" (Denver, 8 November 1916),
Service.League asking that two Inspectors of Public Amusements be
appointed by the Committee of Safety, and that one be a woman
(1914). The WCD, as the largest club in the state, routinely
endorsed a large number of legislative measures in keeping with
their policy of supporting bills which would protect the rights
and health of children and women. Besides those already mentioned,
the WCD legislative committee helped secure the passage of laws
validating a married woman's will, providing for the examination of
the eyes, ears, teeth, and lungs of school children, and appro-
priating money for a diptheria anti-toxin. The second largest
club, the North Side Woman's Club, sewed garments for the Social
Union, gave towels to the Boys' Free Baths at the Courthouse,
established and supported the North Side Neighborhood House, and
distributed gifts to needy children for Christmas.
Criticism of the reform efforts of the women's clubfe
during the Progressive years were few. The women had carefully
chosen their targets and had allied with the leading progressives
in the state. Some of these progressive leaders were John
Franklin Shafroth, Edward P. Costigan, Judge Benjamin Lindsey, and
journalist George Creel. Shafroth, whose wife Virginia M. was a
"Minutes of the Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club, 1910-
^Yearbook of the Woman's Club of Denver, 1909-1910.
^Yearbooks of the North Side Woman's Club, 1902-1912,
member of the MLC, RTC, and WCD, was governor of Colorado. During
his two terms (1909-1911 and 1911-1913), the state "produced a
fruitful harvest of progressive legislation": the initiative and
referendum, primary election law, and statutes providing for the
regulation of child labor, woman labor, the creation of a state
conservation commission, a factory inspection act, and a coal mine
inspection law. Costigan, a lawyer and member of the State
Progressive Party, believed that large corporations controlled
Denver and Colorado and did not serve the interests of the people.
He ran for governor in 1912 and 1914, but lost when the reformers
split their votes between the Progressives and Democrats. The
juvenile court system as set up by Judge Lindsey was widely
acclaimed by progressives the nation over. Lindsey also had the
support of businessmen and Mayor Robert Speer until 1907. Also
well-placed for the concerns of the women's club was Josephine
Roche, police matron and member of the WCD, and journalist George
Creel. The latter wrote a lengthy article, "What Have Women Done
With the Vote," which favorably detailed the impact of women and
the vote of women in Colorado.
Carl Ubbeholde, Maxine Benson, and Duane A. Smith, A
Colorado History (Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company, 1976),
George Creel, "What Have Women Done With the Vote?"
Even though Creel, Roche, and Lindsey led the attack on
Mayor Speer and his "boss politics" in 1912, the clubwomen were not
particularly hurt by the Mayor Arnold's unsuccessful administration
which succeeded Robert Speer. By refusing to, as a club, endorse
political candidates at any level of government, the women's clubs
and the CFWC were able to avoid any blame and backlash for the
failure of the Arnold administration and the commission-government
from 1914 to 1916.
The early literary study done in the federated clubs from
the 1880s to 1900, had given clubwomen valuable experience in
research, writing, and public speaking. From this base of self-
confidence and knowledge, the clubwomen further widened their
domestic sphere to include philanthropic and reform work at the
local, state, and national levels. Aided by the CFWC, the GFWC,
and leading progressive men and women of the state and nation,
the clubwomen acquired additional skills of organization, lobbying,
and mobilization. Through the pyramid of national organization,
state federations, and local clubs, the women were able to arouse,
organize, and mobilize large numbers of women. These clubwomen
and their leaders were well-known and well respected in their
communities. In 1914, as the war between Serbia and Austria-
Hungary widened to involved the other countries and lay waste to
the lands of Europe, American leaders knew exactly where to turn
to for help in providing aid of an unprecedented amount. The.
clubwomen, already aware of the sounds of war on the horizon and
of the suffering imposed on the citizenry of the warring nations,
needed only a calling to arms to mobilize their numbers.
