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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Women of the Fort Thomas Woman’s Club Celebrate Their 100th Anniversary

The Women of the Fort Thomas Woman’s Club Celebrate Their 100th Anniversary

By John Deering

To help others is to elevate ourselves, and to elevate ourselves is to help others is the credo of the Fort Thomas Woman’s Club that is currently celebrating its one-- hundredth anniversary. It is safe and appropriate to say the women of this organization have most assuredly lived up to their creed!  One hundred years ago on February 19th a group of ninety-seven women got together at the Altmont Hotel* in Fort Thomas to form a Woman’s Club and also to join the Federated Woman’s Club.”  The first president was Mrs. Murray R. Hubbard – her first name is not listed, but that was the way women’s names were listed in those days – by the names of their husbands. Until 1966, a list of the living Charter Members was published in the Year Book of the club. Some of the first members remained living in Fort Thomas, but others had moved away as close as Cincinnati and Maysville and as far away as California, Florida, Maryland, Georgia, and Arkansas.

The current officers are:
President Ginger Paul, Vice President Flo Grey, Second Vice President Betsy Evans, Recording Secretary Margie Goldie, Corresponding Secretary Kay Ort, Treasurer Rita Walters, and Auditor Connie Harding.  

Originally the organization was divided into separate departments [guilds in some cases]. From 1933 to 1943, for examples, there was the Needlework Guild. The Drama Department became the Music and Drama Department in 1954-55; this in turn became the Village Players in 1967 where for years now many have enjoyed their productions. The Literature and International Relations Department   later became the Music/Literature Department. This one was suspended in 2004. Then there is the Garden Department; it has remained the same through the years. In 1927, the membership added another major division – the Junior Department of the Club.

As the credo clearly states, they began helping organizations in 1915 -- their founding year. Through their first century, they have consistently donated to many such organizations as the Pine Mountain School in Kentucky, the Red Cross comfort kits for soldiers of World War I, an Ambulance Fund, Soldiers’ Library Fund, and the list goes on.  From 1917 to 1919 they made, packed, and shipped a total of 319,739 pieces of work for the Belgium Relief Fund under the direction of Mrs. C.A. Aerts, the wife of the Belgium Consul who lived in Fort Thomas.  From 1920 to 1934, these ladies donated furnishings for a room and an incubator for Speers Hospital in Dayton, Kentucky. They contributed to the Milk Fund, Boy and Girl Scouts, the Shoe Fund for Needy Children, Woman’s Club Federation, and Kentucky Student Loan Fund of Highlands High School, Kentucky Society for Crippled Children, Cincinnati Museum Association, and even gave taxi fares for pre-nursery children, and the Mountain School Fund. Even Mammoth Cave was on their list before it became a national park.

In these first hundred years, many places have been on their list for encouragement and funding and that list has consistently grown:  Camp Sunshine, the Campbell County War Fund, and Campbell County Relief Fund, clothes for Flood Victims of the 1937 disaster, St.  Elizabeth Hospital Contagious Fund, War Relief, and the Honor Roll for Soldiers in the Community.  They have even sponsored essay contests.

The Junior Department established the first kindergarten in Fort Thomas. They operated it in the Methodist Church   for two years before the Fort Thomas Board of Education assumed the responsibility.

In more modern times, the Club has sponsored the ever-popular Holiday Walk that so many have enjoyed since 2001. Rita Walters has been a continuous member of that Board. Various members judge the decorations along the main thoroughfare each year and donate the prizes for these.  The members open their clubhouse on that evening and serve refreshments to walkers – 175 to 300 people. They now sponsor the Gingerbread House Contest for children and adults. Speaking of the club house, it was once a telephone building.  In February, 1941, the Club bought it and “recycled” it into the building it is today. They have maintained it ever since. It is that beautiful building on the north-east corner of North Fort Thomas and Highland Avenues.

