The Book Club with No Name

On January 18, 1935 the following ladies met at the home of Mrs. Rex Ganter to discuss the formation of a book club:

Mrs. J. Quinter Miller, Mrs. William Hamm, Mrs. Burdette J. Buck, Mrs. L.M. Dawson, Mrs. J.H. Westbrook, Jr. Mrs. R. J. Schramm, Mrs. Rex Ganter Miss Alice Barlow

Mrs. Ganter requested Miss Barlow to serve as Secretary and then followed a discussion about the size of the Club. It was decided to limit the membership to twelve persons, and the names of several other ladies were mentioned to be invited to join.

And thus was formed a book club; one that never had a name other than just, The Book Club. Over the years ladies would join and resign, but Alice Barlow kept meeting minutes (with few exceptions) at every meeting from that day in 1935 until the group’s final get together in 1980. Typed and secured in two 6 x 9 inch binders, the minutes tell the story of friendship spanning 45 years.

Members of the club would take turns reviewing the month’s selection and hosting. There are often descriptions in the minutes of the hostess’s table and what she was serving. The minutes also included lists of reading suggestions and the works they chose, dates members joined, addresses of those who moved away, playbills from theater trips, and newspaper clippings about members’ other activities. Barlow would also note who was unable to attend each meeting. Sometimes they were ill, other times busy with other adventures. On June 18, 1945, Miriam McKeith missed the meeting because she was busy preparing twenty five pounds of asparagus for storage in her freezer!

Several years in a row Lucy Buck hosted the group for a garden party in June. At least two of those years, 1937 and 1938, her husband “made a motion picture” of the party. They watched the movies again at the ten year anniversary party in January 1945. Barlow commented, “Those were especially interesting because they showed a number of our past members and made them seem a little closer to us.” Still pictures were taken over the years, including when the ladies traveled to Friends’ Meeting Farm in Lebanon, home of two of their members. After the 1940s there was a gap in photography, the next picture being taken when the club gathered in May 1973. Three original members were present – Hazel Ganter, Edith Dawson, and Alice Barlow. Others in attendance were Isabelle Barlow (joined 1957), Marion Storms (1941), Alice Anderson (1937), Pat Hastings (1941), and Dorothy Wulp (December 1935).  Original member Lucy Buck was not present, nor was Mary Woodward (joined 1951). A few of the ladies linked arms. They are smiling and laughing in a way only possible when you’ve known your friends for 40 years.

Meeting of The Book Club, May 22, 1973, Book Club records, 1935-1980, Ms 84158. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

According to the minutes, the last new member to join did so in 1958.  At the October 1967 meeting, “There was a discussion about the future of the club and it was agreed that we should have one meeting each year and that it should be a luncheon meeting. ” Whether they met annually is uncertain, but as evidenced by the photograph above, they did meet in 1973.

A postcard went out to the remaining members in June 1980.

Dear Book Club Member:

On Jan. 18, 1935 eight ladies met to form a Book Club which met monthly until Oct. 9, 1967 – 32 years, with occasional membership changes. Now in 1980 you are one of 6 members still living and active. Dorothy Wulp and Alice Barlow invite you to Alice’s home, 1248 Farmington Ave. Apt A-8 on June 16, 1980 at 12 noon for a final get-together. The minutes of meetings have been faithfully kept and are to be given to the Conn. Historical Society and they will be briefly reviewed after the luncheon. We look forward to seeing you.

Unfortunately we do not know who the six, other than Wulp and Barlow, were nor who attended. Of the ten shown (or mentioned in the caption of) the 1973 photograph,  eight were still alive in 1980 – Hazel Ganter, Marion Storms, Alice Anderson, Edith Dawson, Pat Hastings, Dorothy Wulp, Lucy Buck, and Alice Barlow.

Alice Barlow, keeper of the record, lived longer than all the others. She died in May 1992 at age 97.

This collection, and many others, are open for research. Come visit!

Happy International Women’s Day!

Lately I have had the opportunity to catalog several friendship albums. These journals, kept by women in the nineteenth century, contain poetry and stories written for them by their friends. Though the albums were owned by women, the contributors were both male and female.

The owner of the album shown below is unknown. However, the poem seemed apropos for this day celebrating women around the world (click the image for a larger view).

Friendship album, 1824-1834, MS 65081. Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, CT

This volume is available for research. Come visit! Be sure to check our calendar for our Women’s History Month happenings, too.