The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 4, Page 14.


Original Name Was 'Harriet Beecher Stowe Reading Circle'; Is City's Community Center


The Valparaiso Woman's club was organized under the name of "The Harriet Beecher Stowe Reading Circle," in the winter of 1895. Mrs. N. L. Agnew was the organizer, and first president.

The membership was limited to twenty-five. The twenty-five charter members were: Mrs. N. L. Agnew, Miss Mabel Arnold, Mrs. H. M. Beer, Mrs. A. O. Bondy, Mrs. H. B. Brown, Mrs. F. W. Cole, Mrs. Isaac Cornell, Mrs. E. D. Crumpacker, Mrs. John Elam, Mrs. S. L. Finney, Mrs. J. B. Fleming, Mrs. G. S. Haste, Mrs. Thomas Heard, Mrs. Lawrence Letherman, Mrs. Mary E. Long, Mrs. James McConahy, Mrs. John McClellan, Mrs. M. F. Parker, Mrs. Wm. Segerdahl, Brs. A. C. Smith, Mrs. C. A. Sweet, Mrs. Samuel Thatcher, Mrs. H. J. Upthegrove, Mrs. Lemuel Windle, Mrs. C. H. Wood.

Ten of these charter members are still living, four of them live in Valparaiso, and three of them Mesdames, Bondy, McConahy and Parker have retained their memberships through there forty-one years.

The president of "the Harriet Beecher Stowe Club" were: Mrs. N. L. Agnew, Mrs. A. C. Smith, Mrs. A. O. Bondy, president-elect, Mrs. H. M. Beer, Mrs. W. E. Pinney, president-elect.

During Mrs. Agnew's first term of office the club affiliated with the Indiana Union of Literary Clubs in May 1897 and in her second term of office, affiliated with the Indiana State Federation of Woman's Clubs, in November, 1900.

In 1902, Mrs. O. P. Kinsey was elected president; she believed in opening the club to all women of Valparaiso, who cared to join, accordingly the membership was declared to be unlimited, and the club ceased to be a literary club only, and became a departmental club. The name, "The Harriet Beecher Stowe Club" no longer fitted the organization, and at Mrs. Kinsey's suggestion the name was changed to the Valparaiso Women's Club in the year 1905, and was affiliated with the general federation. Mrs. Kinsey held the presidency for five years, no other president has ever held this office, over two years consecutively.

All club meetings had to be held in the members homes, and Mrs. Kinsey was very anxious to have the club own its own club house, so she started a building fund, giving the first donation herself, and one hundred dollars was raised during her term of office, and thereafter the club deposited a certain sum each year, in the Building and Loan Association toward this building fund.

From 1906 to 1910 Mrs. Kinsey was the director from Indiana, on the board of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, and Mrs. C. W. Boucher, then living in Marion, Ind., was the Indiana secretary for the general federation.

It seemed pre-destined that Mrs. Boucher should be the one to fulfill Mrs. Kinsey's dream of a clubhouse. Mrs. Boucher was elected president of the Valparaiso Woman's Club, and immediately went to work in earnest to obtain the necessary means, and in 1925 she had accomplished the seemingly impossible, the dream was a reality.

The building purchased as the Club Home was the mansion built by the late Dr. D. J. Loring, at Washington and Jefferson.

The Woman's club bought the building in 1925 from Valparaiso Elk's Club at a price of $30,000. The indebtedness is now practically paid off, thanks to the untiring efforts of Mrs. Boucher and her loyal aids.

The club house was dedicated to Mrs. Kinsey and named the Sarah Porter Kinsey memorial. Mrs. A. O. Bondy delievered the dedicatory address on Sept. 21, 1926. To the club members Mrs. Boucher's name will be linked with Mrs. Kinsey's in this club building, which has become an asset to Valparaiso, being the only community center in the city.

Since the name of the club was changed to the Valparaiso Woman's Club, the following women have held the office of President: Mrs. O. P. Kinsey, Mrs. J. W. Howerth, Mrs. H. M. Beer, Mrs. E. E. Shedd, Mrs. A. R. Putnam, Mrs. E. W. Chaffee, Mrs. G. A. Dodge, Mrs. J. W. Hisgen, Mrs. W. F. Ellis, Mrs. C. W. Boucher, Mrs. M. S. Campbell, Mrs. R. B. Wise, Mrs. W. L. Wilson, Mrs. C. H. DeWitt, Mrs. E. H. Earle, Mrs. Ira C. Tilton. Mrs. Grover Hinkle is just beginning her first year as president.

During Mrs. A. R. Putnam's presidency in 1914 the Porter County Federation of Clubs was organized. Mrs. A. O. bondy was tenth district chairman, and had the appointing of the county chairman in her district. She appointed Mrs. E. W. Harris for Porter county, the work hardly got underway, before it lapsed for several years, as the World War work took all the time, thought and energy of the women. In 1923 it was reorganized by Mrs. Putnam and she became the president, and was followed by Mrs. E. H. Earle, Mrs. Henry Hogan of Hebron, Mrs. May Nichols, Mrs. George Card, Mrs. Emil Hofferth of Kouts, and at the present time Mrs. Avery B. Weaver is the president. The members of the federation are: the Valparaiso Woman's Club, the Fortnightly Club of Hebron, and Woman's Club of Chesterton.