THE WORLD WAR I YEARS, 1914-1919
The Denver clubwomen, always abreast of worldly develop-
ments, cast wary eyes across the ocean as the armies of Europe
readied for war. The tragic assassination of Archduke Franz
Ferdinand in the Serbian town of Sarajevo soon exploded into a war
engulfing the entire European continent and the British Isles. In
the United States, President Wilson asked the American people to
be neutral "in thought as well as in deed." However, other forces
were stronger than the President's plea. Allied propaganda, strong
ties to their ancestral homes, and German submarine warfare against
all seafaring vessels combined to bring the United States into
this worldwide conflict on 6 April 1917. The clubwomen, who had
already been busy preparing themselves for this day, were ready to
to answer the call to service.
From 1914 to 1919, the programs of the Denver clubs
reflected the concerns and needs of the people and the nation.
Prior to the United States entry into the war, programs included
"War LiteraturePast and Present" (by Edna F. Hendrie of the DFC),
the Bible (MLC, 1914-1915, 1915-1916), and "What Suffrage Has Done
for Colorado" by Helen M. Wixson (NSWC, 1916-1917). One inter-
esting debate in 1915 was in the NSWC: "Leap Year Program:
Should women have the right to Propose?" But after April 1917,
the programs increasingly dealt with more serious problems and
changes brought on by the war: food conservation, medical prepared-
ness, national defense, contributions of the Red Cross (DFC),
"The Diplomatic Background of War, 1870-1914" (RTC), "What Our
Government is Doing" (in agricultural, health, conservation,
immigration, and defense: 22ASC), "What Our Boys Are Doing on the
Front as Told by Their Mothers" (NSWC), and "Women in War Work"
(WCD).^ Oftentimes speakers were brought in to give their first-
hand knowledge of the war efforts. Thomas Patterson, son and
grandson of DFC members, once spoke of his ambulance service work
in France to the members of that club.
By 1917, the nationwide fear of the horrible Hun, the
feelings of having failed in assimilating immigrants into American
society, and the sensationalism of some of the nation's newspapers,
brought on renewed cries for Americanization. Aliens living in
Denver were herded off to internment camps in Utah while The Post
led a vicious attack.on anything Teutonic. The names of every
German alien woman residing in Denver, complete with home addresses,
^Yearbooks of the Denver Fortnightly Club, the Monday Liter-
ary Club, Round Table Club, Twenty-Second Avenue Study Club,
Woman's Club of Denver, and the North Side Woman's Club, 1914-1920.
Susan Riley Ashley, "A Very Brief Chronicle of the Denver
Fortnightly's First Thirty-five Years" (Denver, 2 February 1971),
John Higham, Strangers in the Land: Patterns of American
Nativism, 1860-1925 (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University
Press, 1955), 205.
were printed in the paper which cautioned citizens to avoid buying
soap, patent medicines and food from salespeople, suggesting that
these items were contaminated with poisonous germs.^ "In essence,
Germans were coerced into Americanizing' with a vengeance unprece-
dented in Colorado History.""* Although no records were found
regarding the clubs' active role at this level of hysteria, the DFC
did agree to buy American products on the urging of the Committee
of Home Economics to combat German propaganda.^ As patriotic
members of the middle class, the clubwomen joined the cries for
Americanization.^ The problems of immigration and assimilation were
discussed in all clubs at this time, but the MLC most thoroughly
covered the twin topics in 1916-1917. The year's program was
"From Alien to Citizen." With three papers a meeting, the women
covered: "Immigration," "Immigration at Home," "The Oncoming Tide,"
"Immigration: An Asset or LiabilityWhich?" "New Life in America,"
"The Tie that BindsWork and Citizenship," "New Industrial World,"
"The Immigrant and His Institutions," "The Immigrant Who Fails,"
Lyle W. Dorsett, The Queen City: A History of Denver
(Boulder: Pruett Publishing Company, 1977), 181-82.
^A random survey of women in federated clubs in Denver
shows that 20 percent of them also belonged to patriotic organiza-
tions and groups which extol their long-time ties to the American
past. These include the Colonial Dames, the Daughters of the
American Revolution, and the Daughters of the Confederacy.
"Immigrant Education," "Becoming an American Citizen," "Will
Future Immigration Aid in U.S. Preparedness?" "Immigrant Women
A Neglected Factor," and "Social Service for the Immigrant." But
while these concerns of the clubwomen for immigrants and their
different ways continued through the red scare, the women carried
on the reform and philanthropic work begun in the Progressive years.
