Lima’s Wimodaughsis Circle was born on the cusp of the 20th century, at a time when travel generally involved a train or a horse and the United States was feeling its oats in the aftermath of a brief and bitter but successful war.
It quietly died some seven decades later as men walked on the moon and the United States was entangled in a long, divisive struggle in Vietnam.
On Oct. 18, 1898, the day the circle was organized, the Spanish-American War, which had ended two months earlier, was still big news. On that day, The Lima News carried a story on the U.S. taking formal control of Puerto Rico. On the local level, the newspaper reported Lima residents were being urged to decorate their homes for an upcoming visit by General William Shafter, a key figure in the recent war, and reported that a reception — “marked with all the elixir of life that is usually attendant at a stag affair” — had been held for 2nd Lt. Bingham, of Lima’s Company C, who was home on leave.
Railroads, dominant and occasionally spectacularly deadly, also proved a rich source of stories for the News that day. One article, apparently meant to reassure reluctant rail passengers, noted, “Last year on American railways one passenger was killed in accidents out of every 2,827,474 passengers carried. That is to say that you can take a train 2,827,474 times before, on the law of averages, your time comes to be killed.”
Another story reported that a flock of 16 dazed and confused quails flew into a passenger train on Dr. Steinborger’s farm in Bellefontaine and “dashed their brains out.” Steinborger, the News added, “gathered up the birds and enjoyed a quail supper.”
That same day, as Mrs. John A. Clizbe, a founding member of the Wimoudaughsis (WIfe-MOther-DAUGHter-SISter) Circle recalled, “We were to meet at Mrs. McComb’s on North Elizabeth Street one evening in the fall, which we did. Mrs. Hall was chosen president, Mrs. McComb vice president” and herself as secretary and treasurer. “We each decided whom we would invite and bring to the next meeting as new members,” she wrote in January 1934.
Mrs. Clizbe, whose husband, J.A. Clizbe, operated a grocery store in the 100 block of East Market Street, suggested “Mrs. Lowry as I knew she was a good fancy worker.” Intricate sewing and needlework were the prime occupations of the circle.
“It was Mrs. Lowry who suggested the name and motto for the club and the members selected the colors and flower,” she wrote. “As we entered into our third year, we planned to make a silk quilt. All who did not make the required number of patches, gave money for purchasing the lining. Mrs. Bower suggested, as it was a fancy work club, that we have needles with floss of our colors tied in the eye of the needles and that we pin one on the dress of each guest as they came in. There were many guests.”
“Wimodaughsis,” Lima’s Republican-Gazette wrote in June 1918, “has always been greatly interested in charitable work and unlike most of its Lima sister organizations, is rather more national in its scope and early history than local. Its field of usefulness extends equally to the wives, daughters, mothers and sisters of man, and its Washington, D.C. home was for many years a great comfort to its members visiting the capital.”
The Lima News in January 1949 noted that the circle was comprised of wives, mothers, daughters and sisters of Mason.
The last decade of the 19th century was a particularly fertile period for the formation of women’s clubs, many formed to study art, literature and music. The clubs also became the driving force behind many civic improvements.
“By 1904 there were approximately 500 club women in Lima, and in order to coordinate activities they decided to form a federation,” Marian Wilcox Fletcher wrote in the 1976 county history. The Lima Federation worked to start a public library, to form a YWCA and organize a city hospital. “Many of the public agencies now taken for granted had their beginnings in the Lima Federation,” Fletcher noted.
The clubs also met regularly to indulge in the activities that had brought them together in the first place. For Wimodaughsis, for more than 70 years, it was sewing and fancy needlework.
“The Wimodaughsis Circle were the guests of Mrs. C.C. Cowles of West Spring Street Thursday afternoon,” the Lima Times-Democrat wrote in May 1900. “Seven-point lace handkerchiefs were exhibited in addition to other new work. A full attendance was another pleasant feature of the profitable meeting.” Membership in the circle hovered around 25.
Club meeting notices, which were printed regularly in the local newspapers, evoke images of quiet afternoons and pleasant conversation, of life lived at a slower pace.
In August 1902, the Times-Democrat noted, “The Wimodaughsis Circle No. 1, met the afternoon of Friday, August 8, on the vine-covered porch of the home of Mrs. Frank Carr, No. 790 Broadway …”
And this from January 1900 in the Times-Democrat: “The Wimodaughsis Circle met with Mrs. Tracy last Thursday afternoon at 210 Park Avenue. Although a cold, bleak day without, all was bright within this little cottage, where the genial hostess met her guests.”
In the early 20th century, the circle often met for summer picnics at McBeth and Hover parks.
During World Wars I and II, the circle lent its unique talents to the Red Cross.
“The Wimodaughsis club has reopened its meetings for the summer to sew and knit for the local Red Cross,” the Times-Democrat wrote in June 1917, two months after the U.S. entered World War I.
In February 1919, four months after the war ended, the circle continued its work with the Lima Daily News reporting the group would meet “at the Red Cross room in the Ohio Electric Building to do Belgian relief sewing.”
In May 1949, the circle celebrated its 50th anniversary, at the end of the club’s 50th season. Ten years later, in September 1959, as the circle began yet another season, the News wrote that it was “one of the older literary groups in the city…”
The circle faded away in the early 1970s. The last meeting notice for the circle appeared in the News in September 1972.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.