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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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1987 Civic Review. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

DUBUQUE GIRLS' CLUB. The Dubuque Girls' Club is a private, non-profit organization promoting the educational, physical, recreational, social, and character development of school-age girls. The Club receives funding through United Way, sustaining membership contributions, community contributions, membership dues, and board of directors fund-raising activities. In its first year, the organization grew to 368 members. (1)

The inspiration for a place to provide girls additional recreational facilities has been linked to a phone call made by Ms. Rose Marie Montgomery to the radio program SOUND OFF in 1974. Montgomery's belief that facilities provided by the YOUNG WOMEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION (Y.W.C.A.) and the schools were insufficient for all the girls in need led to the formation of a planning group, Girls Are In Need (GAIN). A board, chaired by Rev. Marvin Bries, was established and an application for a $49,000 federal Community Development Grant was written. The $35,000 received was enough to lease from Gene Sullivan the former Lady of Lourdes Nursing Home (the former DUBUQUE FEMALE COLLEGE on West 17th for $7,000 annually. The grant also provided money for a small staff.

The need for the organization to pay all utilities and maintenance led to massive community volunteer support. Service clubs, students from high school and college, union members and individuals assisted cleanup and painting projects. The hallways in the three-story building were cleaned and painted by a religion class from LORAS COLLEGE. Games, desks, arts and crafts supplies, and entertainment equipment were provided through donations from local businesses and organizations. Youth Services and Retired Senior Volunteer Program members volunteered to teach classes or supervise activities. The West 17th street facility with forty rooms opened on October 12, 1975. Dues were four dollars for girls 8-12, and five dollars for those 13 to 18. (2)

In October 1979, the Club celebrated its fourth year of operation. The staff was then serving over three hundred girls between the ages of 6 and 18. Classes included arts and crafts, cooking, piano, pottery, and sewing. There were two television lounges, game rooms, and a library. Activities were scheduled during the week from August through June between the hours of 3:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and from noon to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday.

In May 1980, the Girls' Club announced the sale of its first facility, a move to smaller quarters and a new program. The Club announced its intent to operate an outreach program that would provide activities for girls closer to their homes in sites around the community.

The Girls' Club relocation to new headquarters at 1810-1814 Central Avenue was announced in October 1981. The Club had run out of money late in the summer and had to layoff staff and suspend its programs. The money received from the sale of its first headquarters had only been enough to cover the cost of the mortgage. An anonymous community donor and the United Way of Dubuque gave the Club $4,800 to operate until November 1st when over $38,000 from United Way's 1982 special project list was expected. Two outreach programs were scheduled to begin on November 2, 1981, with additional recreational programs and workshops planned in the headquarter's building.

On October 1, 1984, mortgage papers were signed for property at 1638 Iowa Street. The purchase of the new location for the Girls' Club was made possible after the organization was named a beneficiary of the estate of Gladys Mary Hamsmith. Renovation occurred in the building during 1984 and 1985.

The Girls' Club continued to experience membership growth through 1989. During the 1988 calendar year, the Club served 845 girls from kindergarten through age 18. This was a growth over the 713 served in 1987. Session participation also showed increase. From September 1988 to February 1989 an average of fifteen girls were involved per session in comparison with 12.5 for the previous year. The Club then served girls from its Iowa Street location; outreach programs in Dubuque and East Dubuque, Illinois; and summer fun activities open to boys and girls as far away as Dickeyville and Kieler, Wisconsin. Funding for the Club was provided through the United Way, foundations and trusts, individual and business contributions, and fundraisers.

In January 1998 the DUBUQUE BOYS' CLUB and the Dubuque Girls' Club announced their agencies had agreed to merge. The new organization was called the BOYS' AND GIRLS' CLUB OF GREATER DUBUQUE.

The action, which would take place in November, would allow both organizations to serve more people. The Boys' Club at 1299 Locust with a membership of 1,200 was already a member of the Boys' and Girls' Club of America. The Girls' Club, at 1638 Iowa, was a privately operated organization. The merger would affiliate it with the national organization. Until the actual merger took place, the evening meals program continued at their respective locations. Hours at both organizations and the size of the staff remained the same. (3)



1. Bulkey, E. A. "Hats Off to the Girls' Club," Telegraph Herald, December 12, 1976, p. 10

2. Ibid.

3. Gwiasda, Susan B. "Boys Club, Girls Club Intend to Join Forces," Telegraph Herald, January 30, 1998, p. 2