Women's Library Club
With the exception of churches and schools in West Plains, the Women’s Library Club is the oldest organization in the city’s history. Its charter members were among the pioneers who helped bring the town back to life following the devastation by fire, and subsequent desertion, during the Civil War. They devoted their lives to the improvement of their environment and the way of life within it. They set a standard for all who have followed.
We are currently the only active Women’s Library Club left in West Plains.Officers for 2014-2016:
- President: Diana Pace
- Vice President: Connie Henry
- Secretary: Linda Malone
- Treasurer: Irene Wagner
Current membership includes:
- Kathleen Aid
- Carolyn Brill
- Carol Beessen
- Charlotte Cochran
- Lori Anna Green
- Connie Henry
- Marty Henry
- Julie Halloway
- Lynda Malone
- Shirley Martin
- Mary Moore
- Diana Pace
- Mindy Padgett
- Willene Pratt
- Avis Robohm
- Carol Silvey
- Betty Lou Stock
- Irene Wagoner
- Sue Willard
General Federation of Women’s Clubs was founded.
U.S. government gave first charter to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs.
Women’s Library Club I (originally known as The Bay View Club) was formed. The original 10 members were:
- Mrs. Vail Snodgras (Mary)
- Mrs. W.W. Mantz
- Mrs. W.K. Davis (Josephine)
- Alice Catron
- Attie Clark
- Maggie Green
- Florence Hiner McKnight
- Mrs. William Hathaway
- Carrie Shutter
- Irene Wheeler
Missouri Federation was organized in St. Louis. Club is patterned to educate and broaden women’s views by serving others as well as themselves in many fields of endeavor. Motto: Unity in Diversity.
Name was changed to Women’s Library Club.
History of the Women’s Library Club
The General Federation of Women’s Clubs was founded in 1890, and in 1891 was granted a charter by the United States government. The Missouri Federation was organized in 1896 in St. Louis. It is patterned after the General Federation to help educate and broaden women’s views by serving others as well as themselves in many fields of endeavor. Its motto is “Unity in Diversity”
All the early written information pertaining to the club, including minutes of meetings, having been lost or destroyed, we are here trying, to the best of our ability and knowledge to set down such facts as memory provides with the hope they may be preserved for the use and interest of future members.
One pleasant afternoon in March, 1894, a group of West Plains ladies was invited to the home of Mrs. Vail Snodgras for tea and needlework. They were Mesdames W.W. Mantz, W.K. Davis, Ed Green, C.S. Wheeler, Virgil McKnight Hines, M.B. Clark, William Hathaway, H.C. Shuttee and Lee Catron. Being women of education and refinement, their conversation turned to books and the pressing need for books in the community – not alone for their own pleasure and study, but even more for children.
There were no book stores or magazine racks in West Plains at the time, only the much-read books of their private libraries. They felt the lack of books could not go on. They agreed West Plains must have a library – but how to start it? How to stock it? How to maintain it? Where was the money to come from to buy books, to provide a place to keep them, pay rent, utilities, and even a small salary for a part-time librarian? The ladies were deeply concerned and equally determined to overcome all obstacles and difficulties. That day, they made the establishment of a West Plains public library their goal in community life.
Their first step was to organize a “Study Club”. Having no material from which to draw for study and programs, each lady subscribed to The Bay View magazine, and educational publication of that day, and they named their club for it – thus, the Bay View Club was founded. They read, studied, and met every two weeks in the home of one of the members with one of the ladies presenting the program. From the beginning, the club was rewarding in learning and pleasant association. In the fall of 1896 the name was changed to “Women’s Library Club”, and in 1897 they joined the Missouri Federation of Women’s Clubs. The Bay View Club members who sparked the desire for better reading for all of the town and surrounding area became the founders and charter members of Women’s Library Club of West Plains. To these ladies and the many civic-minded women who have belonged to the club and worked with it through its more than 110 years of existence, the city owes its gratitude for the fine library it has today.
Mr. and Mrs. George (Susan) Pease, whose son G. Frank Pease died in 1895 at the age of seventeen, started and maintained a small library in their home in his memory. To their personal library some local contributions were made. The Pease home was located on the north side of West Cleveland Aveneu, one block off Washington Avenue. There, with Mr. and Mrs. Pease in charge, the first library was opened to the people of West Plains. The library was continued in the Pease home until 1899, when a small brick building was erected on the northeast corner of the old Central School grounds, and to it the books from the Pease library were transferred. It then became necessary to provide a librarian, and the members of the Women’s Library Club offered their services. Library duty was alternated between the members, who kept it open from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. every school day.
