Although many of the popular
stories about Southern states, like Texas, focus on romantic wars and
battles, around the turn of the 20th Century these states began a
transformation that linked them into a sense of civic responsibility and a
broader national consciousness. Such is the case with the Woman’s Monday
Club of Corpus Christi, Texas. Originally founded in 1897 as a literary
club, the organization soon aligned itself with political action and both
the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs (1901) and the General Federation of
Women’s Clubs (1903). This state and national connection opened channels of
communication for their local affiliates, which encouraged activity and
education between the local groups.
The Woman’s Monday Club members
found avenues for expression of their social concerns in a multitude places
including education, parks and recreation, sanitation and fundraising for
local urban safety measures. Among their activities, the club members
undertook the preservation of Artesian Park in downtown Corpus Christi,
originally an artesian well and Mexican American War campsite for General
Zachary Taylor’s troops.
As part of the early focus on
public sanitation, the club members petitioned the city council to remove
fish houses and saloons from the city’s beaches. These establishments, like
Upton Sinclair’s meatpacking plants, paid no attention to hygienic food
preparation. The national push toward literacy and education led the club
to tailor federation messages to meet local needs by holding children’s
story hours, purchasing a baby grand piano for the local high school and
rewarding Mexican-American students five-dollar gold pieces upon high school
graduation. To improve urban safety, the club aided in the purchase of the
city’s first “chemical” fire engine.
During both World War I and
World War II, the club sponsored and participated in activities to support
our troops and our country. Among these activities were good will visits to
wounded soldiers at home front hospitals, Red Cross support and the selling
of war bonds. Club members were also among those Americans that lost family
members to the cause. As a result of this sacrifice, member founded the
national organization The Gold Star Honor Court.
In addition, many club members
held regional, state and national positions in the federations including
life board member, president and vice president in the Texas Federation and
multiple national committee chair positions. Studying the Woman’s Monday
Club shows local women did not lose their autonomy, as some historians
suggest. Instead, their federation memberships allowed them the strength to
increase awareness about their localized concerns by joining other
communities of women with similar objectives.
summary was modified from an Abstract of the paper “Tailoring the Message:
The Progressive Era Reform of the Woman’s Monday Club of Corpus Christi,
Texas” delivered at the
Rocky Mountain Interdisciplinary History Conference
on September 20, 2003.