Pleasant Hour Club Records, 1902-1939
Microfilm reel no.: MF 3910
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The Pleasant Hour Club was organized in 1899 in Wakarusa Township, west of Lawrence, Kansas, to provide an outlet for women interested in educational topics and current events. The membership of the Pleasant Hour Club included women who lived in the Brackett Rural School District No. 54. This area has since been absorbed by the City of Lawrence. Many of the members were also members of the Kanwaka Literary Society. The Pleasant Hour Club disbanded around 1960.
The club record book begins with its constitution, followed by a list of officers for 1902, the order of business, the list of members and a chronological list of attendance for the year. The minutes for the year 1902 were faithfully recorded from January through December. A few other records for other dates appear intermittently following the 1902 records. The minutes for each biweekly meeting list the date, location (which rotated among members' homes), a number or an approximation of attendance, reading and approval of the minutes from the previous meeting, then the program. Programs usually were historical presentations on subjects such as the history of a state, well known political figures or events. Meetings frequently include poetry recitations, singing and/or the playing of musical instruments. Following the record book are two historical essays about the club.
The Pleasant Hour Club of Douglas Co., Kansas.1.3 Collection title: Records.
Microfilm MF 3910/Collection 5017.
Kansas State Historical Society (Topeka).
The Pleasant Hour Club was organized in Wakarusa Township, Douglas County, Kansas (Brackett School District No. 54) on January 25, 1899. Eventually, the Brackett area was absorbed by the City of Lawrence as Lawrence expanded westward. The Pleasant Hour Club was intended to provide an organization for women interested in educational topics and current events. Club meetings took place in members' homes on a rotating basis, and in the Brackett school house.
Within months of the organization of the Pleasant Hour Club, the Kanwaka Literary Club organized in a township just west of the Wakarusa Township. The Kanwaka Literary Club is still active.
An examination of the club history, written by Mrs. Guy Bigsby (Nellie Colman Bigsby) reveals that the members were deeply sentimental people. They valued symbolism and tokens of affection and appreciation. These women's social lives were based almost entirely on club membership and attendance. PHC members also valued tradition, repetitious custom, and the recognition of anniversaries. Each December, the PHC would hold a banquet to honor the club's founders. When officers were elected, the past-president would ceremoniously pass the gavel on to the president-elect. Past presidents were bestowed with ornamental pin engraved with the club's initials. The friendships that developed among members, and the tokens of affection they gave to each other, were of paramount importance in their lives.
Issues of profound importance to the membership included such things as official club colors ? purple and Nile green. Official club badges was another issue of prolonged debate; what kind of ribbons would they have? Lilac became the official club flower in 1902. Two years later, Mrs. Lindsay composed the official club song.
Nellie Bigsby, one of the club's more prominent members, died in 1962, and it seems that the club disbanded around that time.
According to the record book's fly-leaf the Pleasant Hour Club was established in Wakarusa. Actually, the PHC was formed in Wakarusa Township in Douglas County, Kansas; indicating the misleading nature of the handwritten notation.
The book begins with its constitution, followed by a list of officers for 1902, the order of business, the list of members (spanning two pages) and a chronological list of attendance for the year. The minutes for the year 1902 were faithfully recorded from January through December. A few other records for other dates appear intermittently following the 1902 records. These additional records include: a newspaper clipping from an unidentified newspaper, concerning the Wednesday, January 7, 1903 meeting of the club; the ninth annual meeting of the PHC on December 31, 1908; a ribbon, dated 1924, from the Kansas Federation of Women's Clubs; a poem, 1928; two brief essays on parliamentary law; and a notation concerning a club pin presented to one of the PHC members.
The minutes for each biweekly meeting typically span from one to two pages, and occasionally three. Entries list the date, location (which rotated among members' homes), a number or an approximation of attendance ("an unusually large number of club members in attendance" for the February 19th meeting), reading and approval of the minutes from the previous meeting, then the program. Programs usually were historical presentations on subjects such as the history of a state, well known political figures or events. Meetings frequently include poetry recitations, singing and/or the playing of musical instruments.
Following the record book are two historical essays about the club. The first is a rough draft of Nellie Colman Bigsby's fortieth anniversary history of the club in 1939 and is eleven pages long. The second is also a handwritten historical essay. Virginia Colman Bigsby wrote this two-page essay, and though it is undated, internal evidence reveals that it was written some time after 1962.
Women's organizations in Kansas developed largely as the result of the environment of the state in the latter part of the nineteenth century. As white Euro-Americans migrated into the western American frontier, women were mostly living in a state of isolation at that time. This persisted in Kansas, at least until the latter part of the nineteenth century and in some rural areas, into the twentieth century. Once Kansas began to fill with settlers and their descendants, the social conditions that in which women found themselves changed remarkably. Women's organizations, whether for personal improvement, or for political reform, were actually an indication that the frontier was becoming more "civilized." Organizations such as these can only thrive after frontier homesteads have been converted into established homes. The process of establishing new farms in the early years of Kansas history was too demanding and time-consuming for reform organizations to germinate, much less so for social and self improvement societies.
