With the news presented in the last edition of this publication that the Tuesday Club of Sacramento had disbanded after a 117-year run, it is timely to present a history of this historic women’s organization.
The club, which was originally known as the Tuesday Literary Club, was founded by Mrs. Findley R. Dray, the wife of a surveyor for Sacramento Bank at 431 J St., on Dec. 1, 1896.
Dray’s efforts to establish such an organization was an unusual endeavor at that time, as women’s clubs were then quite rare and only two states had extended the right for women to vote, California excluded.
According to an article in the Dec. 19, 1897 edition of The Sacramento Union, the club, which originally met on Tuesday afternoons, had a modest beginning.
Included in the article were the following words: “It was at first intended to be merely a gathering of a few students at the homes of one another, but so strong an interest was manifested, so much enthusiasm aroused, that it outgrew its original plan, and from that nucleus of a small beginning, it has evolved into its present scope of usefulness. Under the leadership of Mrs. E.B. Purnell, the first year’s life of the young club was devoted to the study of history, commencing with the period of Greek civilization, ranging through topics of Roman, English and American history up to and including the Civil War.”
Although Purnell did not serve as the club’s president in its first year, she did present lectures for the club during that time.
In addition to Dray, who was married at 16 years old and had eight children, and Purnell, a former second assistant (vice principal) of Sacramento High School, the charter members of the organization were Mrs. William Beckman, Mrs. J. Frank Clark, Mrs. Ben F. Crocker, Mrs. Mary Cushman, Mrs. E.I. Galvin, Mrs. A.A. Goddard, Mrs. Helen Hopkins, Mrs. Cy H. Hubbard, Mrs. Hugh M. LaRue, Mrs. Preston L. Lykins, Mrs. Samuel Pope, Mrs. T.A. Snider, Mrs. L. Tozer, Mrs. Albert C. Tufts and Mrs. Edward Twitchell.
Beckman, who was a writer and a painter, served as the club’s first president and Lykins was its first secretary.
The first mention of the club in The Union appeared in that publication’s Dec. 20, 1896 edition, and includes the following names of several other early members of the organization, who gathered together for a meeting at the Twitchell residence at 1414 H St. on Dec. 15, 1896.
Those additional members were Mrs. Fred Birdsall, Mrs. James Budd, Mrs. McMorry, Mrs. Charles A. Neale, Mrs. L.A. Terry, Mrs. Jessie Titus and Mrs. Orlando P. Willis.
On Feb. 9, 1897, the club met at new quarters in the state Exposition Building at the northwest corner of 15th and N streets.
The lecture topic for that evening was the political, religious and intellectual development of England from 1661 to 1714.
By the following month, the club had a new meeting place in the Foresters’ Building on I Street, between 7th and 8th streets.
In one of the club’s early meetings held at that location on March 23, 1897, a lecture was given on the topic of old colonial times, and the club’s vice president read a paper that she had written about witchcraft.
A week later, in another meeting of the club, Eliza Tupper Wilkes gave a lecture that was entitled, “Club Life and How It May Help Women.”
The popularity of the club was apparent during its first year by the number of its members alone.
After having officially met for the first time with 17 members in the parlors of the Beckman home on Dec. 1, 1896, the club, during its inaugural year, had expanded to include 53 members.
In celebration of the club’s first year in operation, and in recognition of Dray for founding the organization, a special reception was held on May 27, 1897.
The event included a review of the club’s inaugural year by Mrs. Galvin, and musical performances, among which were a piano, violin and cello trio presentation with pianist Laura (Dray) Perry, and a flute solo by Charles A. Neale.
Although the organization spent its first three years operating as the Tuesday Literary Club, it was noted in the May 23, 1897 edition of The Union that the club was already seeking to adopt a “more suitable name.” It was not until March 27, 1900 that the name was changed to the Tuesday Club of Sacramento.
A report on the club in the Nov. 21, 1897 edition of The Union noted that 22 additional women had then-recently joined the organization and that the membership included “some of our most prominent society leaders.”
Nine days following that report, the club moved into new quarters at 610 ½ J St.
After maintaining that meeting place until the following spring, the club returned to hold their meetings in the Foresters’ Building.
The club continued its progression as its first by-laws were presented to its members on Dec. 28, 1897.
In an article about the club’s first meeting of the 1898-99 season, The Union noted that the “aim of the Tuesday Club is to instruct and develop rather than to entertain and amuse.”
The club, which would reach a total of 129 members during its first two years, was more than an organization that limited its activities to simply conducting its own meetings.
Instead, it underwent philanthropic work, including the first of such work to provide equipment and maintenance for a free, cooking school for young girls.
The club’s first monetary donation was presented in May 1898, when the club made a $20 contribution to the Sanitary and Red Cross Society of Sacramento.
Undeniably, one of the greatest activities in the club’s history was its involvement in the negotiations of the property known today as McKinley Park.
Working with the land’s owner, Albert Gallatin, and the city government, the club persuaded Gallatin to sell the then-poorly maintained and swamp-filled property to the city for $12,500.
As previously mentioned, the club became known as the Tuesday Club of Sacramento in 1900, since the organization was no longer solely a literary club.
Under that new name, the club established its mission to “form a recognized center for social and mental culture; to further the education of women for the responsibilities of life; to encourage all movements for the betterment of society; and to foster a generous public spirit in the community.”