On January 8, 1894 forty women met in Mrs. John Ryan’s parlor and established the Mount Pleasant Woman’s Club in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, for the purposes of intellectual and social interaction. Lydia Kniss, principal at the Normal School, was elected the first president and served in that capacity for nearly three years. The women met every Monday afternoon and their annual dues were one dollar.
During its formative years, the Club was primarily concerned with study and intellectual enlightenment. Such topics as ancient history, United States territorial possessions, and the telephone were assigned and discussed. Following this period, the Club became increasingly focused on civic activities. Pushing for a city public rest room, helping the county detention home, assisting in war efforts, and supporting community health have all been important activities for the Club.
None of the Club’s activities has generated more activity than Veterans’ Memorial Public Library in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. The Club’s first gift to the library in 1909 consisted of: all books owned by the club, the $135 reserve fund, and financial support for one of the members to attend summer library school in Ann Arbor in order to become the public librarian. Challenged in late 1920 to raise $1,000 for equipment for the new library, the ladies responded by raising $2,643.12 in three months.
In 1895 the club was one of forty-seven founding members of the Michigan State Federation of Women’s Clubs. One of the highlights of the club’s history was a surprise visit by Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan in 1902, who gave a short address regarding education and women. (This information is from the collection.) The Club continues to exist.