On March 10, 1883, the Woman’s Club of Olympia is founded “for study and mutual improvement of its members” by Abbie Howard Hunt Stuart (1840?-1902), Emily Olney French (1828-1897), Mary Olney Brown (1821-1886), Clara Sylvester, Ella Stork, and Janet Moore. The membership, limited to 50 in number, will meet in a variety of locations until the Stuart Block building becomes available for club meetings. Later, Abbie Stuart will donate land for a permanent clubhouse structure, which still stands today.
A First and a Model
The Women's Club of Olympia is generally credited as the first woman’s club in Washington state (although an earlier "Columbia Maternal Association" composed of missionary wives had a brief existence in the 1830s). The Olympia group’s format and activities became representative of future literary and civic clubs that would soon form throughout the region’s cities and towns. The club embraced a formal style, using a constitution, by-laws, and parliamentary procedure, electing officers, keeping minutes, printing an annual program, and screening new members through an executive committee.
Women met 26 times each year, from September through June, to discuss cultural topics and current events via formal papers researched and delivered by the members. Incendiary topics, like politics (in the capital city!) and religion, were discouraged, to encourage harmony, social interaction, literary study, and civic reform projects. Allied with the Washington State Federation of Women’s Clubs and General Federation of Women’s Clubs, the clubs members conferred with women in other clubs to share techniques for raising funds for community projects and lobbying legislators for social welfare programs for needy women, children, and the impoverished.