Through the Years

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"Through the Years" with The South Orange Woman's Club Program

Through the Years – 1908-1945

By Ella W. Foster

“Through the Years” will tell the story of a Christmas Club which became the Outlook Club, then the Outlook Club of South Orange and now the South Orange Woman's Club.

To gather the data has been most interesting. Old records have been scanned and the incidents that have been found give to us a realization of the work done by the women of thirty-seven years ago and since and the high ideals upon which the foundation of the club was laid.

It is a long look back to 1908 when a few women gathered together at the home of Mrs. Edmund R. Halsey, Oakland Road, Maplewood, (then Delaware Ave., South Orange) to sew on Christmas gifts, exchanging ideas and perhaps doing some reading aloud.

It was soon discovered that the conversation was not always confined to the book being read or to the topic of the afternoon and because the women felt it necessary to broaden their interests outside the home and spend their time more profitably, a club was organized October 5, 1910, a charter secured and officers chosen. The first President was Mrs. William Hagenbuch and the name, Outlook Club, suggested by the late Mrs. Theodora Brown, was accepted. Meetings were held the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month at the homes of members which necessitated limited membership, the number being fifteen later increasing to twenty-five. Dues were fifty centers a year.

The following year, 1911, Mrs. Frank Goreth became President serving for two years and from the records we discover the name changed to the Outlook Club of South Orange, a men’s night was held and even consideration given to joining the State Federation. The aim of the Club presented by Mrs. Goreth accepted then is still retained today: “The object of the Outlook Club of South Orange shall be to furnish inspiration, through study and recreation, for greater efficiency in the home and community.”

Records reveal that one of the first prepared programs was by the Literature Dept., entitles “Longfellow in Poetry.” From that time to the present many outstanding programs have been given by the Literature Department.

Mrs. E. J. Beugler was the next President, 1913-15, and the Club became interested in civics and current events in addition to literature and music and the first May luncheon held.

In 1915-17 several beautiful testimonials given to Mrs. Edmund Halsey, who as then President, have been preserved and placed on the pages of club history.

The American Home became a club activity and the day of meetings changed to Tuesdays. An old folks concert given the benefit of a church by club members is a remembered event. This concert created interest not only in the club but in the community.

The years 1917-19 were filled with anxiety. We were in a great world war. Mrs. William Cairns was president. Meetings were held every Tuesday with first and third Tuesdays given over to Red Cross work.

A remembered event was an entertainment of living pictures given at the Junior High school. The proceeds amounted to $500 give to Belgian Relief. I recall one number “Ave Maria” sung that day.

The following year 1919-20, with Mrs. U. C. Jones as President, found the club settling down to routine once again. Roll was called for the first time and consideration given to a proposed new constitution. The club year book showed many interesting programs.

It is 1920, days of depression follow, club life is at low ebb. Mrs. Perry is President and in her own words, “it was sink or swim.” What was the solution? New members were secured and dues raised from $1 to $1.50 a year and the club voted to join the New Jersey Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Delegates were chosen to attend the State Federation Convention at Atlantic City and ever since the beautifully gowned presidents in their annuals parade has been an inspiration to delegates and friends.

Thoughts linger over four happy years during 1921-25. Mrs. Louis F. Bird was president. Unlimited membership had been decided upon. Homes could no longer accommodate the group and larger facilities were sought. The old community house on South Orange Avenue adjoining the Cameo theatre was secured but because of confusion caused by children running wild through the building while club meetings were in session, the arrangement did not prove satisfactory. Patience suffered as well as refreshments. It became a game to see whether children or club members secured the refreshments first.

Many cultural club programs have been given by the art department since its beginning. Home meetings have been delightful where we have enjoyed exhibits of glass, antiques, hand work, paintings and drawings.

We look with pride back to our efficient president, Mrs. R. C. Ellis. During her regime, 1925- 1927, arrangements were completed for holding club meetings in the parish house of the Presbyterian Church.

The Club was very active in civics. I remember the forceful messages brought to sue and the interest stimulated in getting women out to vote. Village affairs were discussed and I particularly recall one program on the necessity of better movies for our children which caused members to be concerned and stirred agitation.

