Duluth women’s group disbands after 118 years of service
After 118 years of community service, the Twentieth Century Club of Duluth held its last meeting Wednesday. Members of women's clubs from Virginia, Grand Rapids, Hibbing and International Falls made the trip to Duluth to be a part of the Twentiet...
After 118 years of community service, the Twentieth Century Club of Duluth held its last meeting Wednesday.
Members of women's clubs from Virginia, Grand Rapids, Hibbing and International Falls made the trip to Duluth to be a part of the Twentieth Century Club's official send-off.
"There's a feeling of sadness," said Alyce Santa, the outgoing president of the Duluth club. "It's been a wonderful experience got to know a lot of nice ladies."
Santa said ending the club was a tough decision, but membership had waned in recent years as several members aged and moved to nursing homes. The group was down to 12 members, she said, seven of which attended Wednesday's meeting at the Duluth Woman's Club building on Superior Street (the Twentieth Century Club and Duluth Woman's Club are separate groups).
Formed in 1898, the Twentieth Century Club was a women's club devoted to assessing and addressing needs in the community. The women involved in the club worked with local, state and national organizations in a variety of ways, from making policy changes to hosting community events.
Among its many early projects: the creation and operation of a "Neighborhood House" in the 2400 block of West Superior Street, and housing clubs for children. In 1911 the News Tribune reported that it was "a scene of action every day of the week" with more than 200 kids involved.
Over the years, club members also volunteered for CHUM and the Salvation Army; partnered with other organizations to pass seat belt laws in Minnesota; and advocated for fog lines on highways, among other projects.
Santa said her involvement in the Twentieth Century Club increased her awareness of community needs, specifically the needs of people in Duluth who are homeless.
"I think back to my era growing up, we just never heard of people not having a home," she said.
Muriel Lehman, a Twentieth Century Club member for 35 years, said the group afforded her opportunities to learn about and help her community.
"I would never have done it alone, but together we can do a lot of things," Lehman said. "I've learned a lot about the environment that I didn't know before."
Carol Johnson, a member of the International Falls Medallion Club, spoke at the Twentieth Century Club's last meeting about opportunities for retiring members to continue community involvement. Both the Twentieth Century Club and International Falls Medallion Club are affiliated with the national General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC), and Johnson said Twentieth Century Club members have opportunities to continue involvement on the state or district level.
Johnson said with the experience and wisdom the Duluth women have acquired through years of service, they have insight on what resources and improvements are still needed in the city.
"We're going to miss you - let's face it - and the presence of this club in the community," Johnson said. "You have that connectedness with other women."
Johnson urged the audience to encourage other women who are devoted to helping their communities to get involved with the GFCW. She said that is how many of the area women's clubs were started.
"Look around where there are groups of women doing for their community. Approach them and see if they want to be federated," Johnson said.
The Twentieth Century Club is disbanding the same week that Hillary Clinton was officially nominated as the Democratic Party candidate for president - the first woman to be a major-party nominee for president. For the women of the Twentieth Century Club - a club that thrived during a time when women did not have the right to vote - Clinton's nomination is meaningful.
"For people of our era," Santa said, "it's really fantastic that we're now at that stage."
"Our time has come that we ought to be able to show our leadership skills," Lehman said.