I enjoy attending book clubs. They are filled with people who love to read. Those are my kind of peeps, for sure. It is an honor to have one of my books be chosen by a club. I've been fortunate in that many local groups have, in fact, chosen one and then have invited me to attend a meeting. It is great fun and I get to meet so many wonderful people. Thank you!
A couple months ago I got a call from a woman who said she was the president of the Ladies' Literary Club and that her name was Lorraine. She was so sweet and funny that I adored her immediately and was thrilled to be invited to the group's April meeting. I asked for an address and she said the meeting would be held at 850 E. South Temple. There are many old, large historical homes on this part of South Temple, and I enjoy exploring them so my curiosity was piqued. But then I asked who owned the home, and she said that the Ladies' Literary Club owned it and that no one lived there. I was now even more curious. I'd never heard of the Ladies Literary Club of Salt Lake City; the fact that they had their own place - a home - made them seem very established, and I wondered how I'd managed to miss their existence.
Stepping into the house was simply like stepping back in time. The entryway and the front room (parlor?) were still as they had been in the late 1800s when the club was first formed. Beyond the entryway was a large stage and a huge seating or eating area.
Okay, now I really *needed* to know the story of the Ladies' Literary Club. Fortunately, Lorraine was there to greet me and gave me a wonderful and educational tour. Here's a quote from some literature I was given: In February 1877 a small coterie of broad minded and forward-looking women met in the home of Mrs. Tina R. Jones and laid the foundation of the Ladies' Literary Club. It was one of the first twelve founded in America and the first west of the Mississippi River. Nine years earlier the Sorosis Woman's Club of New York, the pioneer women's club, was founded. END QUOTE
Apparently, Mrs. Jones wasn't Mormon, and she was anxious to find a group of women with whom she felt she had things in common; thus, the club was born. I was told that the "What religion are you?" question hasn't been asked in years. All religions have been welcome for a long time.
The entire story of the evolution of the club is interesting, but I'll just touch on some highlights. For the first twenty-one years the club led a nomadic life, holding their meetings in many different homes and buildings. Then in 1898, they opened their first "clubhouse." It was located on Third East, between South Temple and First South; close to their current location. In 1913, the club built and moved into the Frank Lloyd Wright-esque building. The costs were $7500 for the property and $25,007.94 for the building. The women used to tether their horses out front.
The club was responsible for the first free Salt Lake City library as well as the first free kindergarten. Other projects they have sponsored over the years include placement of art in local schools, traveling libraries, high school art and music contests, a scholarship fund at the University of Utah and Hugh O'Brien Leadership Training. So, evidently, they've always been about more than just books.
I met some wonderful women at the meeting and I think I will remember their intelligence and spunk forever. Unfortunately, this post must end on a sad note. After over a hundred years of existence, it seem the Ladies Literary Club is on its last legs. Times have changed. Salt Lake City has changed. The Internet has made the world a different sort of place, and though book clubs will always exist, this one just can't continue the upkeep on their beautiful home. Most of the current club members have known each other for years, decades even, and there hasn't been a steady infusion of new blood for some time. Something good will come of the house - the club is required to donate it to another non-profit and they have some interested and enthusiastic groups to consider.
Though the club might cease to exist, the most important thing is that it *did*, in fact, ever exist. Times change, circumstances change, but I am convinced that the women of the Ladies' Literary Club have contributed to the wonderful place that Salt Lake City has become. Thank you, ladies, for all you've done, all you will continue to do, and for inviting me into your world. I am humbled and honored.