Approximately 12 women in Easton banded together to plan ways to help others less fortunate than they. After the first meeting in the auditorium of the Elementary School on Hanson Street, they continued to meet in each other’s homes. As their time and talents were limited, they decided that sewing was the best project for them – over 100 garments for needy children were made and distributed that first year. Club rules were few and meetings informal, but so many new members clamored for admittance that the meetings were moved to the Talbot County Auditorium building, with a seating capacity of 200. The need for hot lunches and milk for under-privileged children was their next project. This was followed by a variety of informational programs: guest speakers, singers, readers, and open discussions on pertinent topics. The women were also becoming more aware of the political needs of their community. Realizing that good government in their local town was part of the foundation for good government in Maryland, as well as Washington, they studied local important issues and became better educated voters. A clubhouse of their own became a goal. The club membership had grown to well over 100. A fine old double-house on Talbot Lane (a part of it being 150 years old) was found. It was a landmark in the town well worth preserving for posterity. The proposed buying of this property for a clubhouse met with healthy opposition. Their small dues had been used up for philanthropic work. How could they possibly raise enough money even for a down payment? Several members had seen a vision and would not be stopped. Two ladies with theatrical experiance and musical knowledge wrote a musical comedy, “Petticoat Parade”. They rehearsed it untiringly and even persuaded the town’s male glee club to participate. It was a tremendous success and the money for the first payment on the clubhouse was raised! Opposition melted away and the purchase was made!! In Talbot County houses, as well as people, boast of their genealogy and this double house on Talbot Lane had plenty! During the 1600’s the King of England made enormous grants of land to those in his favor. Richard and Eleanor Dudley received such a grant. Sections of this parcel were sold off during the next 100 years and we pick up the history of our location in about 1790 when John Gibson bought this particular strip of land. When he died his son, Charles Gibson, sold this property to James Price in 1795 for £250. The Prices lived in the frame house until 1803 when they added the brick section in typical Federal Style of the day. They moved their living quarters into the new brick section for the two parts of the house were not connected as a single living dwelling. This home was graciously lived in for 65 years. Mr. Price was Registrar of Wills for 50 years and his hobby was gardening. He and his wife protected their property from close intrusion by buying adjoining sections of land as they could afford it. There was always a profusion of lovely flowers surrounding the house and it was a joy to the town. Since the Prices had no children, they willed this property to his brother Joseph Price’s four children who owned it until 1868. It was then purchased by Mordecai and Deborah Dawson, who occupied the house for 23 years. The two houses, however, were never made into one. Doors were cut through to join them, but they were never made to fit on the same level. This was an advantage to the next owner, William T. Wright, who bought the double house in 1891. In order to have two distinct buildings to rent he separated the double house by boarding up the doors and blocking off the fireplaces. When Mr. Wright died his daughters both had their own homes and had no use for the property. It was through one of these daughters that, club President, Anna Brinkloe became the first to know the property was for sale. By this time, besides the double house, there was an old stable, a shed in the rear and a six-room dwelling on the corner. The club purchased this property January 2., 1946, for $4000. The house on the comer was sold by them for $1500 to be used for the renovation of the brick home. This double house was well preserved and habitable for its age, but a great deal of renovation needed to make it serve as a ladies club. Every old house not only has a genealogy but also at least one legend in its history. Our house is no exception and, as a result, an unexpected problem arose. The property had just been acquired by the ladies when a story, forgotten for I00 years, was revived and developed into a full-fledged tale that spread like wildfire! The story was that James Price had a neighbor, Captain James Thomas, a retired Navy man from Annapolis. When Price built the brick addition to his house, in about 1803, the captain was supposed to have buried gold and rich treasure under the brick cellar floor (apparently unknown to the Prices). Several days after the club ladies signed the deed (early January) vandals broke into the cellar and dug up the whole basement floor looking for the gold. No one ever discovered who the vandals were or what they found, but they did a good search job, for the entire cellar floor had to be relaid! This was only the first expense not anticipated by our valiant Anna Brinkloe. For forty odd years the double house grounds had been neglected. The once lovely gardens were wild and overgrown. The back of the lot had been used for a dumping ground for cans, bottles, etc. One of the largest trees in the garden had been cut down, leaving an unsightly old slump. No pioneer woman in the old days ever faced a more grueling, almost impossible, task than faced Anna and the few workers who stood by her side. Mr. Ray Robinson, an architect friend in Wilmington, Delaware kindly agreed to draw some plans for renovation. They included a colonial entrance, clubroom, reception room, modern kitchen, three household apartments and necessary heating and plumbing. At this point the buildings had no electricity, no bathrooms, and no heating system. By following his basic plan, the building, they believed, would become self-supporting from its rentals. When speaking of the renovation troubles Mrs. Brinkloe said, “One day when we needed some extra flooring for the room above the kitchen and there was none to be had, found or bought, I told Mr. Todd, the carpenter, to just take down the front porch and use that flooring – it had to come down anyway.” He did just that. A new entrance door was ordered and the wood in the old one was used again. Electricians had to wire the whole double house, walls had to be taken out and others had to be re-plastered. The woodwork and stairs had to be refinished. The spindles had three coats of paint on them, each a different color. The alley between the two parts of the house had to be filled in. A chimney that was a fire hazard was torn down and rebuilt. Shingles, windows and doors were donated when needed. Through the sustained efforts of all members, bills were met on time for repairs and the mortgage. The Talbot County Women’s Club proudly announced their opening date, October 12, 1946, with much work still to be completed. When talking over the situation with Mr. Milton Campbell, one of Easton’s beloved philanthropist, Mrs. Brinkloe told him about the lovely square front room. It had a beautiful mantel and she thought it would make a lovely reception area if fixed up properly. However, there were no more funds. Since Mr. Campbell’s female relatives had been among the charter members of Ute club, he looked at the room and generously renovated and furnished it as a memorial to his wife. The room is identified by a bronze plaque. The handsome painting of Mr. Campbell’s own home above the mantel was painted and presented by Mrs. A. C. Dodge, another talented, loyal member. The gardens were replanted and fully restored by a generous contribution from Mrs. W. Alton Jones. The tireless, caring efforts have continued to the present. Thirty-three presidents and all their supporting committees and members have preserved for us this gem of a building!
