LIMA — In 1899, the United States ended a war with Spain and began one with rebels in the Philippines; bicycle racer Major Taylor became the first African-American champion in any sport and Henry Bliss became the first person in the country to be killed in an automobile accident. Ohioan William McKinley was in the White House, and temperance movement leader Carrie Nation was an unwelcome, destructive presence in saloons.
As the 19th century drew to a close, women were increasingly leaving behind the expectation that they focus solely on hearth and husband and were becoming involved in all facets of American life, although few would do so with Nation’s hatchet-wielding ferocity.
An article in the Aug. 23, 1895, edition of the Lima Times-Democrat quoted a “prominent officer of the Sociological Society” on the change. “Take for example, the single branch of the professions,” the expert said. “In 1868 we estimated that there were 80,000 women engaged in the various callings under that head, of whom more than nine-tenths were teachers. Today there are 400,000 and upward, a growth of over 500 percent in less than 30 years.”
Not only were they joining the workforce, women also were joining clubs, many formed to study art, literature and music. According to the 1976 history of Allen County, there were more than 500 club women in Lima by 1904 when the Lima Federation of Women’s Clubs was formed. Many of these clubs organized in the last decade of the century, among them the Sorosis, Philomathean, Round Table, Bay View, Wimodaughsis and Literary Guild.
Late in 1899, the Etude music study club, one of the longest lasting, was organized.
On Jan. 11, 1900, the Lima Times-Democrat announced the club’s arrival. “The Etude Club held their initial meeting yesterday afternoon at the home of Mrs. J. M. Boose, of West Spring Street. They are officered as follows: President, Mrs. Geo. Mehaffey; vice president, Mrs. W.C. Sprague; secretary, Mrs. D.H. Sullivan; musical director, Mrs. Howard Williamson. An excellent start was made and all (are) enthused with interests in the club’s future.”
For the next nine decades, the club — which generally held steady with a membership of about 20 — would meet in members’ homes to discuss everything to do with music. And, because members of the club were themselves musicians, entertainment was often featured.
A brief history of the club written in the early 20th century noted the club was organized “for the purpose of studying music and its literature, together with oratory. The club was welcomed at the homes of different members every other Tuesday morning.”
Like most of Lima’s women’s clubs, the Etude club joined the Lima Federation, which was active in supporting civic projects. Among the first events sponsored by the federation, Marian W. Fletcher wrote in the 1976 county history, was a festival at McBeth’s Lake park, southwest of Lima, to benefit Lima’s Carnegie Public Library. “There were shows by local talent, food amusements and five new automobiles took passengers for a ride for 25 cents. Profits for the day totaled $1,200. Then the women made house to house solicitations and requested donations by businessmen, raising a total of $6,700, which was used to buy a lot, thus guaranteeing for Lima a Carnegie Public Library.”
On its own, the Etude Club supported causes of interest to members. In 1915, according to minutes of the club, members voted to send boxes of food to war-torn Belgium and, in 1922, money was contributed to the social service bureau to aid the unemployed.
Mostly, though, the Etude club offered its musically inclined members a chance to socialize at the bi-weekly meetings and other club events. Accounts of the meetings regularly appeared in Lima’s newspapers.
“Mrs. R.O. Bigley, of West Market Street, was the hostess for the Etude club Tuesday afternoon. Lullabies and cradle songs were given …,” the Times-Democrat noted on March 22, 1902. “The Etude Club on Thursday evening gave a very pleasant open meeting for the pleasure of their husbands and friends. It was a typical Valentine party, hearts being everywhere, suspended from the chandeliers and curtains, while carnations and palms added equal beauty and dignity to the merry scene,” the Lima Daily News reported on Feb. 11, 1905, adding that “a splendid repast was served at long tables decorated with hearts and carnations …”
In 1906, members of the club were treated to music not of their own making. “The Whitney & Carrier company did a very graceful thing last evening,” the News wrote on April 17, 1906, “when it entertained the members of the Etude club and their friends at the company’s piano room on West High Street.” The entertainment consisted of music played on a phonograph, the News noted, adding that it “was a revelation to many who never believed it possible for a phonograph to produce such sweet and lifelike tones.”
Meetings also were informational, such as one reported on by the Lima Citizen in 1962. “I’ll take you home again Kathleen,’ the well-known and favorite old Irish melody … really isn’t. It was written by a Kentuckian about his wife who was homesick for her native New York. This was pointed out by Mrs. E.P. DeVoe at a meeting of the Etude Club …” the Citizen wrote.
Minutes of club meetings offer a look at the club in the words of its members. “’Schubert — the greatest of all songwriters and poets who inspired him’ was the lesson subject — and was discussed at length by Mrs. Pierce and Mrs. Patterson. Several of the members assisting, in making this a most interesting subject,” the minutes of Nov. 2, 1915, read.
Occasionally, hints of history being made outside the small world of the club appear in the minutes. On Oct. 3, 1929, as tremors from the stock market began to rattle the country, the club minutes noted that 18 members met and discussed “current events” instead of composers, although they were entertained “by a brilliant stringed trio and several numbers by the Etude singers.”
On Dec. 16, 1941, less than two weeks after Pearl Harbor as the U.S. home front began adjusting to new realities, the minutes note that “a motion was made by Mrs. Diamond and seconded by Mrs. Lathrop that the club cooperate with the merchants in whatever way the latter might wish regarding the closing of stores on Saturday night. The motion carried. Carols were sung by the group, and the gift exchange provided a happy time for everyone.”
The club continued providing a happy time for members until the late 1980s. The last mention of the Etude Club appeared in the News in 1987.
Reach Greg Hoersten at email@example.com.