While war service work would consume much of the club-
women's time and energy from 1914-1919, the projects begun in earlier
years were not neglected. Clubwomen continued to work for the state
institutions and commissions. The Supervisor of Relief in the
Commission of Charities and Corrections was Miss Gertrude Vaile;
City Library president of the Library Commission was Miss Anne Evans,
and president of the Election Commission was Ellis Meredith. At the
state level, the Superintendent of Public Instruction was Mary C. C.
Bradford, who held this position from 1913 to 1921 and again from
1923 to 1927. Members of the Colorado Traveling Library Commission
were Annie G. Whitmore, Fannie M. D. Galloway, and Katherine J.
Wright, all of the Woman's Club of Denver. Members of the State
Home for Dependent Children were Sarah Curtis, Margaret P. Campbell,
and Dora E. Reynolds. The State Industrial School for Girls'
members were Louise Arkins, Mrs. G. W. Gano, and Ellen Van Kleeck.
Yearbook of the Monday Literary Club, 1916-1917.
Denver City Directory 1914 (Denver: Ballenger and
Of this list, only Mrs. Curtis and Mrs. Gano were not members of
one of the six Denver federated clubs.
During the war years, the clubs continued to support the
Crittenton Home, Workshop for the Adult Blind, the two industrial
schools, the YWCA Rest and Recreation Rooms, the CFWC Scholarship
Fund, and the Old Ladies' Home. In legislation, the clubs helped
secure a detention home for women, a child welfare bureau, a game
refuge, and additional state money for the Girls' Industrial School.
Endorsed, but not passed by the legislature, were bills forbidding
capital punishment, regulating child labor, providing for medical
inspections in schools, and establishing a federal department of
Colorado became a Prohibition state in 1916, four years
before national prohibition. Women in the state were instrumental
in the passage of the dry law; however, very little mention can
be found in club records regarding prohibition at the state or
national level. Club historian Susan Riley Ashley noted that in
1915, the DFC discussed the Prohibition Act and that the members
showed "remarkable insight into the far reaching implications,
complications, and consequences" of the amendment, but does not
elaborate on that discussion."^ In 1910 and 1911, the North Side
Woman's Club had the topic temperance for a meeting each year, but
"^Yearbook of the Woman's Club of Denver, 1918-1919.
no other local clubs show any indication of their involvement with
or feelings toward prohibition. The CFWC, under the administra-
tion of Nettie C. Jacobson, "emphasized cooperation with other
organizations to make Colorado a Bone Dry state" but again nothing
more is said. A random survey of 127 members of the Denver clubs
found only three who belonged to the Womens Christian Temperance
Union (WCTU). Two of the women, Amy Cornwall and Mary L. Parks were
members of the NSWC; at third, Antoinette Arnold Hawley, was a
member of the WCD. It is the belief of this writer that the
federated clubwomen kept an official "hands-off" policy regarding
temperance until late in order to not jeopardize the programs that
were closest to their hearts. This is similar to what the club-
women did with the suffrage question. Although individual women
supported and worked for equal suffrage, the state and national
federations did not endorse it until 1914.^ Even Sarah Platt
Decker, an ardent suffragist, kept suffrage off the federation's
^Yearbooks of the North Side Woman's Club, 1910-1912.
Jeannette Bain, History and Chronology of the Colorado
State Federation of Women's Clubs, 1895-1955 (Denver: Colorado
Federation of Women's Clubs, 1955), 43.
"^Yearbooks of the Woman's Club of Denver and North Side
Woman's Club, 1914-1920; "Equal Suffrage Worker," Denver Times,
21 January 1903, 5; and Mary L. Parks, "Early Denver Resident
Dies," Denver Post, 20 February 1941, 15.
