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Women's Clubs

Women's clubs blossomed in New Jersey during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, beginning with the Woman's Club of Orange in 1872. In 1894, the State Federation of Women's Clubs brought together existing women's clubs under a single umbrella. By 1920, the Federation, with 20,000 members, was by far the largest women's organization in New Jersey. Through its committees, the Federation worked for many of the same legislative objectives as the League of Women Voters and the Consumers League. The Federation differed from these organizations, however, in its emphasis on cultural programming, preservation of the environment, and social events, as well as its focus on women's unique perspective as mothers and home makers. A parallel organization, the State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs.

New Jersey possessed many women's organizations not affiliated with the State Federation of Women's Clubs. Two statewide organizations, the New Jersey Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs and the Soroptimists, represented professional women, especially women working in commerce and merchants. Some women belonged to patriotic societies like the Daughters of the American Revolution, or to auxiliaries of men's clubs, like the Order of the Eastern Star for the wives of Masons. It was not uncommon for women to belong to five or six organizations at once. During the 1920s and 1930s, women's clubs had a largely white, middle-class, native-born membership. Catholic and Jewish women, sometimes excluded from local organizations, tended to found their own religious or ethnically-based clubs.


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