“Sometimes we have to move on,” Council of Clubs 1971-72 president Pat Sanders wrote when she heard the council would be disbanding this January.
For more than 100 years the Council of Clubs has served as one of the largest influential organizations for the betterment of Jefferson City.
The council formed in 1916 as downtown Jefferson City was booming with street cars, the Capitol building was still being rebuilt from the fire and the town’s population was 15,000.
According to “History of Jefferson City” published by James E. Ford, it was the summer of 1915 that a group of progressive women brought together representatives from every church, club and auxiliary to sponsor a lecture from a progressive female speaker who was connected to the famous Breckenridge family of Kentucky.
During her lecture, she urged women to believe that their bodies and their minds where their own and that they should be enjoying more freedoms from male dominance.
The speaker’s name remains unknown, but the women were inspired to continue their co-operation with one another in meetings to discuss future projects that would truly shape the city into what it is today.
By Jan. 18, 1916, the Council of Clubs records show they had been established during a lunch at the Central Hotel with six clubs in attendance that included the Needlework Guild, Housewives’ League, the Provident Association, Cherry Street Workers, the Tuesday Club and the Cole County T.B. Society.
Their first line of order brought to the council’s first president and wife of supreme court judge Mrs. C.B. Faris was to fund the employment of a community nurse that would be hired through Red Cross. While the first few nurses only served on a temporary basis, by 1918 Mrs. Eva Bremmerman was selected to work and served the community for 21 years.
Within the council’s first decade, memberships grew from six to 37 clubs, women had assisted the Red Cross during World War I, they began sponsoring the Cole County Crippled Children’s Association, various money-making efforts were completed to purchase Mrs. Bremmerman a vehicle for home visits and the council gained financial security by being accepted into the Community Chest.
“One of the purposes of our club was to get people together to accomplish community activities,” said Gala Miller, the council’s 2015-19 president.
By the time the council was celebrating their 50th anniversary, they had succeeded in numerous projects to help assist schools, churches, libraries, clinics, crisis centers, feeding families, supporting both war efforts and supporting the city’s overall health and beautification.
“Now 25 years later the council is still going on, stronger than ever,” 1965-66 president Betty Coil, who served during the 50th year, said at the council’s 75th anniversary. “We can all feel a sense of pride in the small part we have played in its history.”
It was during this time that the council had organized one of its most well-known fundraisers, the fall fashion show. It raised more than $4,000 – one of their highest contributions – at their last show in October, allowing them to donate funds to two non-profit organizations.
“Council of Clubs has been part of the community for so long and the contributions that we have made throughout the years have made an impact,” Vicki Myers, 2005-08 president and the council’s first vice-president, said as she recalled watching the fashion show grow over the years as a model and director.
As the council’s projects had changed numerous times with the needs of the city, each president was also sure to maintain its traditions for more than 100 years.
Reflecting on its creation, the council had gathered each quarter for lunch to discuss upcoming events, member updates and having been influenced through lecture, it was established that a speaker would be presented at every meeting.
“The speakers that have been brought in have provided a lot of information to benefit the members,” Myers explained.
The council also made sure to recognize past presidents, clubs with well attendance and began recognizing female seniors of the month from each local high school in 1971.
“I still have my certificate from 1971,” recipient Tina Baldwin Sneller said to the audience during the council’s last luncheon on Jan. 28 at Capitol Plaza Hotel and Convention Center. “So young ladies, I was one of the first, and I’m sorry to say that you will be one of the last.”
The council had held that final luncheon Jan. 28 only three years after celebrating their 100th anniversary.
“I would just like to commend you and the officers who have so steadfastly stayed the course over this last two and a half-year period and thank you for doing all that you could to maintain the integrity of the Council of Clubs to this point,” one member said to president Miller during their closing statements.
Although the council’s disbandment is bittersweet, its members will “move on” as Pat Sanders had mentioned in her letter and many members will continue to make a difference within other organizations.
As their final act of service, the Council of Clubs voted to donate all of their remaining funds to the United Way of Central Missouri and to the Cole County Department of Health where they began.
The council also plans to donate all of their documents to the Historic City of Jefferson in hopes to preserve their legacy as one of the most influential organizations in Jefferson City.
“The generous service of all those who were part of the Council of Clubs throughout the years will continue to have a positive lasting effect in the lives of many,” Sr. Barbara Neist, of El Puente Hispanic Ministry, wrote the council in a farewell letter.