Woman's Club Building
The national Woman's Club movement promoted philanthropic causes to Madison's women.
In 1900, the club held its monthly meetings at Grace Episcopal's Guild Hall. The club
was a major draw to women who were kept out of the workforce by societal mores. In
November, 1900, Dr. Samuel E. Sparling gave an address on the problems of Madison which
were ideally suited to women's civic agenda:
- garbage is not collected, completed 1900
- no adequate hospital, completed 1903
- no kindergartens, completed 1906
- schools are crowded, completed 1906
- no branch libraries, began 1909
- streets are dirty, completed 1912
- children roam the streets at night, completed 1912 with the Federated Women's Club
Madison's 18th mayor, Philip Loring Spooner, Jr. (1847-1918), donated the land located at 240 W. Gilman (today's Avol's Bookstore) to the Woman's Club in 1905. Chicago architect Jeremiah K. Cady designed the building which they occupied in 1907. Emma H. Sheldon was the president during this period. They built the structure for $32,000. In 1906, they offered their janitor $40 a month with a room.
Minutes from the Woman's Club Board of Directors meeting of November 14, 1906 debated the rental policy for their facility. Mornings and afternoons had one price, while evenings charged approximately $6 more. They rented the entire second floor for $20, all but the reception area for $18, $12 for the second floor except the reception and stage. Students were given a discount of $15 for evenings without the reception room. Groups were allowed to serve only lemonade, tea, and wafers, while Woman's Club events were allowed to have more variety in their refreshments. Their minutes report they finished paying off the building on May 10, 1917.
In addition to all of the civic work they did, the club also held monthly programs to enrich their members. A file of handouts from programs include travelogues on Fez, Paris, and Berlin written by Burton Holmes, delivered by Wright Kramer; a song recital by Jeanne L'Hommedieu in 1908; Marie Cary's The Art of the Dance offered during the 1915-16 season; a celebration of the Pilgrims' Tercentenary entitled "The Lighting of the Torch: A Masque" by Fannie Buchanan in 1920; Cornelia Otis Skinner's dramatic impersonator presentation included sketches of "An American Girl on a French Telephone," "A Southern Girl in the Sistine Chapel," and "In a Gondola." February, 1910's program was "The Lady of Shalott" by the University Girls' Glee Club and "A Shakespearean Burlesque-The Ladies Speak at Last."
By 1973, the Woman's Club was unable to rent its hall to area groups because of the competition from other facilities. After they had to lay off their janitor to make necessary improvements, they decided to sell the building. The building was sold in 1973 and again in 1986. The club initially met at the YWCA on E. Mifflin Street. Today, the Woman's Club meets at the Inn on the Park.. Luncheons are held the first Friday of the month, Sept - through Dec. and Feb. through May. The club has a web page at http://www.madison.com/communities/wcom/