For the years 1946-47 the annual dues were $5.00. It is somewhat more these days: $45.00.  By this time the general membership had thirty-five committees – two of which were the Coffee-making and the Coffee-serving committees. The utilities charges were $450.00 for the whole year. The Junior Committee annually sponsored   a dance at the Highland Country Club, and their Garden Department had a flower show. Those were busy, but enjoyable years.

Well, proceeding on to the years 1948—50, they added donations to the Highlands High School Band, the Fort Thomas Recreation Committee, the United Nations Committee, the Community Chest, the Kentucky Heart Association, the Care for Korea, the Kentucky Council for Retarded Children, the March of Dimes, the National Fund for the Blind, the Fine Arts Fund, YMCA Memberships for some underprivileged children, and they sponsored a chapter of the Kentucky Federated Woman’s Club in Southgate.

The Junior Department had a fund raiser, for example, and turned their attention to dental care and clothing for needy children. After that they “adopted” an orphan in the Beulah Mission School in Kentucky. Later they supported a child in Campbell County.  However, their endeavors did not stop on the local and state scene; they even sent donations for the restoration of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

By 1957—58, their own club house began to need some “restoration” too. As great as the building has always been, the membership had to turn their attention to the heating plant and the foyer floor. The boiler cost $1995; and the foyer floor, $526.  By now, you have gotten the concept that this Woman’s Club of ours has for years worked diligently for the benefits of others and they have certainly lived up to the original intentions of the founders. However, their generosity continues for the benefits of so many. The things already mentioned continue to be benefactors: Camp Sunshine, Campbell Boys’ Lodge, the County Book Mobile, the 4-H camping program, and the Marydale Retreat Center.

The activities of the Club have continued and even increased through the years. When it was time to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 1965, Mrs. Betty Eglian was the president and they decided to present a musical afternoon. Hazel Popp was the pianist, Ray Duff, Mary Smith and Mary Haas were performing in the skit. Claire Button also accompanied a singer. The Year Book had a gold cover to make the anniversary all the more meaningful.

From there they got back into the “helping” business they had been traditionally doing. The benefactors were the Campbell County Book Mobile, the Summer Street Ministry, The Campbell County Boys’ Home, the Marydale Retreat Center, and some money for the new Highlands band uniforms of that era. They also sponsored a child for the 4-H Camping Program.

Besides their generous donations, they have taken on other worthy causes. The Scholarship Committee began giving scholarships of $250 each in 1968.  By 2005, many others have followed their lead; and in 2004 the amount was $2,000.

The Village Players Department was also giving as much as $5,000 a year to Camp Sunshine.  The Music and Literature Department gives a CD Rom Dictionary to a high-school junior and a donation to the Fine Arts Fund. The Garden Department belonged to the Cincinnati Civic Garden Center that opened in 1975.

In summary, here are some activities the ladies remember so fondly. They celebrated their 75th anniversary at the Highland Country Club on March 29, 1990, with one hundred twenty people present. Bill Brinkman was the master of ceremonies.  In 1989, the Village Players turned the proceeds from the sale of pecans over to the general club who then continued to sell pecans until 2003.The Art & Scholarship Department had their last Art Show in 1983 and then started having attic sales every year thereafter to raise money for their scholarships.  Camp Sunshine became the major project of the Village Players along with their scholarships.  In addition to these, they also have contributed to Christ Church for Building and Faith, The Interfaith Hospitality Network, Brighton Street Center, and Echo House, or Hosea House.  So, Ladies, hold your heads a little higher when you say you belong to the Fort Thomas Woman’s Club -- and do what they do.

It has been a grand pleasure to meet these enthusiastic and energetic  ladies whose interests include so many whom they have aided through their first hundred years. jd

New members are always welcome. The club is still active and it is enjoyable to be a participant.  Women who are interested in joining are welcome to call Mrs. Rita Walters (781-4094) or Mrs. Doris Perry   (441-0051).

*You don’t know that Fort Thomas once had two hotels? If you live on Altmont, you live where one of the wooden hotels once stood until it was destroyed by fire -- long ago. Fire was the fate of the other also – or as I have been told.

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