"^Karen J. Blair, The Clubwoman as Feminist: True Woman-
hood Redefined, 1868-1914 (New York: Holmes and Meier Publishers,
Inc., 1980), 118.
agenda, believing that the internal controversy would weaken with
out influencing the local clubs which disapproved of the vote
(not to mention alarming the men!). One can probably safely
assume that the clubwomen believed the idea of temperance was a
good one, but that the political and legal problems which would
ensue would make enforcement difficult. Thus, the clubwomen
avoided hurting their own programs by not publicly embracing
With the declaration of war in April 1917, munitions,
medical supplies and services, money and soldiers were needed and
needed in large quantities. In Colorado, the citizens enthusi-
astically responded to each call to service. Men registered for
the draft, food supplies were conserved, war savings stamps and
Liberty Bonds were bought, women joined the Red Cross and indus-
trial plants switched over to war production. The goals for each
of the two Red Cross membership drives was $100,000,000. In the
first, Colorado gave $1,368,835.91; in the second, $1,953,888."^
The drives for the Liberty Bonds, the YWCA, Salvation Army, and
the American Library Association ("For a million dollars for a
million books for a million men") were also well-supported by
Edward T. James, ed., Notable American Women (Cambridge
Belknap Press, 1971), 452.
^LeRoy R. Hafen, ed., History of Colorado, Volume III
(Denver: Linderman Company, Inc., 1927), 1002.
Colorado citizens. But money was not their only donation.
Articles of clothing, medical supplies, entertainment, and food
were equally given to the Red Cross, the servicemen's centers, and
Already having proven themselves to be tireless workers
capable of mobilizing large numbers of women through the federated
clubs, the clubwomen were often appointed chairmen and committee
members. At every level, a clubwoman could be found. The state
chairman of the Women's Liberty Loan Committee was Helen Ring
Robinson of the WCD. She was sent throughout the state to urge the
women to support the war effort and the Liberty Loan drives:
Of course I feel that the work of the women in this campaign
is not so much the getting of bond subscriptions, great as
that has been, as the taking of messages of patriotism and
propaganda to the outlying districts. We have come in touch
with the wives of miners who were feeling resentful that
their husbands had subscribed so much, and the households
were suffering a little deprivation, and we have made them
understand the necessity for the loan, and what it will
mean not only here, but in their old homes in Europe. I
recall the instance of the wife of a Polish miner, whose
whole point of view changed when I told her that the loan
would bring safety to the children in Poland.^
At the local level, the executive committee of the Third
Liberty Loan Drive, chaired by RTC member Julie R. Bennett (Mrs.
Horace W.) included club members Marguerite Taussig and Mrs. William
Berger. For that same drive, which was successful as they all were
"Small Towns in State Eager to Boost Loan," Rocky Mountain
News, 14 October 1918.
in Colorado in meeting their quota, five of the nine on the Ways
and Means Committee were clubwomen (Jennie Baker, Bertha Teller,
Jessie Munroe, Eva LeFevre, and Mrs. Fred C. Shaw). Likewise,
the Fourth and Fifth Liberty Loan Drives were successful, to such
an extent as to bring these words of praise from Carter Glass,
Secretary of the Treasury: "The women of the United States have
made an instant and magnificent response to every call which the
government has made to them. Through the five Liberty Loans they
have served with devotion, with zeal, and with self-sacrificing
patriotism." For the fourth and fifth drives, the woman's chair-
man was Mrs. William Berger. Again the majority of the executive
committee were Denver clubwomen. In the fourth drive, Ella
Denison contributed $5,000 in her second subscription for a total
of $10,000. Even though they were not given the business
section to canvass, the women won the War. Savings Campaign held
the first half of 1918:
Day after day those women carried away the banners from
the men with subscriptions that were overwhelming and
when the final check of accounts was made it was evident
"Third Liberty Loan," Rocky Mountain News, 4 October 1918.
^"State Loan Sales Reach $11,857,750, Tabulation Shows,"
Rocky Mountain News, 9 May 1919.
"Denver Liberty Loan Army Ready," Rocky Mountain News,
4 October 1918.
"Late Subscriptions Will Boost Denver Above Quota
for Loan," Rocky Mountain News, 14 October 1918.
that the women had made a record for the grand total that the
teams raised in the ten days of the drive was $1,666,490
or one-third of the entire amount. ^
The women of the Denver federated clubs regularly sold Liberty bonds
as well as bought them as shown by Ella Denison's subscriptions.
