Classic Tales of Old Dorp: Woman’s Club was early service group

Back in 1980, the Woman's Club of Schenectady marked its 80th anniversary.

The Daily Gazette is reprinting excerpts of the late Larry Hart’s long-running column, “Tales of Old Dorp.” Today, Hart remembers 1900, and the start of the Woman’s Club of Schenectady. This column excerpt originally was published March 4, 1980. The club is no longer active.

This month is the 80th anniversary of the Woman’s Club of Schenectady and, since that organization is very much a part of our city’s history, it seems quite fitting that more of a mere mention of that milestone be made.

It all began the afternoon of March 20, 1900, when about 50 women responded to an invitation to meet at the Union campus home of Miss Rebecca Hoffman for the purpose of organizing a woman’s club “to foster the cultural development of its members and promote civic, philanthropic and educational projects.”

First officers

Mrs. Judson S. Landon, wife of the supreme court justice, was appointed temporary chairwoman, after which a tentative constitution was drawn up and the name, Woman’s Club of Schenectady, was agreed upon. Mrs. Andrew V. Raymond, wife of Union College’s president at that time, was named honorary president and Mrs. Lou Westover, president.

For years, the club rented a hall at Dobermann’s store at 238 State St. (which advertised ladies’ ice cream parlors) across from Barney’s department store as its meeting place. In December 1920, however, the club bought the house at 56 Washington Ave. for permanent club headquarters. It had been the home of Archibald Linn, who was Schenectady mayor in the 1830s.

The residence was a typical picturesque setting of the Stockade area, both inside its high-ceilinged rooms and outside on the terraced grounds leading down to the river. The deed was dated 1834. In 1930, under the presidency of Mrs. J. Frank (Jessie T.) Zoller, over $4,000 was raised to finish payments of the mortgage. However, the building was sold in 1977.

Through the years, the Woman’s Club involved itself in countless civic projects both in war and peacetime. Many donations have been made to local organizations and hospitals. Although the club is limited today in its activities, it still maintains its motto, “Service.”

Historical tidbits

There are some interesting historical sidelights of Schenectady history tucked away in the club’s record books. Here are a few:

— The club frowned upon a price increase to 80 cents for a 100-pound cake of ice for home ice boxes shortly after the turn of the century, and let the Common Council know about it in no uncertain terms.

— When ladies’ skirts were sweeping the ground, the Woman’s Club persuaded the city to pass an ordinance prohibiting anyone to spit on the sidewalk, and signs were posted to that effect.

— The Woman’s Club strongly disapproved of the burlesque show at the Van Curler Opera House at Jay and Franklin Streets, a show that club members considered “most irregular for the city.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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