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posted: 9/10/2012 6:40 AM

Glen Ellyn Woman's Club still active after 117 years

Glen Ellyn Woman's Club still working to better the community

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  • Carol Miller of Glen Ellyn will wear her husband's great-grandmother's wedding dress from 1860 when she gives a presentation on the history of the Glen Ellyn Woman's Club on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

       Carol Miller of Glen Ellyn will wear her husband's great-grandmother's wedding dress from 1860 when she gives a presentation on the history of the Glen Ellyn Woman's Club on Tuesday, Sept. 11.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

Back in the fall of 1895 when Glen Ellyn had only 600 residents, women of the community decided to get together to study topics of the day and work for the improvement of the village.

Calling themselves the Glen Ellyn Study Club, they led the movement to start a public library in 1906 and the same year helped elect a school board president with their newly acquired right to vote.

One hundred seventeen years later, the group now called the Glen Ellyn Woman's Club still is still getting together and working for the betterment of the community. The group will kick off the 2012-13 club year with a membership tea at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, at the Glen Ellyn History Center, 800 N. Main St., Glen Ellyn. Club historian and past president Carol Miller will share some of the events and accomplishments of the organization.

"I don't think Glen Ellyn would be the village it is today without the interest of the Glen Ellyn Woman's Club," she said.

In the early years of the club, members met in homes and focused on a single theme each year. By 1906, they decided the village needed a real library so they could research materials to prepare programs. Until then, Glen Ellyn had only a small library of about 100 books that had been stored in the basement of the Congregational Church since 1881. The women asked for and received a room in the village hall for a library.

The club has continued to support the Glen Ellyn Public Library over the years with members serving on the library board. When a club member dies, the club presents a memorial book to the library.

After women received the right to vote in school board elections in 1906, club members worked to elect a school board president of their choice and saw the first woman elected to the school board two years later.

The club still supports the schools by donating a scholarship each year to one student from Glenbard West High School and to one student from Glenbard South.

Club members helped start the Glen Ellyn Historical Society in 1968 with the aim of restoring Stacy's Tavern, a former stagecoach stop. Since no funds were available to furnish the tavern, club members volunteered to underwrite the restoration and furnishing of the ladies' bedroom -- even researching the original paint color and doing the repainting themselves.

They honored the memory of village forester Frank Johnson on Arbor Day 1986 by presenting a monument marking his and his wife's graves in Forest Hill Cemetery. Club members also sewed a service flag to honor 166 local men and women who served in World War I, with the blue stars for men who served in this country, the red for those who went overseas, the silver for those who were wounded and two gold ones for two who lost their lives.

Today, the club's activities include collecting food for two local pantries, holding an annual craft day to make gifts for residents of the DuPage County Convalescent Center, providing socks for the PADS homeless shelter and packing food for Feed My Starving Children.

Meetings are held monthly September through May and include a speaker to give presentations on anything from military dogs to a trek to the North Pole.

"We have really informative programs, sometimes entertaining programs," Miller said.

Club President Donna Benshoof said all the group's 50 members are encouraged to take an active role. But with the membership aging, she is hoping to bring in more women who may have outgrown the junior woman's club. Benshoof herself joined the club three years ago and said she has enjoyed finding women with whom to share life experiences.

"I think it's a great place for women to have a platform to talk about what is important to them and their families and (to) talk about what is going on in Glen Ellyn and what we can do to make the village better," she said. "It's amazing when you talk to your neighbor who you have not talked to before what you can learn."

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