Portland Women’s Club - Portland, OR
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member dkestrel
N 45° 31.158 W 122° 41.134
10T E 524557 N 5040688
Quick Description: The Portland Women’s Club was formed in 1876 and is still is existence today although they sold the clubhouse building in 2001. The building now houses the West End Ballroom.
Location: Oregon, United States
Date Posted: 2/8/2014 11:40:18 AM
Waymark Code: WMK3QK
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member QuesterMark
Views: 4

Long Description:
December 19, 1895. It was on this cold, wet and dreary winter day that saw the formation of the Portland Women’s Club. Despite the heavy rains that day, sixteen women were present to hear Mrs. Stuart of Olympia, Washington give a resounding speech on what it meant to be a part of a woman’s club. Mrs. Stuart’s charismatic speech stirred the women of Portland to start their own club. On February 18, 1896 the Portland Women’s Club officially met for the very first time with Mrs. J.C. Card the first president of the club presiding.

Over the course of the next one hundred years, the Portland Women’s Club would accomplish many feats and make their mark on the city of Portland. They assisted in championing women’s suffrage in Oregon, they were responsible for the first city wide trash collection, and they established the very first cooking school in Portland. Throughout their history, the Club was home to thousands of Portland area women all of whom congregated for a common cause, and this is their story.

Throughout the club’s history, reading was an integral part of the community work that defined who the club was. This interest in reading first manifested itself in 1899 only three years after the club’s inception. Members took it upon themselves to organize a federation with the purpose of creating the first free public library in the state. During the next two years the federation and the club pressured the legislature through lobbying for the passage of this bill. The club and everyone involved in the process was rewarded a short two years later in 1901 when the very first library bill in the state was passed by the Oregon legislature. This bill not only established the first free library in Portland, but it also established the framework for the library system that is currently in place today. The club as it turns out was far from being finished when it came to trying to improve the lives of fellow Portlanders.

During the next seven years (1902-1909), the club worked tirelessly on a variety of projects. The most notable project occurred in 1907 when the club worked to both increase teachers’ salaries and advocate the importance of kindergarten in schools.

The year 1910 saw the completion of one of the greatest accomplishments the club ever championed in the 113 years of existence. The turn of the nineteenth century saw many advances in the improvement of living conditions within the city’s limits. But still, cities, as a whole, had no way to clean up all of the trash and debris that literally lined their streets; and Portland was no different. The members of the club finally had enough and decided to do something to help clean up their city. The club worked hard to secure a $75,000 municipal bond that was issued to create the first city wide trash collection service.

All of the accomplishments that the club attained up until this point in time were completed during a time when women for the most part were still viewed mainly as mothers and homemakers. They were not allowed to hold public office or even vote. All of this, however, was about to change thanks in part to one of the club’s most notable members; Abigail Scott Duniway. Among the many interesting aspects of Mrs. Duniway’s life, perhaps the most interesting was the fact that she had endured the trials and tribulations of the Oregon Trail and survived to see her life’s goal accomplished. This goal was the passage of women’s suffrage, which was passed in Oregon in 1912. While Mrs. Duniway was an integral part in past unsuccessful suffrage campaigns such as in 1906, there was a general consensus among suffrage supporters that the time had come for Mrs. Duniway to step down and let more capable women spearhead the campaign.

Despite the fact that Mrs. Duniway was no longer the head of the suffrage campaign, that does not diminish her role in the eventual passing of suffrage in 1912. She was a vital part not only in Oregon but nationally as well, in bringing this subject to light and forcing people to look at the real issue. It was for this reason that she will always be recognized for being at least partially responsible for the passage of women’s suffrage in Oregon.

The woman chosen to replace Mrs. Duniway and be the driving force behind the 1912 campaign was another club member; Mrs. Esther Pohl Lovejoy. The club played a large part in the successful campaign that was headed by Lovejoy. Specifically the club was an integral part of fundraising for the campaign. The club held countless teas and other types of fundraisers, all to benefit the suffrage movement. With the passing of the suffrage bill in 1912, the club decided to leave the political realm and focus instead on establishing a permanent home for its members.

For the first 24 years dating back to 1896, the club had been meeting at the Multnomah Hotel. The club, however, desired a permanent home to hold not only their meetings but parties and fundraisers as well. After a city wide search for a suitable piece of land, the club decided to purchase a plot of land for their future clubhouse in June of 1920. The previous owners of the land just happened to be the current club president and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Runyan. Because of the Runyan’s association with the club, they essentially gave the piece of land to the club for the sum of ten dollars. Unfortunately, the club had no such connections with builders or architects in Portland as the final cost of the clubhouse came to $35,000 which the club was able to obtain through a mortgage. While this cost was a burden for the club, it was more than rewarded when the clubhouse opened in September 1922 at 1220 SW Taylor Street. One columnist was quoted as saying that the building was “one of the most handsome small clubhouses of its kind.” It was indeed a grand facility, but it was more than just a building to these ladies, it became a second home.

Over the next twenty years, leading up to the start of World War II, the club was heavily involved in charitable work. Most of the activities were designed to help the people of Portland who were most drastically affected by the Great Depression. As the United States entered the war, the club was experiencing hard times due in part to low membership numbers. The war effort was a huge boost to the morale and membership of the club. The club established an American Red Cross sewing department that aided not only the war effort, but helped to keep the club alive during those tough times. Apart from helping the Red Cross, the club was also very active in war bond drives; they even decided to invest in several bonds.

As the war came to an end, there were many questions left unanswered in terms of the Kaiser shipyards and the residents of Vanport. Many of those questions were answered on May 30, 1948 when the waters of the Columbia River broke the dikes protecting Vanport and subsequently destroyed the lives of thousands. The women were kept very busy with fundraising efforts and the gathering of donations to give aide to those in need.

As the years passed, membership grew up until the early 1960s. This spike in the club’s growth was at its peak in the late 1950’s, and saw the club balloon to a level close to 500 members. This growth, however, was short lived. Membership in the club began to decline in the 1960’s; and there is no apparent reason for this sudden decline. The drop in membership occurred over a ten year period ending in 1973, and they lost roughly 400 members; the club was left with only 94 members in April of 1973.

To help offset the growing cost of maintaining the clubhouse, the club decided to lease out the upstairs in 1973. The lease was to a Seattle movie theater group to use the upstairs as a theater, which became known as the Movie House. Approximately $65,000 was needed to renovate the upstairs to accommodate the new theater, including a new roof. After the renovations were completed, 355 theater seats were installed and the theater opened with a showing of Wuthering Heights.

It should be noted that the Portland Women’s Club unfortunately sold their beloved clubhouse in 2001, the burden of maintaining the clubhouse as meticulously as these women had done over the course of more than 80 years had finally taken its toll. The club, which is still in existence, used the money from the sale of the building to fund their various scholarships that are given to women around Oregon. During the last two years the club has been able to give out 40 scholarships of $1,500 to deserving women. The club has also been able to make various donations to organizations like 4H, Shepherd’s Door and Transition School.

Throughout the 113 years of the club’s existence, the ladies of the club were dedicated to enriching the lives of others. Unlike many clubs who just have a club motto for prosperity, the members of the Portland Women’s Club used their motto as a guide as to how they would conduct not only themselves, but the club as well. It became more than a motto for them, it became a way a life: In great things, Unity; In small things, Liberty; and In all things, Charity.

Source: (visit link)
Date Created: 1/1/1876

Active Club?: Yes

Website Source: [Web Link]

1220 SW Taylor St
Portland, OR USA

Secondary Website Source: Not listed

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