The University of Illinois Alumni Association included in the January/February 2006
edition of Illinois Alumni an interesting article on the history of the club.
Download it here.
Reprinted with permission from the University of Illinois Alumni Association.
A Century of History for the The Illinois Club
The First 25 Years
By Nancy Komlanc and Vivian Larson
Since The Illinois Club will turn 100 year old next year, we saw it fitting to study and share this rich
history with all club members. Thanks, in part, to The Illinois Club members over the first 100 years who kept
detailed records of club events. Thanks, also, goes to the University of Illinois Library Archives
Department for housing these wonderful records and keeping them in such wonderful condition.
It was in February 1906 that some women from the Illinois campus met and started a nameless club. In October
that same year the club officially became the “University Women’s Club” with its first president, Mrs. D.O Barto.
Meetings were held monthly on Tuesday afternoons at the Women’s Building. Two years later dues were set at $.50,
and by then there were already 200 members! In these early years, typically cake, ice cream and coffee, were served,
and it was traditional each year in March for an ‘evening of entertainment with husbands invited’. In 1911,
17 dozen spoons were ordered (“Modern Art” by Reed & Barton) for the club’s exclusive use only in the
Women’s Building. The club had to borrow plates and cups.
During World War I in 1917, “conditions (social and national) became so unsettled that after all plans had been made to make the April meeting an ‘evening affair which should include the husbands’, the whole affair was given up and thus the March meeting” concluded the year. During WWI informal talks were given on the War efforts such as: “The YMCA War Fund”, at meetings that weren’t cancelled. The Sewing group stitched for the Red Cross effort.
In 1918 “the October meeting was postponed because of the influenza and pneumonia epidemic; consequently the club began 4 months later” in February. There was small attendance this year “due to so many women having their time fully occupied with Red Cross or other war work”. This year the club donated $25 to the University Loan Fund for needy students. However, the May meeting seemed grand with entertainment by members with violin solos, piano solos, and a ladies’ quartet. In 1919 Military Officers’ wives were the guests of honor. One event this year even had 300 members present! By 1921 entertainment included one act plays.
In 1922 there was talk of a new club name, and in 1923 it was changed to “The University Women’s Tuesday Tea” which
members felt was more descriptive of the club’s activities. Look for the history of the next 25 years in
subsequent issues of The Illinois Club newsletter.
The Second 25 Years
Here’s more history of the first 100 years of The Illinois Club. Thanks, in part, to The Illinois Club members over the
first 100 years who kept detailed records of club events. Thanks also go to the University of Illinois Library Archives
Department for housing these wonderful records and keeping them in such wonderful condition.
Remember the twelve dozen spoons that the Club purchased in 1911? They were all sold to the University in
1925 for $60.00, though we don’t know why.
Here’s the big mystery question: Where was the “Women’s Building” where The Illinois Club meetings were held for
so many years, and does it still stand today? This mystery has been solved! The “Women’s Building” still stands on the
Quad today and is now the English Building. Between these two names the building was called Bevier Hall before
the current Bevier Hall was built on Goodwin Ave. (A. S. Weller, 100 Years of Campus Architecture, U of I Press, 1968).
In the early years, wives of local ministers were welcomed as club members. Back then it was common to have
hundreds of members attend meetings each month with 35-50 hostesses! The spring “annual receptions” had a
receiving line which consisted of six women from the Executive Board. Meetings had entertainment such as
vocalists with piano accompaniment, readings from a professor of English, or dancing to the Virginia Reel.
In 1930 annual dues were $10—they haven’t gone up much since then, have they ladies! Due to “non-payment of membership fees,"
women were dropped from the club after receiving polite reminder letters. In 1931 a newsletter was started to help increase membership.
In 1928 the Club voted to “sponsor the newly formed ‘Newcomers’ Club’ and consider it auxiliary to the
Tuesday Tea Club.” Dues for this club were $.25 annually. “Mrs. J.H. Reedy had long felt the need for such
an organization here and had been hopeful that a Newcomers’ Club would be formed.” Mrs. David Kinley,
wife of the University President, enthusiastic about the club, obtained a list of the appointed staff
members’ wives from the President’s office. The following year chairmen of the following committees
were appointed—“membership, social and courtesy.” The courtesy group visited the sick and assisted
in making personal membership calls. Membership this first year quickly increased from 40 to 86.
The primary purpose was social, enabling new women to become acquainted with others who had just come
to campus and participating in the life of the University and the community. Whereas in the first year
this club met in women’s homes, it graduated quickly to meeting in the Women’s Building.
However, as the Depression years came (1932-1935), the size of the club reduced dramatically with fewer
professors being hired, so they met in homes until the Club became too large again. By 1937 there were
140 members in the Newcomers’ Club with dues of $.50. In 1941 monthly meetings for the Club moved from
the Women’s Building to the brand new Illini Union.
In 1942 both the Tuesday Tea and the Newcomers’ Club started to be affected by WWII. Since so many men were called to war,
more and more women worked on campus and therefore many could not participate in the daytime activities.
However, club activities were kept up as morale boosters. By 1945 the men started returning home in droves—hallelujah!
We're Not Getting Older – We're Just Getting Better: 1957 - 1982
The month of October, 1962 forever changed the course of The Illinois Club at the University of Illinois as the Tuesday Tea
and Newcomers Group voted to incorporate as one organization with the new name: "The University of Illinois Women's Club."
In three short years the Club had a membership of 860 (can you believe 614 attended the October dessert?). There were seventeen
distinct Interest Groups. One such group was the sewing group concentrating on millinery and leatherwork, instead of the crafts
and sewing projects we see in today’s group. The Newcomers Group continued its efforts now as an interest group as well,
providing friendships to new members of the community. Regular meetings were held providing programs about the community and
the University, and social teas, brunches, and lunches strengthened the growing organization.
The Dean of Students’ office was very much involved in the Club's scholarship program. The office provided names,
encouraged applications, and interviewed each student. After the custodian of scholarships and the committee met to determine
the recipients, the custodian met with the Dean to clear selections. The Illinois Club 100 years of success at the University
of Illinois has helped hundreds of students financially. The scholarship fund, started in 1915, was originally used as loans
to needy students, but by the time of our incorporation in 1962 and the prosperity of the United States, the Club was
able to invest these funds and establish a permanent scholarship. Initially, the scholarships were awarded to successful
female candidates, thus in our own small way, we helped to promote greater female attendance at the University.
During these 25 years, we gave approximately 67 scholarships or the equivalent of $14,000.
In 1966, through numerous meetings, it was decided that the University of Illinois Foundation would receive and hold
funds of the Club to be designated as the University of Illinois Women's Club Loan Fund. This fund was to be
administered by the Foundation with assistance from University officers and with recommendations from the Club.
The custodian, as chair of the University of Illinois Women's Club Loan Fund, served as liaison between the Club and the
Foundation in its administration of the fund. During the year 1975, the Club By-laws Revision Committee revised the
scholarship section. The procedure of handling money and awarding scholarships and loans had been changed by a vote of
the membership to transfer the funds from the Foundation to a new account.
Our next significant change occurred in the 70's as we officially incorporated as a not-for-profit organization and
our scholarship fund reaped the benefits. Soon after, the Club needed to meet changing affirmative action policies
and welcomed men into membership roles and offered scholarships to male students. At the end of the decade, we officially
renamed the organization “The Women's Club at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign”. Whatever our name has been,
we have been an organization that has touched lives in friendship, education, and service.
Hence, "we're not getting older - we're just getting better."