At an October 1917 meeting of the DFC, Mary F. Fisher reported that
$6,300 had been sold in the club's name. In 1981, the club joined
other women's clubs in putting on the entertainment, "Living
Pictures," at the Central Presbyterian Church. This raised $1,000
for the war funds. The RTC sent $50 from its treasury for a
Liberty Bond. The WCD. over the course of the war, purchased war
bonds of $1,300 and sold $8,000 of bonds to its members. But
to the NSWC went the honor of having been the first woman's club to
buy a bond. Money which had been set aside for the North Side
Neighborhood House was taken out and used for thirty-two war savings
As soon as war broke out for the United States, Colorado
Governor Julius Gunter appointed men's and women's councils of
"War Savings Stamp Campaign Won by Women," Rocky Mountain
News, 6 July 1918.
22"Minutes of the Round Table Club," 22 November 1918.
Cora V. Collett and Lisbeth G. Fish, History of the
Woman's Club of Denver, 1894-1930 (Denver: The Woman's Club of
Denver, 1930), 29.
Yearbook of the North Side Woman's Club, 1918-1919.
defense. Both councils consisted of prominent individuals. Nearly
one-half of the women's council were clubwomen. Members of the RTC,
MLC, WCD, and NSWC, these women were already well-known in the
community and respected for their ability to mobilize other women
for work. RTC members were Virginia Shafroth (also of the MLC),
Katherine M. Dines (Mrs. Tyson), Alberta Iliff, and Helen Miller
(also of the MLC). MLC members included Margaret Campbell (WCD
and DEC), Eva LeFevre, Frances Belford, Leonora Bosworth, and Sara
Taylor Arneill. From the WCD came Katherine Hosmer, Miss Gertrude
Vaile, Mary Grant, Fannie Galloway, and Martha Parriott. From the
NSWC came Mary McCue, Alice Crosby, and Lela Starr. These women
were "to assist and co-operate in solving all problems arising in
the state during the preparations for war and after the struggle
with Germany has actually begun." One way these women helped,
besides in the Liberty loan drives, was to travel throughout the
city and give speeches of patriotism and support. Mass meetings,
for Denver clubwomen, were held at the clubhouse of the Woman's
Club, at which one Mrs. Beatrice Forbes-Robinson Hale, a repre-
sentative from Hoover's Food Administration Board, spoke to five
hundred women on the necessity of food conservation. When
"Governor Names Advisory Council with Sixty-eight
Women," Denver Post, 13 May 1917, 12.
"Mrs. Hale's Talk Heard by Five Hundred Denver Women,"
Rocky Mountain News, 14 March 1918.
queried by a news reporter, the "rich women of Denver" promised to
do their part in this effort:
It is the only fair thing for those who can afford things,
to adjust their living to set an example for all. Buying
flour will make a proportionately greater hardship on those
with small income than with those who can afford luxury.
Those who can should certainly ration themselves. 3^
As the war drew to a close, the women who had been so active in the
war effort, saw a continuing involvement of women in the affairs of
the state for the good of all. Mrs. Kistler, chairman of the
Women's State Council of Defense suggested the establishment of
local bureaus for the placement of released army personnel, job
openings listed so that women dropped from war work could find jobs,
and that the war habits of thrift and economy be continued. She
realized that changes in individuals, the demobilization of the
army and other changes would increase the difficulties of local
charities. Her solution was that the women who had gained valuable
experience in war work be drafted into permanent social work.
Other women, active in the war effortJessie Munroe, Mary Grant,
Miss Anne Evans, and Harriet Campbellalso saw the need for
ongoing involvement by the women. Harriet Campbell, as chairman
of the Americanization committee, weekly went to the Globeville
to speak to foreign residents about the value of American
"Rich Women of Denver Will Save Food Through Voluntary
Rationing," Rocky Mountain News, 30 January 1918.
^"Women Help Solve Problems Peace Will Call Before
Nation," Rocky Mountain News, 2 February 1919.
But the war was still being raged and the demands on
American productivity and relief were great. It was perhaps
through their work for the Red Cross that the Denver Women made
their greatest impact. Each club regularly gave monetary contri-
butions to the Red Cross beginning with the Belgian Flour Fund and
the Belgian War Relief Fund and continuing throughout the war.
