A Brief History of the Tuesday Afternoon Club Before It Merged Into the Manor Club of Pelham Manor
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In about 1898, a small group of about a dozen Pelham Manor women gathered periodically to do "fancy work" (i.e., ornamental needlework including crocheting and knitting). As they worked, a chosen member of the group read aloud a lecture by an historian "about some famous character in history." These informal weekly gatherings occurred during the winter months of the year.
Soon the women tired of the lectures that were read to them. They opted for having a chosen member read novels during their informal gatherings. According to one report, this period represented the "lowest ebb intellectually" of those who gathered to socialize.
Such novels likewise failed to satisfy the intellectual yearnings of the Pelham Manor women who gathered weekly during the winter months. An early history of the group noted they still had a "desire for more worthy things."
In 1900, the group organized formally as "The Tuesday Afternoon Club." It elected as its first president Mrs. Joan E. Secor. She was the only president the club ever had, serving until The Tuesday Afternoon Club merged with the Manor Club when Pelham Manor women took over that club in 1914. Other early officers of The Tuesday Afternoon Club were Mrs. Charles B. Hull, vice-president; Mrs. Evelyn Randall, secretary; and Mrs. Charlotte E. Cowles, treasurer.
The club met in one of the alcoves of the original Manor Club building that once stood on the site of today's clubhouse. At the time, the Manor Club was run by men of Pelham Manor and was experiencing difficulties including financial difficulties. According to one account, the Manor Club "was glad to encourage the use, at a nominal fee, of the building by the women's club."
At about the time the club organized more formally and installed Joan Secor as its president, members embarked on an initiative to raise the level of the studies embraced by members of the club. As part of this initiative, members of The Tuesday Afternoon Club spent a winter season reading Homer's Iliad and studying the Hellenic period. As part of the program, members of the club prepared a number of scholarly papers that were read to the club. The enhanced program was deemed a success.
During the next two winter seasons, members of the club read and studied the Divine Comedy of Dante and then the Renaissance period in various countries. During the winter season in which they studied the Renaissance, the women departed from their previous practice of centering their studies around a book. Instead, they prepared a lesson plan that allowed them to study more broadly the Renaissance period.
During this time, The Tuesday Afternoon Club thrived and grew while the male-dominated Manor Club continued with its difficulties. Each year, during a four-month winter season, the women of The Tuesday Afternoon Club met weekly in an alcove of the Manor Club building. One season they studied Goethe's Faust. The following two seasons thereafter they studied works of Shakespeare, followed by a season when they studied a "group of leaders of modern thought."
By about 1909, however, things were beginning to change. First, the club was growing tremendously. Within only a few short years it would reach one hundred members. Second, the rise of the suffragette movement and the growth of feminism gripped members of the club and prompted a shift away from studies of the arts. Instead, the club satisfied its "sense of responsibility toward practical mundane affairs" by embarking on studies of "Political Economy, Elementary Law and kindred civic subjects" for several winter seasons.
Soon the tide turned again as members of the club hungered for studies of the arts. During the winter season of 1912/1913, members of the club studied "the art of the Diana."
By 1913, The Tuesday Afternoon Club had reached more than one hundred members. The quality of its programming likewise had grown. During the 1913/1914 winter season, members of the club heard eight lectures on the Theory of the Theatre by Clayton Hamilton, of Columbia University. They also conducted forums and discussions on "eight subjects of present day interest, such as socialism, suffrage, modern religion, modern literature, music and art."
In 1914, The Tuesday Afternoon Club joined with the Manor Club and the women replaced the men as officers. Mrs. Joan E. Secor was elected president of the new Manor Club and continued her service as president until she moved from Pelham to the west coast in 1925. The women of The Tuesday Afternoon Club oversaw a turnaround of the fortunes and finances of the Manor Club and even oversaw construction of the new clubhouse that still stands when the cornerstone was laid in 1921 and the clubhouse was completed the following year.
Though The Tuesday Afternoon Club no longer exists, its heart and soul remain in the guise of today's Manor Club, still a social and cultural force in Pelham more than one hundred years later.
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Below is the transcribed text of an article that appeared in the December 20, 1913 issue of The Pelham Sun providing a brief history of The Tuesday Afternoon Club. The text is followed by a citation and link to its source.