At the time of the Indiana Centennial celebration, Mrs. L. F. Benet, Mrs. A. A. William, Mrs. A. R. Putnam, and Miss Margaret Beer were appointed on the Porter county committee to promote the celebration, and Porter county put on a long and colorful parade, in Valparaiso, in which the Valparaiso Woman's Club took a prominent place, providing seven beautifully decorated floats, one for each of the six departments, and one for the general club. At the present time there are five departments as follows: Literature, Art, American Home, American Citizenship, and the Garden department.

Any member of the club may belong to one or all, of these departments.

Mrs. E. W. Chaffee was president from 1916 to 1918, and during her term of office, most of the regular work was laid aside for the more important war work. Every Friday the members met in the first floor rooms of the Carnegie library, to sew, knit and roll bandages. The work the members did, and the money they raised seemed almost beyond belief; 644 wool garments were knitted, $1069 was spent by the club for war activities.

A market sale was held, which netted $385.00 for the boys of Company L. A committee had solicited produce from all over Porter county for this sale, and the willingness with which it was given, and purchased, was very gratifying. The club withdrew $500 from its building bund and bought Liberty Bonds. Each department did its bit. The Literature raised $105 and donated over 500 books.

Forty-one years ago when this club was organized, it was a brave thing for those twenty-five women to do, for at that time the men and the press unmercifully ridiculed women's clubs.

The women's clubs of that day were mostly literary and social, but they have gone a long, long way since then and now a woman's club is something to be reckoned with. They are keen students of government problems, national, state and city, and they take an active part in civic affairs. The Valparaiso Woman's Club is proud of its achievements along this line. We were asked the other day what good is the Woman's club, who do they do? It was the club women under Mrs. Agnew forty-one years ago, who went to work to make a cleaner, a more sanitary and a more beautiful Valparaiso. It was Mrs. Agnew and the club women, who procured the first books, with which to start a public library, in the old Hunt home on Washington street, and then at a much later date, the club was behind the movement for a Carnegie library, and donated the first money used to purchase the lot where the Carnegie library now stands, and during this depression has donated several hundred books.

It was the Civic department of the club, who deploring the condition of the old City cemetery went about to clean it up with their own hands and kept up the work for several years, until they could persuade city officials to take charge. This same Civic department with Mrs. J. F. Take, chairman, who recognized the need of the Porter county farm women, and the tourists, of a rest room, before there were any filling stations, and before the stores and garages had provided any such accommodation in Valparaiso, so they begged a room in the basement of the court house, furnished and equipped it, and hired a matron to take charge, the club paying all expenses for a year or more until we proved to the county officials that such a place was necessary.

The Civic department prepared a tennis court for the youth of the city, paying for its preparation and equipment, out of its own treasury.

For the past six years, the club has given a room in the basement, for a relief room, and Mrs. E. F. Van Ness, has been the presiding genius. She has been a faithful, efficient dispenser of clothing, bedding and even furniture to the needy of Porter county, to the number of about two hundred families each years, besides helping transients, passing through this city. This past winter Mrs. Van Ness estimated that approximately $2,000.00 worth of articles had been distributed.

Four years ago when the Red Cross wanted someone to take charge of the distribution of government goods allotted to them, they appealed to the Woman's Club, and we immediately assumed the responsibility, placing Mrs. A. J. Fehrman as manger of the work, for all Porter county, a big task, and a big trust, and Mrs. Fehrman was equal to it.

The club also donated a room in the club house for storing the material, and cutting the garments, and Mrs. Charles Lembke had charge of this room, giving her time, day after day, all winter, to this work.

The club has several student loans to its credit, and it donates to the Tuberculosis association each year, as well as responding to numerous other calls for aid.

The American Home department has for some time past held a fruit shower each year for the Valparaiso Christian hospital.

The Art department has brought art exhibits to the club house, open to the public, free of charge.

The Literature department has sponsored many wonderful lecture courses and musicals.

When Mrs. DeWitt became president of the club, she opened her club year with a "Flower Show," the first ever given in Valparaiso. It proved such a success, that the next president, Mrs. Earle, repeated the flower show each of her two terms of office. The show was held in the club house, and was free to any and all.

The new Garden department, Mrs. J. A. Hauff, chairman, held a flower show last year, and will again this year.

The Valparaiso Woman's Club has grown from a membership of twenty-five to one numbering two hundred and sixty-eight.

When Mrs. E. H. Earle was elected president of the club, she asked for and obtained space in The Vidette-Messenger, with an appropriate heading under which all club activities could be chronicled several times each week. If you read this column in your daily paper, the question of what good does the woman's club do?, will be answered.

The club is very much interested in this Porter County Centennial celebration, and is working to help make it a success. We have bought a Centennial bond and we intend to keep open house the entire week, day and evening. The president, Mrs. Hinkle, has her committees appointed to take charge, and we wait in happy anticipation of the great even, and to greet you all.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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