Women’s Reading Club celebrates 125 years
by Larry Gierer, The Columbus Ledger-Enquire
January 05, 2014 04:54 PM | 807 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
COLUMBUS — In 125 years, little has changed at the Woman’s Reading Club of Columbus.

For example, arriving late for roll call at a meeting still costs the tardy member 10 cents.

More than a century after its beginning, members are still addressed formally. For example, club president Ene Pate is Mrs. James D. Pate.

There is something else that has not changed. That is the club’s purpose.

“It is all about knowledge,” member Mary Alice Humes said. “It is about learning.”

A club motto is “the light shines forth and the darkness cannot conceal it.”

The club held its first meeting on Feb. 14, 1888. It was the first organized woman’s club in Columbus and the first one chartered in Georgia with a constitution and bylaws.

“Local clubs have come and gone but we are still here,” member Pat Walters said.

Pate said the club is likely the oldest in the city that does not have a national affiliation.

“It takes a lot of perseverance to keep something like this going,” Pate said. “Also, a lot of luck.”

“It is a great tradition,” member Lally McGurk said. “We have people who want to keep that tradition alive.”

Humes said that, through the years, the club has been active in civic affairs and its work led to the creation of other clubs.

“For a time, it was like a mini Junior League,” Pate said.

The club was honored at a luncheon Tuesday by Columbus Bank & Trust, which is also celebrating its 125th birthday.

“Since we share a birthday we thought it would be a good idea,” the bank’s group Vice President of Community Development Helen Johnson said.

She added that the club has done business with CB&T for many years.

Membership is limited to 40 people and the current membership is about 35.

Prospective members are nominated by those currently in the group.

Pate said members tend to be 40 and older.

“It is not really for women who have young children and not much free time,” Pate said.

While the club sounds like other groups where books are read and discussed, it is not. However, tea is served.

“Members do research papers on various topics then speak about them,” McGurk said. “There is work involved.”

Some themes through the years have included German Life and Thought, Classic Myths in English literature, Study of Grand Opera, Great Homes of the World, Interesting Women in Literature, World Cuisine and A Southern Perspective: Selected Authors and Their Works.

This year’s theme was Women’s Roles in the Early 20th Century.

Not every member does a presentation each year. Presentations are expected to be 20 minutes in length.

“It can be challenging,” Humes said.

“You can’t just read one book and get it done,” Walters said. “Some people find it a little easier to speak in front of an audience than others.”

One thing that has changed is that it is easier to do the research papers.

“It’s is a lot easier to find the information with a computer,” Pate said.

“You could really spend a lot of time looking for the books you needed, especially many years ago,” McGurk said.

“You can learn so much,” Walters said.

The club meets at 3 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month, September through May. There are no reports given in December, which is a business meeting. The women giving reports also serve as the hosts. Meetings are often held at the Wynn House.

The idea for the club had its birth in a small room in a building that housed the Enquirer Sun newspaper. It was what passed for a library.

Two visitors from Indiana climbed the stairs to find out information about the woman’s club of the town. They asked Anna Hull, and when Hull heard about the club the women had in their hometown, with friends meeting to study and improve their minds, she began to envision such a club in Columbus.

Hull got together with her friends Mollie Wise, Annie Backus and Theresa Griffin. The idea began to take shape.

“These were very progressive women, not conventional at all,” Pate said.

It was a time when women did not vote or own property. A woman’s education was not considered to be that important.

On the 50th anniversary, the woman’s editor at the Columbus Ledger, Latimer Watson, wrote, “years have passed since that day when a handful of clear-thinking women, bound on all sides by strict conventions, looked into the future and realized that the feminine brain could not be cramped forever as was the feminine figure at that time.”

“It has always been an honor to be invited to join and to be a member,” McGurk said.

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