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Woman's Club of Evanston (Evanston, Ill.)



  • Existence: 1889    


The Woman's Club of Evanston's founder, Elizabeth Boynton Harbert, was born in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 1845. She attended several colleges. Her education, combined with wide-ranging reading and excellent public speaking skills, led her to join many woman's groups where she actively pursued woman's suffrage and other reform issues.

After marrying Captain William S. Harbert, a lawyer, she moved with him to Des Moines, Iowa. In 1874 the Harberts moved to Evanston, eventually settling in a large house at 1412 Judson Avenue. Mrs. Harbert continued her energetic work with many women's and reform groups which involved frequent speaking, writing, and editing.

On March 2, 1889 she invited twenty friends to a meeting in her home “to talk over things”. The Woman's Club of Evanston was formed shortly thereafter with forty-two charter members. It adopted a constitution in March, 1890. Until 1913 meetings of the club and its various sub-groups were held in members' homes, as well as at various clubs, associations, and churches.

The Woman's Club was early divided into three departments: Art and Literature, Child and Home, and Philanthropy and Sociology. Meetings dealt with serious topics. The Club also sponsored occasional parties and other social gatherings.

Mrs. Harbert served as president from 1889 to 1897. Since then presidents have usually served two year terms.

The Club has, since 1910, given one-tenth of its dues and initiation fees to various charitable organizations. Other major projects have included a fund-raising event in 1892 that produced $3600 which provided initial funding for the Evanston Hospital; the organization of the first visiting nurse association and mother's club in Evanston; and the operation of a community kitchen with a meal delivery service during the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919. This kitchen became a model for others throughout the country. The Club was especially active during both World Wars. Its annual antiques shows and art exhibitions became important regional events.

In 1895 the club began a regular program of saving to construct its own building. These savings together with the aid of James A. Patten's gift of one-third of the building's cost, permitted ground-breaking early in 1912. The building on the northwest corner of Chicago Avenue and Church Street was opened on March 11, 1913. The building houses the Club's programs and, through rentals of various rooms, provides useful income.

The Woman's Club celebrated its centennial in 1989 with a variety of programs.

History (Young Woman’s Auxiliary)

The Young Woman's Auxiliary (YWA) of the Woman's Club of Evanston was founded on February 25, 1919 at Mrs. William T. Hall's suggestion. It was established as a club for women between the ages of 18 and 30 "dedicated to community service, philanthropic work, and friendship." Membership was originally limited to 200 Evanston women. The YWA's initial project was serving luncheon at the Thrift House, a resale shop started by the Drama Club. The first president was Agnes Betts McCulloch. The YWA grew steadily through the 1920's and continued to thrive even during the depression. In the 1930s there were 300 members with a sizeable waiting list. Members worked together to gather food for the poor, and soon began having weekly discussions about the political climate in Europe. Club members also contributed to the war effort in the 1940s, working with the Red Cross, knitting stockings, and raising money to buy bonds.

In 1951, the YWA began sponsoring an annual fashion show/ variety revue to raise money for various charities. The event soon developed into its current format, as a musical benefit show. The YWA also prided itself on community service; its members volunteered at hospitals, disabled children's groups, soup kitchens, shelters, museums, and many other charitable activities. They also put on events to serve the community's needs, like the Fairy Tale Trail, a non-scary Halloween house. Many of the officers of the YWA later took on leadership roles in the WCE, and the separate organization was disbanded after May, 1999 (the musical benefit show continues under WCE sponsorship).

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Rufus C. and Helen Palmer Dawes Collection, 1870-1941

Identifier: MS84
Abstract The Rufus C. and Helen Palmer Dawes Collection documents both family life and civic activities of Rufus and Helen between 1870 and 1941. They moved to Evanston from Ohio in 1898 and remained active in community, business and social affairs until their deaths. Highlights include Rufus’s work for his brother Charles G. Dawes in assisting with the Reparation Commission’s plan for German economic recovery and payment to the Allies after World War I; and serving as president of the 1933-1934...
Dates: 1870 - 1941; Other: Majority of material found within 1887-1939

Records of The Woman's Club of Evanston

Identifier: 55/31

The records of the Women's Club of Evanston span the years 1890 to 2010, and document the history of the organization and the work of its officers, board of directors, departments, and committees (including the activities of the Young Woman's Auxiliary). Scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings and other ephemera; bound volumes contain portraits and the annual meeting minutes, yearbooks and bulletins of the Woman's Club and the Young Woman's Auxiliary.

Dates: 1890-2010