Originally created 01/13/04

Women's Club will hold open house



With suffrage fever running high throughout the United States in the early 1900s, women's clubs began to back the movement that led to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

The debate moved to Augusta, where women proposed their own civic club in 1912 and formally organized the Augusta Woman's Club in 1913.

They were not without their critics. Newspaper clippings from the time express at least one anxious resident's concerns.

A man warned that "these women were doing too much in the community and neglecting their homes and their families," said club member Sybil Lay.

The women "were very much activists, not just the tea-and-crumpet set," she said.

The 80-member club will hold an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 1 at its clubhouse, 1005 Milledge Road. Courtesy reservations are due by Jan. 24.

Members purchased the 3,800-square-foot Italianate home in 1959. Located on 1.6 acres, the club rents the building for private parties, dances, weddings and receptions.

The creme stucco home with its red-tile roof was built in 1911, and has many custom features, such as dentil and egg-and-dart molding. An elaborate curved staircase leads upstairs to a large meeting room and bride and groom changing rooms.

The club, part of the Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs, organized members around special interests, such as civics, public health and conservation.

In 1920, it was part of the 500-member city federation of women's clubs. The Woman's Club was considered the most democratic because its members came from varied backgrounds and their interests were broad.

It provided a visiting nurse for babies; funds for ice and milk for sick babies; a detention home and probation officer. It promoted safe playgrounds, night schools to combat illiteracy, book distribution in rural areas, civic cleanup campaigns and merchants closing early on Saturdays.

During World War II, members wrapped bandages, baked cookies and visited hospitals to support the troops. They backed fund drives for the Red Cross and the War Chest.

"They were very community-oriented," Mrs. Lay said.

More recently, members have collected luggage for foster children who needed suitcases for their belongings.

The pieces were "customized with their names and little puppies or whatever (decorations) to keep their things," she said.

For more information, call 860-8835 or visit the Georgia Federation of Women's Clubs Web site at www.gafwc.org.

OPEN HOUSE

WHO: Augusta Woman's Club

OPEN HOUSE

WHERE: 1005 Milledge Road

WHEN: 2-4 p.m. Feb. 1

PHONE: 860-8835

COURTESY RESERVATION: Due Jan. 24

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or virginia.norton@augustachronicle.com.