"The Tuesday Afternoon Club
OF PELHAM MANOR
The Tuesday Afternoon Club is a woman's study club, which meets weekly for four months each winter to give its members an opportunity to come together and to study some subject more or less seriously.
Its aim is to give purpose to the reading of the busy housewife so that the years may not drift by in desultory fashion but with passing time may yield some substantial intellectual accomplishment, some definite spiritual gain.
Of course, not every member can nor will give the time necessary for serious work, but lecturers and books are supplied, and members are encouraged to go as deeply into a subject as they can.
In the beginning, some fifteen years ago, the club was a little group of perhaps a dozen women who met to do fancy work while some one read aloud one of Dr. Lord's lectures about some famous character in history. The women were too timid to write papers or to read them if they had been written.
In course of time the lectures proved tiresome and a novel was ventured upon which proved still more fatiguing. The club was at its lowest ebb intellectually. But a decided reaction set in which showed itself by a desire for more worthy things and which lasted for some years.
The first expression of this desire was a season spent in reading Homer's Iliad and in studying the Hellenic period, and excellent papers were not only prepared but read.
Refreshed by contact with virile Greek life the club women then pressed on to another great masterpiece and read the entire Divine Comedy of Dante which was followed by a season's study of the Renaissance in various countries. This latter year was the first time that the club had ventured to do without a text book, depending entirely upon a plan arranged by itself. Many of us remember with pleasure the hard work of these two seasons, especially the study of this medieval poem and its early Italian background.
Coming a little closer to modern times another great poem was chosen for study, and a season was well spent in reading both parts of Goethe's Faust. This poem proved heavier reading than most busy women cared to undertake alone, but under the stimulus of weekly meetings and the companionship of earnest minds, many of them persevered to the end which brought its own reward.
Two delightful seasons were then given to Shakespeare, which were followed by the study of a group of leaders of modern thought.
A winter's study of Browning was to have rounded out the cycle of the masters of literature, but the club now grown large, decided to turn its attention away from the realm of the imagination and toward the problems of daily living. The growth of feminism brought with it a certain sense of responsibility toward practical mundane affairs which caused the club to give several seasons to the study of Political Economy, Elementary Law and kindred civic subjects until after a time another current turned the tide in the direction of the arts.
Because it was the most vital and personal of the arts as well as one which combined not only literary and pictorial interest but the representation of human emotion and struggle, the art of the Diana was chosen as the subject both for last year and this.
It is gratifying to look back and to note the healthy development of the Tuesday Afternoon Club during the past fifteen years, from a dozen members to more than a hundred, and from the reading of a printed lecture to the program for the present season of 1914, when the members of the club will listen to eight lectures on the Theory of the Theatre by Clayton Hamilton, of Columbia University, and will themselves conduct discussions upon eight subjects of present day interest, such as socialism, suffrage, modern religion, modern literature, music and art.
The spirit of the club is most generous and kindly and there is shown a steadily increasing interest in the higher things of life, both intellectual and spiritual, which is due in large measure to the influence and inspiration of the President of the club, who has held that office since the beginning.
Source: Randall, Evelyn, The Tuesday Afternoon Club of Pelham Manor, The Pelham Sun, Dec. 20, 1913, p. 8, col. 2.
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I have written about the Manor Club and its history on a number of occasions. See, e.g.:
Bell, Blake A., Early History of the Manor Club, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 20, May 14, 2004, p. 12, col. 2.
Tue., Dec. 13, 2005: The Manor Club's First Clubhouse Built in 1887-1888.
Wed., Dec. 28, 2005: The Mystery of the "Manor Club Girl" That Set Pelham Tongues Wagging in 1913.
Fri., Aug. 4, 2006: Early Images of the Original and Current Clubhouse Structures of the Manor Club in the Village of Pelham Manor, New York.
Mon., Feb. 15, 2010: Early History of the Manor Club in the Village of Pelham Manor.
Thu., Sep. 25, 2014: The Manor Club's Celebration of its Golden Anniversary in 1932.
Mon., Feb. 08, 2016: Laying of the Cornerstone of the First Manor Club Clubhouse on Thanksgiving Day in 1887.