Membership had now reached eighty-two in 1927 with Mrs. O. D. Parson as President. Membership cards were issued to be presented at the door for admission to meetings.

Many will recall the debate, resolved: “That women can have children and a career.”

The following two years 1929-31, Mrs. L. Harmuth was President. An outstanding day is recalled, May 27, 1930, when the annual club luncheon was held at Madison. Competition for composing a club song had created some rivalry. Several were presented and one composed by Mrs. Edmund R. Halsey sung to the tune of Battle Hymn of the Republic was accepted. Searching the records failed to bring forth this wonderful production but we can be grateful that Mrs. Halsey is able to recall a small part of it --

"The Club shall stand for things worthwhile
In woman's realm and sphere
We will know each other better
We will conquer doubt and fear
We will strive to learn the lessons
That will make life's meaning clear
and sing as we go on.

Earth's tumult all about us
But our hearts are calm and strong
We know that right, in God's good time
Must always conquer wrong
Within the cyclone's heart is peace
And in our hearts a song
With courage we go on."

Under the efficient leadership of Mrs. James Schenck 1931-33, the Club had many happy occasions. The drama department was organized. Many recall the first play, “The Old Ladies’ Home”. This is the department where we have laughed, where good will and good fellowship have grown and ability for acting developed until the annual play has become almost a tradition.

The year 1933 found the club in an unsettled condition. Owing to ill health, Mrs. George Schreiber, the newly elected president was unable to carry on and Mrs. Kenneth Adams, Vice President filled the vacancy.

At the annual luncheon May 20, 1934, the club took another forward step and voted to accept the name South Orange Woman’s Club.

It is the year 1935, our club is twenty-five years old. Our scope is broadening. We are on the upward trend and it has been a happy two years with our president, Mrs. John W. Yohe. We remember with love and admiration a beautiful woman and a wonderful president whose name, Maud F. Yohe, has been placed in memorium in the New Jersey State Federation Endowment Fund.

The gavel has been handed to Mrs. Richard R, Karch. During her presidency, 1937-39, the club celebrated its 27th birthday, a party in pantomime, “Another candle for our birthday cake” will never be forgotten.

A garden department was added to the club’s activities. We have listened to talks on how to beautify our community and state and how to do away with unsightly billboards that destroy scenery, and the last few years how to plant a victory garden. We have co-operated, feeling responsibility in this great food project for winning the war, mixing with it moments of fun, one affair a garden parade.

The club is thirty years old, 1939-41. Mrs. Rodeny Lancey is president and for the first time the year book contains a foreword from the President.

In our year book, we find a sunshine chairman listed. We all know how well his chairman and her committee have been so correctly named for they have brightened many corners in the lives of club members. It was almost a joy to be ill to have the pleasure of their call.

When Mrs. Henry A. Dahlen became President in 1941, she truly gave to us full support of the last paragraph in her President's message, "Let us go forward and accept every new opportunity which will aid in winning the victory." The War Service was an added department and efforts put forth in supporting such projects as nurse's scholarships, book and fat collections; nurse's uniforms were repaired and sent overseas and rooms furnished at Camp Kilmer and Camp Dix.

Because of fuel shortage we were forced to seek quarters in the Methodist Church during the fall of 1942.

Realizing the great problem that would be hers during war days, Mrs. Rice became President in 1943. Those members who formed the Executive Board will always remember with what tension we met at the President's home on D-Day, June 6, 1944, to outline activities for the on-coming year. Our thoughts were across the seas, our souls saying prayers for the boys who were giving their all that we might live.

Our efforts once again were put into war service and we happily supported bond drives and contributed afghans to the Red Cross, buddy bags for USS New Jersey and recreation kits for our soldiers overseas.

Circumstances again brought about the necessity of finding a new home and in October, 1944, our first meeting was held in the Masonic Temple.

My story ends but the South Orange Woman's Club will live long. Those high ideals fostered thirty-seven years ago cannot die. Let us hold high the lighted torch and go on "for greater efficiency in the home and community,"