We are a Women's Social Club promoting the interaction of women who are interested in the University of Iowa and the surrounding Iowa City community.
The University Club came into being when three members of the University Graduate College (Esther Allen Gaw, Rachel Knight, and Helen B. Loos) proposed that an organization of University women be formed. In September, 1917, the articles of incorporation were filed and dues of $10 per year were collected from 56 charter members.
The first president of The University Club was Mrs. Nellie Aurner. She had earned BA, MA, and PhD degrees at UI. After serving as Dean of Women from 1917-20, she became a teacher and researcher in the Department of English. She served a second term as president of The University Club from 1929-30. She stated, "From the beginning the idea has been to create an organization broad enough to include the activities of the mature women whose interest centers in the University of Iowa, and yet concrete and definite enough to be practical and effective." She stated that she thought the "club will be one of the most important organizations within the radius of the University."
Initially membership was open to: Women of the UI faculty; members of the administrative staff with BA degrees; wives of faculty members, graduate students and alumnae of UI. Its stated objective was "to promote the social interests of University women."
The first clubrooms were located at 124 1/2 East Washington Street, above an arts and crafts store. The rent was $25 a month for a large clubroom, kitchen and bathroom. The program included teas for members and University guests, suppers, and monthly dinners followed by business meetings. By the first spring, when club members dined on President Jessup's lawn, membership had soared to 125.
The first picket line, February, 1917: After the second inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson, suffragists started non-stop picketing around the White House to hold Wilson to his promise of support for woman suffrage.
World War I had its effect on the early history of the club. Members devoted meetings to knitting for the men in service or sewing for the Red Cross. After the war The University Club began to play an increasingly significant role in the social life of the university and the community as a whole. There were picnic suppers, teas, dinners, and musicals.
The club outgrew its small rooms and moved to the Dey building on Clinton Street across from the University campus. The more spacious quarters even had room for a grand piano.
The club held teas, dances, shoppers' luncheons, suppers (50 cents), and many evening galas with special guests. Tea was served each afternoon. A Mah Jong set and many current magazines and newspapers were available.
When the Memorial Union was completed in the mid 1920's the members debated a long time whether to leave their convenient downtown quarters and move "down the hill." The rent at the Union was quoted as $2300 per year. In 1927 the move was made and crowds flocked to the 25-cent tea that marked the opening of the new clubrooms. The financial strain was eased considerably when the following year the rent was reduced to $125 per month.
Popular activities of this period and for years to come were bridge lessons and bridge tournaments. The club held a series of benefit bridge parties to increase the treasury balance.
In the forties, World War II defense activities occupied the members, who knitted and sewed and volunteered at local hospitals. A business women's group was formed within the organization. In 1943 the first club yearbook was published.
In the fifties, the University Club assisted with the entertaining of foreign students. When an International Wives Club was organized in 1959, The University Club cooperated with the leadership in establishing a very successful program.
Mrs. Leslie Dunlap, president from 1961-63, faced a major challenge when increasing expenses and decreasing income brought a financial crisis. The solution was to give up the Memorial Union clubrooms and use the Union facilities for club functions. Furnishings of the clubrooms were sold, and the proceeds were placed in a special fund.
Other changes, which helped to revitalize the club, were reducing the dues to $3 and making the University Newcomers' Club a part of The University Club.
The University Newcomers' Club had been a separate organization for the wives of new faculty members during their first two years of residency at the University of Iowa to acquaint them with the campus, the community, and each other. It was organized in 1938 under the leadership of Mrs. Dewey Stuit, who became the first Newcomers' president. The
Newcomers' Club held monthly afternoon teas in the homes of the members. After the first year, in addition to a monthly gathering, bridge groups were organized.
At the time the Newcomers joined The University Club; nine interest groups were formed with the Newcomers as an interest section. In the fall of 1962 the first Fall Fair was held, where members could sign-up for interests such as conversational French, gourmet cooking, creative writing, and book discussions. The interest groups proved so popular that they have become an established part of The University Club program. They provide opportunities for interaction among members in addition to the monthly luncheons.
Another tradition established in 1962-63 was the publication of a newsletter - The University Club Clarion, which has provided a "voice" for the club. With increasing membership, good communication to the members has been very important. Also in 1963 the Yearbook was changed to the size and format which we use today.
By 1967 the membership had reached 500. The Articles of Incorporation of 1917 expired in 1967, so the club voted to "reincorporate in Perpetuity."
In 1972 a Financial Study Committee was formed to formulate plans for managing the money from the sale of club furnishing, etc. It was voted to use some interest money from investments to award a scholarship annually to an undergraduate woman student at the University of Iowa.
Other important organizational accomplishments of the 70's were: The University Club's historical materials were organized in the State Historical Society; a Dues Chairman was added
as a new board member since the membership had reached over 700; and a committee was appointed to study the membership requirements.
The 1917 articles of incorporation stated that the object of The University Club "shall be to promote social interest of University women." New members were admitted upon recommendation of a membership committee plus a ballot at a business meeting. By 1926 the ballot was replaced by a simple recommendation from the membership committee to the executive committee. By 1942 additional categories of eligibility were added. In the 70's there was deep concern that many interested potential members were excluded because of the education requirement. At the same time there was equal concern that the spirit of The University Club and its traditional ties to the University would be weakened.
In 1978 the study committee polled the members to express their feelings about "opening membership to any woman who is interested in joining The University Club." In May of 1979 the membership voted to amend the bylaws, which would change "active membership" from 6 limiting categories to only one - "membership is open to any women who support The University Club, the objective of which is to provide an opportunity for social interaction among women who are interested in the University of Iowa."
To provide better continuity in the Newcomers' Club, membership in that group was extended to "the first three years of residency in the community."
The growth of membership reflects that The University Club today is a strong, viable organization. The leaders have made every effort to plan and organize programs and activities to appeal to a diverse membership. Through the years a variety of programs have been enjoyed, including the annual style shows and some very special musicals written, directed, and presented by the members.
In the 80's the club provided babysitting services, planned meeting places more accessible to members, and creating new interest groups were a few of the ways members' needs were being met. The membership list was finally put on a computer and was now over 800. The Clarion was printed with a computer and laser printer. In October of 1990 the bylaws were updated. The spring business meeting was changed from April to March, and the dues were raised to $10, the same as they were when the club was organized in 1917.
Graduates, Faculty Members, Alumnae Unite in Get-Acquainted Organization University Club will hold its first regular meeting of the year this afternoon at 4:30 o'clock in the club rooms above the Book and Craft shop.
During the summer the women on the campus organized the University Club to meet the demand for a broader acquaintance among University women outside the sphere of professional life. The membership of the club has been extended to include the women whose interests naturally center in the University - members of the instructional staff, members of the administrative staff who are college graduates, wives of faculty members, graduate students, and alumnae of the University residents in Iowa City.
The club proposes to foster the diverse interests of several groups included. No detailed plan has been adopted but the policy of the club will expand from time to time to meet the demands of its members - the paramount object being the promotion of friendly intercourse by means of informal meetings.
It is the purposed of the club to make the privileges of membership as broad as possible. The present quarters are comparatively small but as the memberships increases they will be enlarged. The membership committee will be glad to receive requests for membership.
The committee is composed of Miss Jane E. Roberts, chairman, Mrs S. K. Stevenson, Mrs. R. H. Kever, Miss Libbie George, and Miss Ruth Gallaher.
Daily Iowan Announcement Article from 1917