Bay Women's Club Centennial: The first 50 years
The first in a two-part series on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bay Village Women's Club.
The Bay Village Women’s Club observes its 100th birthday this year. The Women’s Club is the oldest such organization in Bay Village. Mrs. Florence Whitney, a school board member, served as the Club’s first president. Beginning Jan. 5, 1917, she and four women called on every mother in the Village to attend a meeting on Jan. 25 in the little Red Brick School House on Lake Road. The response was overwhelming with an overflow attendance of 52 women.
According to notes on the early meetings, “Tea was made over a fire of coals and china was transported to meetings in a little red wagon. The ladies sewed, had musical recitals and, with the proceeds, bought footstools for the children to raise their feet from the draughty floors.” A neighbor’s outhouse was the only “facility” for the school house.
The group’s motto was “Children First.” Another early purchase was a Victrola to teach children a finer appreciation of music. The Club’s purpose was to promote cultural, social and civic activities in the community. As a note of interest, one of the first speakers was newscaster Dorothy Fuldheim.
During the early years, the women also gave plays to raise funds. They did all the work from stitching the stage curtain and costumes to creating props to acting. Husbands built the stages and performed. However a leading man did need to be imported from Westlake. Two performances raised $110 for the library. In 1934 the Drama Group spun off into a separate group, “The Village Players.”
By January 1937 the Club moved its meetings to the community rooms over the fire department and donated many of the furnishings in what is now the Community House. In 1936, a Student Loan and Scholarship Aid program was initiated; $50 was raised through a bridge tea and “loaned” to a Bay High senior girl. By 1942 the club awarded a gift of $50 to girls, and in 1977 included boys. Money continued to be raised by luncheons and cookbook sales.
The Club was very socially active holding picnics, luncheons, Christmas parties, dinner dances at the country clubs, garage sales and “splash” parties. Early interest groups covered music, art, physical fitness, home economics, literature and more. In 1938, the garden group split off to form a separate interest group.
In the '40s, the Club held block parties to raise money for the USO and other war efforts and sponsored the Red Cross Mobile Blood Unit at the Community House. Funds were raised by selling war stamps. By 1949 the meetings were so crowded that a Junior Women’s Club was founded. In the '50s the busy hook-and-braided-rug group separated from the Club and became a Rug Guild. The Women’s Club has had many interest groups over the years and change with current interests.
Next issue: The second 50 years. This period includes raising scholarship funds through the Antiques Show. Now in its 48th year, this year's show is Feb. 25-26 at Bay High School.
Bay Village Women's Club is a non-profit social and charitable organization that supports needs in the city of Bay Village.