Sunday, November 28, 2010


     In the early part of the 19th Century women were fairly isolated in the home, particularly middle class women, for whom running the household could be an all-encompassing task.  Fortunately, changes in the late 19th Century brought women more leisure time than ever before.  Denied an education and the right to vote, these women sought ways to better themselves and develop as people.

An explosion of clubs started in the mid-1800's with the formation of clubs designed by women, run by women and created for the betterment of women - clubs like Sorosis and the New England Women's Club led the way.  In 1890, the General Federation of Women's Clubs was founded as a place for the various women's clubs to work together.  To give an idea of the growth of the movement, sixty-six clubs initially formed the federation in 1890.  By 1916 there were over 2,000 clubs in the Federation.

Why would a group of social clubs for women be important to history?  Read on and see....

Notes on using this site:

  • Begin at the entry labelled "Life for Women in the 19th Century"
  • Scroll down to examine earlier posts
  • To continue, at the bottom of the page click "older posts"
  • Sources are listed on a separate page - marked by a tab at the top of the page
  • Enjoy!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Life for Women in the 19th Century

[Woman in kitchen]

  1. What is this woman doing in the photograph?  Where is she?
  2. What time period is this from? 
  3. How do you know?
  4. Is this typical of women for the time period?
  5. Look at the light in the picture.  Why do you think the photographer chose to take the photograph using this light source?
  6. What does the light say about the photographer's thoughts on his subject?

Women's Clubs

Woman's Club, Minnesota Territorial Pioneers.

Photograph dated 5/11/1911

  1. Who is in this photograph?
  2. What do you know about women of the time period?
  3. Examine the women's clothing.  What does the clothing say about the women?  What is their socioeconomic class?
  4. How common were photographs in this era?
  5. What does the photograph say about the significance of this club to these women?
  6. How are these women different from the woman in the first photograph?  How are they the same?

Women at Work in the Clubs

Women seated in the parlor of the Pillsbury Home, 819 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis

Women seated in the parlor of the Pillsbury Home, 819 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis
Photographer: Lee Brothers
Photograph Collection ca. 1915

  1. What are these women doing?
  2. Look at their surroundings - what does it say about the women?
  3. This is a professional photograph.  Why do you think the photographer posed them in this way?
  4. Which woman is the central focus?  How do you know?
  5. What happened in the late 19th century to allow these women the time and access to converse in this way? 
  6. Is the photographer emphasizing a different lifestyle from the photographer in the first photograph?

Woman telling story to group of children at Margaret Barry House, Minneapolis.

Woman telling story to group of children at Margaret Barry Settlement House, Minneapolis.
Photographer: Lee Brothers
Photograph Collection ca. 1925

  1. What is this woman doing?
  2. Who are these children?  How do you know?
  3. What does this photograph tell you about the work women's clubs performed?
  4. Look up Jane Addams and Settlement House.  Would these reforms have happened without women?
  5. When did women gain the right to vote according to the consitution?
  6. Were women doing important work before they had the right to vote?

Women's Clubs Buildings

The Women's Club of Fort Worth, Texas

  1. These are two of the many women's clubs buildings around the United States.  Write a brief description of each. 
  2. Describe what they have in common.
  3. How are they different?
  4. Describe the women you think might belong to this club.
  5. Do these buildings make a statement about the members of this club? 
  6. What kind of statement do they make?

Women's Christian Temperance Union - A Powerful Club

  1. Look at the date of the document.  To whom is it addressed?
  2. What is the letter celebrating?
  3. Do women in this time period have this privilege elsewhere in the United States?
  4. Look up the word "temperance" - what does it mean?
  5. What is a union?
  6. Why would the Women's Christian Temperance Union be interested in Washington voters?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Characteristics of Women's Clubs

1940 - photoraph of Women's Club Meeting - Tulare Farm Worker's Community

  1. Describe the women in this photograph.
  2. Describe the meeting house surroundings. 
  3. How do they compare with the other club meeting locales you have examined?
  4. Look at the caption.  Where are these women living?
  5. This photograph is about 20-30 years later than many of the others you have examined.  What has changed in the United States? (hint:  look at the date in the caption)
  6. Based on what you have learned, how have women's clubs changed?