Colorado Springs' Woman's Literary Club celebrates 125 years

By Jen Mulson Published: January 5, 2018 0

Make no mistake: This is no book club.

The Woman's Literary Club members are serious about more than the latest installment of Oprah's Book Club. These ladies write research papers.

Mrs. L.M. Barney from Olathe, Kan., started the club 125 years ago, on Dec. 10, 1892. Women's clubs had started popping up all over the country since about 1880, and she thought Colorado Springs needed one of its own.

"Women were discovering themselves," said Cathy Mundy, the club's archivist and historian and a member for two decades.

On the second Monday of the month, October through May, minus January, about 30 women pack themselves into one of the members' homes. They begin each 90-minute meeting with the Lord's Prayer, do roll call, read the minutes, and settle in to hear one woman present a paper related to the year's theme. Refreshments and a question-and-answer session round out the gathering.

Members write papers in three-year cycles. During her first year, a new member only attends meetings. In her second year, she must hold a meeting in her home. And during the third year, she gets down to research paper business. Members who pass their 30-year anniversaries no longer have to write papers or host meetings. Each year, about five women present papers - one per meeting.

Themes change almost every year, and a glance back shows a gradual movement from tangible to more open-ended ideas. In 1907-08, the women were interested in "territorial possessions of the U.S. and current events." In 1950-51, it was "persons and places in the modern world." In 2012-13, it was "changing the status quo with creative thinking."

This year's theme is "Guided by the Past, Celebrating the Present and Embracing the Future." February's paper is titled "Time Through the Eyes of Poets."

It all feeds the club's purpose: "To self-educate women and to expand our knowledge so we're better prepared for the coming century, whichever one it was," Mundy said.

Some recognizable names have shown up in the club's minutes through the years, including Margot Lane, a philanthropist who donated money to the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, among other notable gifts; well-known artist Shirley Kircher; Phyllis Hibbard, a name many might recognize from the former Hibbard & Co. Department Store downtown; and Flo Carris, a strong advocate for bringing hospice care to the Pikes Peak region.

Current club President Sue Badgett was invited to join more than a decade ago. Women are proposed for membership and voted in, though Mundy can't remember anybody being rejected.

"There are some really neat ladies," Badgett said. "Everyone is an accomplished person in some way. You're amazed at what some people have done. They never bring it up, but you find out and go, 'Oh, wow.'"

Badgett, who retired in 2002 from teaching social studies at Air Academy High School, has written three papers since joining. The last was about the possibility of a huge earthquake off the Oregon coast, inspired by a 2015 piece in The New Yorker about the potential disaster.

"There are really interesting ideas and information that I probably would never have read about or cared about," she said. "That's the nice thing. It's such a broad spectrum. You listen to a paper, and it's always good. You go, 'I never knew about that. How interesting.'"

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