When overcrowding at Central School made it necessary to provide a building with adequate room, property on Walnut Street was purchased in 1904 from D. Reese for $750 and a new high school was built there. It served until a new high school building was completed on Garfield Avenue in 1914, then was used as a junior high school. In the early 1960s, the building and grounds were sold to the First Baptist Church, which erected a beautiful new church on the site. For a number of years, the library was housed in the Walnut St. school, with a teacher serving as librarian in addition to study hall duty. Many of the books from the original Pease library had been lost or were too worn for use, but all that remained were returned to the club for the use of the students.
As more and more books were contributed to the school library, the need arose for more space in which to house them. In 1932, Mr. Charles T. Aid provided space on the mezzanine floor at Aid Hardware Store on the Square, and it became the town’s library for a few years. When the Misses Harriet and Ethel Haskell opened a book store at #6 Court Square, the books were again moved and the Misses Haskell (long-time teachers in the schools of West Plains) became custodians and librarians. As the number of books continued to increase, the library outgrew its allotted space at Haskell’s, and the Women’s Library Club initiated a campaign for a real and permanent library for West Plains.
When the beautiful old brick courthouse, which had been heavily damaged by the explosion in 1928, was being replaced in 1936-38 the club appointed a committee to go before the Howell County Court to petition for space in the new building for the library. The club proposed that it be called The Howell County Library and be made available to all county residents. The court granted the use of a small room on the third floor “until such time as the court should need it”, and there would be no charge for rent or utilities.
At last the dream, which Women’s Library Club had worked so hard for over so many years, was becoming a reality. In May 1937, the Howell County Library Association was formed, with Dr. E. Claude Bohrer as its first president. Other officers and members of the Association Board were: Mrs. William N. Farley, vice president, Mrs. J. F. Clarkson, Secretary-Treasurer, Miss Cleara Williams, Publicity Chairman, the Rev. A.G. Smith, Finance Committee Chairman, and board members Miss Fern Hines, Mrs. R.E. Hogan, Mrs. Roy Fairchild, Professor J.R. Martin, Professor Welch, M.S. Hogan, Mrs. Henry Paris, and Mrs. Elmer Kellett. Six of these ladies have been members of Woman’s Library Club.
The fine new library was equipped with a desk for the librarian, a portable typewriter, desk, chairs, two reading tables, a filing cabinet, and steel shelving. Everyone seemed interested in the new library and many were very generous. The books which had accumulated at Haskell’s became the nucleus around which the library was built. The Woman’s Library Club presented twenty new books and $50. The Ministerial Alliance gave $30 and a Webster’s International Dictionary and stand. $15 was pledged in memberships, and many books were given by individuals. When a call went out for books for children and the classics, people responded most generously. In three years, the library grew to 3,262 volumes.
Membership dues and the 2 cents per day fine for overdue books made it possible to pay a very modest salary for a librarian. Mrs. W.K. Davis accepted the post at the request of the club, and Mrs. John Evans became the Assistant Librarian. Both were members of the Woman’s Library Club.
Knowing the room at the courthouse was only a temporary solution, club members began talking “Library Tax” from house to house and from businessman to businessman and, almost without dissent, the people of West Plains voted for the tax on April 6, 1948 and the ordinance was issued May 10th, 1948.
For fifty-four years, the Woman’s Library Club had worked toward the day West Plains would have a library of which it could be proud. It was a great day for the dedicated women who had given so much of their time, energy, and means through the years.
Today, West Plains has a fine library, attended six days a week by a Librarian and her assistants. It is the largest library between Springfield and Memphis, and was made possible with the help of interested and progressive citizens, but great credit must be given to the members of the Woman’s Library Club, who first realized the need for a library and were willing to work for it.
In 1925, the Business and Professional Women’s Club was organized and federated. Garden Clubs have also been organized and federated, and have done much to beautify the city.
In 1930, the club sponsored and helped organize a Junior Woman’s Library Club, which is now called Woman’s Library Club Two, and our club added the numeral One to its name, becoming Woman’s Library Club One. The junior club was created on February 21st, 1931. It is made up of young women who are most progressive and civic-minded, and helpful in all movements of advancement in the area.
Throughout the years, Woman’s Library Club One met regularly and participated in many civic projects, which it continues to do in every possible way. The club started the tradition of presenting a scholarship pin to the girl who made the highest grades during her four years at West Plains High School, which it continues to do each year. In co-operation with the other two federated clubs, we finance a West Plains High School sophomore to attend the State Federation Sophomore Pilgrimage to the state capital each spring. The sophomore so honored is selected for qualities of leadership, character, and personality by her classmates. The Pilgrimage includes guided tours of the Capitol building, the Executive Mansion, and the Supreme Court Building as well as a luncheon with state officials as speakers.