From the start, the clubwomen joined the Denver chapter of the
Red Cross. In 1916, the Red Cross "army" had collected two hundred
volunteers for disaster or war relief. Julie R. Bennett (RTC)
and Minnie H. Blayney (DFC) were chairmen of the membership and
supplies committees. Garments, surgical dressings, and other
medical supplies were priorities in Red Cross work and so the women
sewed, knitted, and rolled bandages during club meetings:". . we
dispensed with papers and instead while we worked at our knitting
one of our members read American history and it was interesting to
note how true the saying, "History repeats itself."
The Red Cross also provided canteens and entertainment for
the military personnel arriving to, stationed at, and departing
from Denver. The largest canteen was at Union Station. The room,
Yearbook of the Woman's Club of Denver, 1914-1915 and
Yearbook of the North Side Woman's Club, 1915-1916.
"Red Cross Army Being Marshaled by Denver Women,"
Denver Post, 9 February 1916, 16.
Mary E. Hiatt, "Fortieth Anniversary of the Twenty-Second
Avenue Study Club," 18 October 1933.
donated to the Red Cross by John Keating of the Denver Union
Terminal Company, and furnished by Daniels and Fisher, the
terminal company, and the Denver Music Company, was open twenty-four
hours a day. Here the "sammies" were given free cigarettes, candy,
and stationery. Elizabeth Keely, who ran this canteen, and
Jennie Baker (a member of the Council of Defense), both of the
Denver Fortnightly Club, made the ultimate sacrifices: both died
of exhaustion from their many hours of war service. Harriet
Campbell, a sister clubwoman, later wrote of their dedication:
. . and exhausted herself [Jennie B.] in her work, giving
up nearly everything, even her own home. Returning one day,
quite worn out, she stopped on her way to bed to write in
the dust of her piano, "I am a patriot." Her duties as wife
of the president of the State University for years, may have
prepared her mentally for public work, but it could not give
her physical strength. . .
In her [Mrs. Keely's] one to two daily trips to Fitzsimons
Hospital sick and dying soldiers were made more comfortable
by assistance in their banking, wills, & letters. She found
parched peas at a Greek food store for a Greek . She got
up two hours earlier than everyone else for correspondence
and household planning. The last day Mrs. Keely was able to
be on her feet, was filled with usual duties. A few days
later, she was not, for God took her.
War service work was also seen to be the cause in the death of
Helen Ring Robinson. Serving as Colorado's first woman senator
"Mrs. Thomas Keely Established Rest Room Where Sammies
May Enjoy Waiting Hours," Denver Post, 15 April 1918, 5.
Harriet Campbell, "There Were Giants in Those Irreclaim-
able Days"(Denver, 2 February 1937), 10.
(1913-1917) and chairman of the state Women's Liberty Loan Commit-
tee (1917-1919), weakened her health and she died in 1923.
The wounded at Fitzsimons Hospital were regularly visited
and entertained by Elizabeth Keely and other Red Cross workers.
Food, postal cards, records, and flowers were donated by the
federated clubs. In 1919, Lisbeth Fish, Elizabeth Keely and
six hundred women went to the hospital bearing gifts for the
While the Red Cross Motor Corps was generally made up of
young women, some of the officers were the older clubwomen of
The motor branch reads like the social register of
Denver but these society women, volunteering primarily
because they are experienced at driving their own cars,
The motor corps took special courses in motor mechanics and repair-
ing under Tom Botterill or at the YMCA motor school or in one of
the two courses at the Opportunity School garage. The women were
used for communication work when they were fully trained.
"Mrs. Helen Ring Robinson Dies of Ailment Incurred by
Overwork During War," Denver Post, 10 July 1923, 1; and "Mrs Helen
Ring Robinson Dies Following Breakdown From Her Work During World
War," Denver Times, 10 July 1923, 1.
^"Easter Cheer Given Soldiers at Aurora," Rocky Mountain
News, 21 April 1919.
"Woman's War Motor Service Here Has Been Reorganized,"
Rocky Mountain News, 24 March 1918.
"Society Women Rush to Enroll for War in the Motor
Division," Denver Post, 28 March 1917, 20.