An Historical Note:
The first Women’s Club in America: In 1634 Anne Hutchinson, the daughter of a very liberally
minded English cleric, her husband and their children settled in Massachusetts. She noted in her journal that women of Boston lived in an austere atmosphere with little opportunity to express viewpoints and exchange ideas. She organized Monday afternoon gatherings for women. Imagine, on washday, women leaving their homes to socialize! They gathered in her home to discuss theological views. Feelings became so strong among the churches, who opposed her influence in the community, she was tried in a general court and sentenced to banishment from the colony. Anne was expecting her sixteenth child and relocated in, what is now, Rhode Island and later to Long Island. There Anne died in 1653 during an Indian massacre. What a tragic end to the founder of first women’s club in America! Anne Hutchinson was not alone. Many women who openly expressed opposition to the status quo were burned at the stake as witches. However, this did not stop some courageous women from quietly continuing to search for the basic freedom that was their right. 200 years later, in 1868, we find Jane Cunningham Croly, journalist known by the pen name Jennie June, using her home in New York as a location for key discussions about organizing a club for women. Similar meetings on Sunday evenings were held by the Cary sisters, Alice and Phoebe, also in New York City. Here gathered literary society — poets, actors, clergymen, artists, titled guests from abroad, women of fashion and women of letters. Alice Cary, nationally prominent poet and Jennie June met and talked. They shared ideas for relieving women from injustices in church, state, education and at home. There was no doubt that a women’s club should be formed. Naming the club caused much debate. These women knew they would be subject to an outcry of criticism. They decided the club would be called Sorosis, a Greek word that, greatly simplified, means “many flowers on one stem”. The pineapple became the symbol of Sorosis. To ease the expected criticism, they selected the most prominent and revered of women to serve as president, Alice Cary. Alice agreed to serve this fledgling group with Jennie June as Vice President. Women of accomplishment were sought for membership in Sorosis. Looking to the future, it was said that the club provided an opportunity for the discussion among women of new facts and principles. The original goals were general – with focus simply to think for themselves, get their opinions firsthand, to open new avenues of employment for women and thereby enabling themselves to be less dependent. The initial plan for Soros.is was to hold two types of meetings each month – a business meeting followed by a luncheon and a “Social Day”. Topics included freedom of dress, the need for schools for laborers, a foundling asylum (homes for children whose parents couldn’t care for them) and similar topics pertinent to the day. By the end of the first year there were 83 members of Sorosis. This original organization served as an inspiration to women across the country and women’s clubs, under various names sprang up everywhere. The individual clubs focused their attention on education, child labor laws, healthcare, homes for the aged, handicapped and orphaned, wages for working women and the right to vote. They became aware that union is strength and began to reach out toward each other, learn from others and support each other. A new power was now making itself felt among women, the power of associated action and unlimited hope for the future. Politicians began listening, now aware of the force in women’s verification, and so in 1889 the isolation of individual women and individual clubs culminated in the organization of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. During that time in our history the struggle for women’s and children’s rights had just begun. The battles for social services and the right to vote were won by these tenacious, determined and united women. In 1948 our club, during the presidency of Mrs. Ronald Nevius, became a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. The problems in society vary dramatically through the years, but do not become any less important. We must follow the path set for us more than JOO years ago and continue to struggle against human and environmental injustices.
(recited at every General Membership Meeting)
As told by Mary Stewart…
The Collect (written in 1904) was written as a personal prayer for the day and without any organization in mind. It was written at Longmont, Colorado, in 1904, where, just out of college, I was entering on my first job as principal of the local high school. The prayer was offered for publication under the title, “A Collect for Club Women” because at that time I felt that women working together with wide interest for huge ends was a new thing under the sun, and that perhaps they had need for special petition and meditation of their own. This must have been true, for the Collect has found its way about the world wherever English-speaking women work together. Two slight changes have been made at my suggestion in the version as originally printed. One, omission of a title; and two, substitution in the last verse of the prayer of the word “human” for the word “woman’s” -· which in point of fact but restores the original text, for I changed the word “human” to “woman’s” when it was offered for publication under the title of “A Collect for Club Women.” Either reading is authentic, and individuals or groups may decide for themselves the form they like. Personally, I prefer the prayer without title with the word “human” in place of the word “women’s”. That seems better to express today’s needs and purposes. Many of our exclusive women’s goals are already won, such as the vote, freedom of the college and the professions. While one of the ways we still work most effectively together is in women’s groups, we work for ends that concern men and women alike and our greatest need, as it is our greatest strength, is to think and to act in terms that are human.
Mary Stewart graduated from University of Colorado at Boulder with a BA degree and in I 927 received the honorary degree of Master of Literature. Her first position was that of principal of the high school at Longmont, Colorado. It was at this time that she became associated with the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. In 1919 she helped to organize the National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs and served with its national board in many capacities. For years she represented this organization on the Women’s Joint Congressional Committee, and enthusiastically supported the women’s suffrage movement.