Woman’s Library Club One was the first organization to work for the installation of sewers in the city. West Plains had installed lights and deep well water in 1900, but bonds for a sewer system were not approved until 1927.
Need anything be said our work with the Red Cross? We think not, for it was a duty willingly accepted by women all over the United States and pursued to the limit of their strength and ability.
At the end of World War I, with the consent of Frisco Railroad officials, we converted an unsightly plot of ground at the depot into a small park. We had a fountain placed in the center, and three trees were then planted, one for each of the three boys from West Plains who gave their lives for their country – Wayne T. Bales, Frank Green, and Ben McDanial.
In 1931 and 1936 we sponsored a Crippled Children’s Clinic. Children were brought from long distances for examination, and were attended by expert doctors and nurses. We also gave of time and money to provide clothing and books for children who otherwise could not have attended school. The Milk Fund was most generously supported by the club when needed in the schools.
We inaugurated the first city-wide “Clean Up” day in West Plains. As a civic project, the club urged that Oak Lawn Cemetery receive more attention by having a wall or suitable fence built to enclose it, and an attendant hired to care for the grounds. The stone wall was built, and we planted the lovely maple trees along the west side of the cemetery.
In 1932, the club started giving yearly to the “Pennies for Arts and Pines” fund, a project of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. “Pennies for Arts” are used for to further the study of art in various ways, such as helping in art exhibitions and giving aid to students of art. “Pennies for Pines” are used to finance the planting of pine trees in cooperation with the Conservation Commission throughout the state. Pine trees are planted wherever new forests are desired and, perhaps more important, where forests have burned or been otherwise destroyed in our mountains. Often, a dedication ceremony is held and signs are placed at intervals along the highways stating the General Federation of Women’s Clubs has paid for the young trees.
The “Fair-a-way Roadside Park” on U.S. Highway 63 north of the city was made possible by the efforts and some funding by Woman’s Library Club One and Two. Mrs. Marvin Hyder, Woman’s Library Club One, was chairman of the committee which worked with the Missouri Highway Department to obtain the park. Land for the park was given by the Howell County Fair Board. Mr. Fred Riley, chairman of the Fair Board, presented a deed to the land to the Highway Department, which was accepted by Mr. Harris D. Rodgers, chairman of the Missouri Highway Commission. The dedication ceremony was held on Sunday, October 10th, 1954. The West Plains High School band, directed by H.R. Glen, provided the music. Mrs. E.M. Wheatley, president of Woman’s Library Club One, greeted the guests, and the invocation was given by Mrs. Marvin Hyder. A picnic dinner was served, by the ladies of the two clubs, to everyone who attended. The picnic tables at the park were the gift of the two Library Clubs.
In 1964, the two Library Clubs presented a dictionary stand with three shelves for books to the West Plains Public Library. The shelves were presented in memory of departed members. Our club has presented seven books to date as memorials and many books have been given by friends of deceased members.
In 1933, the two West Plains clubs worked together and entertained delegates to the Sixth District Convention of the Missouri Federation. The convention was held in November 1933 at the Methodist Church on West Main Street. The Missouri Federation is divided into nine districts, with West Plains being in the sixth.
The idea for a home for neglected girls in Missouri was conceived by Mrs. Charles Kemper of Kansas City, President of the Missouri Federation of Women’s Clubs from 1952-1954. It was immediately endorsed by the Federation’s Board of Directors in meeting at Excelsior Springs, and during the state convention held at St. Joseph in 1954 the Girl’s Town Foundation, Inc., was established. Gifts for the purchase of a suitable location came from many sources, and on October 20th, 1959, “Girl’s Town” was dedicated and formally opened. It is located a few miles north of Mountain Grove, Missouri, in the Sixth District. It is for young girls who, through no fault of their own, are wards of the Court, and in need of a place to live and attend school, security, and loving care. Many endowments and contributions are received for Girl’s Town annually. The three West Plains Federated Clubs give generously each year. In October of each year, Open House is held at Girl’s Town, to which Missouri Clubwomen are welcome guests.
The club made a contribution to the Washington Congressional Medal of Honor Grove at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, which covers fifty-two acres and is divided into sections – one for each state in the Union, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. It is a permanent Memorial to recipients of the Congressional Medal of honor. A living tree is planted in the section which represents the home state of those honored, and an appropriate building houses the records of their historic deeds. Woman’s Library Club One gave to the state fund for purchase of the Missouri State Bell in the “Carillon of States” Chapel of the Washington Memorial at Valley Forge, a project of the Federated Clubwomen of the United States. Other gifts have been made by the club through the years.
Although our desire to do and to give has always exceeded our ability and finances, we hope always to participate in any worthwhile project for the good of our community and country.