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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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DUBUQUE WOMEN'S CLUB. The Dubuque Women's Club was begun on January 13, 1876. On that date, Mrs. D. N. COOLEY and a group of thirty-eight women formed an association for "mutual improvement and systematic study." The organization weas called the DUBUQUE LADIES' LITERARY ASSOCIATION. It became affiliated with the General Federation of Women's clubs in 1890 and in 1894 with the Iowa Federation of Women's clubs. The organization which was called the "Dubuque Federated Women's Club" was renamed the Dubuque Women's Club shortly after the beginning of the twentieth century. (1)

The Club's membership had grown, by 1904, to one hundred thirty. The divisions of the club in 1913 were, with their date of inception): First Division of English Literature (1876), Art (1882), Classical Literature (1876), Second Division of English Literature (1887), Current Events (1891), Universal Art (1896), Third Division English Literature (1900), Educational (1900), Fine Arts (1911), Social Economics (1912) and Civic Division (1902). A Home Economics division existed until the leader moved out of town. The Art and Travel division lasted for eight years until illness prevented the leader from continuing. (2)

The Civic Division (sometimes accompanied by D. L. L. A.) was organized in 1902 and focused on civic improvement. The group posted the following announcement in the newspaper: (3)

                  FOR CIVIC IMPROVEMENTS 
                     Communications are solicited
                     from anyone interested in the
                     betterment of conditions in
                     our city, which will be
                     published whole or in part
                     in this paper and which may
                     be addressed to Civic
                     Division, No. 45 Fenelon

Responses came in reporting a variety of issues from slow garbage pickup to littering. In 1904 the Civic Division used its treasury to maintain a clean alley between Main and Locust and 9th and 10th STREETS in hope that "the desire for cleanliness might prove contagious." The same year the members wrote an anti-spitting ordinance and presented it to the city council which finally adopted it after encouragement by the board of health. The Civic Division printed signs which were posted around the city. (4)

The Civic Division in 1904 began a campaign for the enactment of child labor laws. As part of the campaign, requests and letters were presented to county and state political figures. Locally the Civic Division assumed the project of cleaning up the alleys between Main and Locust and Eighth and Ninth STREETS. By fall of the same year, the firms that had profited from the project assumed the work at their own expense. Through efforts of the Women's Club, the City eventually took over the regular collection of garbage for the entire community. Later the Club successfully campaigned for the burial of garbage to eliminate a source of disease.

In 1906 the organization announced that an experienced horticulturist had offered to give time and suggestions to anyone thinking of plantings around their home. Interested people were to make a pencil sketch of their property giving dimensions and the location of buildings, trees and sidewalks. This information was to be mailed to the Civic Division. "As soon as possible," a working plans would be returned with suggestions as to the best varieties of plants and their arrangements. There was no charge. (5)

Building support for civic improvement, the Civic Division in 1910 hosted George H. Maxwell of Chicago who gave three different speeches with the common theme "A Greater and Better Dubuque: How to Secure It-From an Economic Point of View. (6) The activism of the Civic Division in 1912 involved fundraising. With several thousand dollars a total of 457 feet along Julien Avenue was purchased to be restored to its natural condition. The organization had earlier acquired for the city the bluff lots west of Bluff Street and extending to Hill--land which for years had been covered with billboards. (7)

Working with other agencies in the community, the Club fought juvenile delinquency, assisted in the cleanup of local playgrounds, and worked for the abolition of the public drinking cup at water fountains. (8)

From 1920 to 1924 the Club focused on the organization of relief programs, promoting bands, and providing lectures. The Music Department of the Club, affiliated with the National Federation of Music Clubs, organized the Dubuque Civic Music Association in 1924. The same year the Club announced its support for Colored Folks Day an opportunity for the public to assist the "local colored church" in obtaining a new location. (9)

Beautification of the city was part of the Club's activities from its earliest days. In 1929 trees and shrubbery were planted in Dubuque. During 1931--1932 the Club began the project of cleaning and repairing the SHOT TOWER. (10) This project was halted due to insufficient funds. Monthly articles edited by Mrs. Edwin B. LYONS, president of the Garden Department of the Club, featured "Beauty Spots in and Around Dubuque." (11)

The Club played an important role in the development of EAGLE POINT PARK (12). The group assisted the work of such other community agencies as the Community Chest, Red Cross and HILLCREST BABY FOLD. In 1931 the Women's Club, as part of a statewide effort,sponsored the sale of towels hemmed by the blind women of Iowa. The goal of the activity was to give work and a partial livelihood to blind people. (13) Christmas baskets were given to the needy.

Bringing books into homes of people in the Dubuque area was begun by the Club during the presidency of Elsie Payne ADAMS. In 1929 Mrs. Adams began bringing books in a market basket to eight schools. By 1934, the organization was servicing eighty-nine people. The main project of the Club in 1939 was raising money for the purchase of a bookmobile.

Sanitation became a Club concern again in 1946 when a campaign was launched to enforce the covering of garbage cans and trucks transporting waste material.

In 1947 the Dubuque Women's Club set up a mammoth Christmas tree in Washington Park in honor of those who had died in war. This project was conducted in cooperation with the Retail Merchants Bureau.

From 1948 through 1950 the organization continued its traditional work of helping the needy, selling towels for the Iowa State School of the Blind, and supporting relief efforts. In 1950 a campaign was begun to control RATS in the community. The Club's primary objective in 1951 was removal of indecent literature from local newsstands.

In July, 1957 the Club purchased a home at 375 Alpine. A modern kitchen was added in September 1961. (14)

Over the years, the Dubuque Women's Club led efforts that resulted in improved sanitation conditions in the city of Dubuque, founding of the city park service, establishment of the county library, passage of compulsory education and child welfare laws, assistance for crippled children in the Iowa City Hospital, and aid to the blind citizens of Iowa. By 1966 a Junior Department of the Club was in operation.



1. "Women's Club Had Beginnings in 1876," Telegraph-Herald, August 19, 1962, p. 7

2. "Formation and Growth of the Woman's Club," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, March 23, 1913, p. 27

3. "For Civic Improvements," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, November 26, 1905, p. 4

4. "Formation and Growth..."

5. "Civic Improvement Column," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, February 18, 1906, p. 9

6. "For Greater and Better Dubuque," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, February 27, 1910, p. 7

7. "Conserve Natural Beauty of the City," Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, May 13, 1912, p. 5

8. "Formation and Growth..."

9. "Colored Church Seeks New Place," Telegraph-Herald, June 20, 1924, p. 15

10. National Register of Historic Places, Online: http://weblink.cityofdubuque.org/WebLink8/1/doc/16333/Page 91.aspx,

11. Lyons, Mrs. E. B., "Beauty Spots in and Around Dubuque," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, April 3, 1932, p. 10

12. "Eagle Point Park History," Dubuque, Iowa Official Website, Online: http://www.cityofdubuque.org/index.aspx?NID=1149

13. "Dubuque Women's Club Helps Blind," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, November 3, 1931, p. 11

14. "Women's Club Had Beginnings..."