As women's groups formed, many of them adopted reform causes, such as prohibition, suffrage, and labor reform issues. In Kansas, these women were following a tradition established by their eastern sisters, who had been active in the abolitionist cause during the antebellum days. The age in which women's clubs were flourishing was the age when political reform was also ascending. Women participating in clubs in the Victorian Age thought of these organizations as constituting a renaissance for women, a time when women could form their own "establishment," separate from male-dominated society. Jennie J. Croly remarked "it has been in every sense an awakening to the full glory and meaning of life." Women's social needs provided the impetus for forming groups, circles, and social clubs and served as an outlet for the expression of their values. Organizations such as these and the records they left behind, serve as barometers of the age and social, cultural and political conditions in which they existed.
Women, throughout the United States during the Victorian and Edwardian ages typically were members of a wide variety of organizations. Martha Farnsworth, who lived in Topeka, Kansas, from 1887 to 1924, was a member of at least nine different women's organizations.
Aside from promoting serious political reform issues, women organized social clubs whose purpose was to fulfill their need for friendships with female neighbors. The Pleasant Hour Club met that need, often using literary works as a vehicle for socializing.
The year 1920 was a major turning point in the history of women's organizations. By the time women gained the right to vote, with the adoption of the nineteenth amendment to the constitution, all of women's political reform goals had been achieved, and women's reform organizations no longer served a purpose. What next? To an extent, women's social and self-improvement groups were the only remaining social outlet other than church groups. Moreover, most of these clubs served to transcend the usual status barriers, such as wealth, religion and ethnic background. Soon women recognized that these groups served to enhance their domestic "sphere," by educating them and making them better read and informed wives, mothers, and citizens.
Microfilm is available on a self-service basis in the Research Room or may be borrowed from the Kansas State Historical Society through interlibrary loan.
Item 1) Record Book, 1902[-1930].
Mrs. Lucretia Levett served as club secretary for the year 1902, and her handwritten minutes appear on each page.
Item 2) Rough draft of the 40th Anniversary History of the Pleasant Hour Club, written by Nellie Colman Bigsby in 1939.
This appears to be a rough draft of the club's history, as there are many editorial notes appearing on each page.
Item 3) Historical Notes, undated, 2 pages, handwritten, by Margaret Colman Wulfkuhle.
Microfilm listed below is available through interlibrary loan.
Kanwaka Literary Club records, 1908-1991, Microfilm reels: MF 884-MF 885.
Ladies Benevolent Society records, 1891-1894, Microfilm reels: MF 884-MF 885.
Croly, Jennie June. The History of the Woman's Club Movement in America. New York, Henry G. Allen & Co., 1898.
Hale, Lilian Walker. "The Club Movement in Kansas," The Midland Monthly. Des Moines, Iowa, Johnson Brigham Publisher, January-June 1897.
Wenger, Mae. Centennial History: GFWC Kansas Federation of Women's Clubs. Shawnee Mission, Kansas, Kes-Print, Inc.,1988.
The terms listed below may include names, places, subjects, occupations, titles, and other words describing this collection. These terms are used in the ATLAS catalog used by the Kansas State Historical Society and affiliated libraries in Topeka, http://lib.wuacc.edu/search, as well as libraries and archives subscribing to OCLC, a national library/archives database. Searches on these words should produce a description of this collection as well as other books and collections that may be of interest.
Bound volume, 20 x 18 cm., and eleven loose pages.
Wakarusa (Douglas County, Kan.: Township)
Douglas Co. (Kan.)
Women - Societies and Clubs.
Clubs - Pleasant Hour Club.
Originally owned by the Pleasant Hour Club, later owned by Mrs. Margaret C. Wulfkuhle, who loaned it to the Kansas State Historical Society for microfilming in 1999-2000.
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(Notice:) This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). The user is cautioned that the publication of the contents of this microfilm may be construed as constituting a violation of literary property rights. These rights derive from the principle of common law, affirmed in the copyright law of 1976 as amended, that the writer of an unpublished letter or other manuscript has the sole right to publish the contents thereof unless he or she affirmatively parts with that right; the right descends to his or her legal heirs regardless of the ownership of the physical manuscript itself. It is the responsibility of a user or his or her publisher to secure the permission of the owner of literary property rights in unpublished writing.
Pleasant Hour Club records, 1902-1939; ms. collection 5017. ; Library and Archives Division, Kansas State Historical Society.
While other record books of the Pleasant Hour Club may come to light, no other accruals are expected.
Processed by Robert A. McInnes in February 2000.