Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, March 26, 2018

How the Women of Pelham Saved the Manor Club From Poor Management by the Men Who Founded It

In 1899, a group of local women began gathering informally in Pelham Manor homes “to do fancy work.”  As they worked, one of them read aloud from a local resident’s lecture notes about “some famous character in history.”  From this modest beginning grew a second club in the area that came to be known as “The Tuesday Afternoon Club.” 

According to an article published in The Pelham Sun in 1914, The Tuesday Afternoon Club of Pelham Manor was “a women’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.” 

I have written before about the history of the Tuesday Afternoon Club.  See Thu., May 26, 2016:  A Brief History of the Tuesday Afternoon Club Before It Merged Into the Manor Club of Pelham Manor.  

Founded formally in 1900, the Tuesday Afternoon Club paid the Manor Club to permit it to meet in a room of the Manor Club.  Throughout the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the Manor Club served as a social and cultural center for the little Village of Pelham Manor.  Though at that time members included men and women, men held the principal governing positions in the Manor Club.  Indeed, according to one historian of the club, it was “run” by the men – a fact that the same historian notes with some satisfaction when pointing out that in 1913 “the Manor Club . . . ran into financial difficulties.” 

The Manor Club’s financial difficulties arose at just the time The Tuesday Afternoon Club was beginning to flower.  According to one account, at about this time an unidentified member of The Manor Club “almost in jest, suggested that they offer the Clubhouse along with the Club name, to the Tuesday Afternoon Club.”  The same account notes that although the Manor Club was heavily in debt, “the ladies could not resist the temptation to own their own clubhouse.”  Within a short time, the Tuesday Afternoon Club became the new Manor Club, “taking over its name, its clubhouse and a debt of several thousand dollars.”

The ladies of the Tuesday Afternoon Club proceeded to reform the club and its finances.  They cleared its debt and raised sufficient funds so that, by 1922, they could build a new clubhouse on the site of the original clubhouse -- a structure that still stands and is still used by the club.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The First Clubhouse of the Manor Club Where The Tuesday Afternoon
Club Met During the Fifteen Years Or So It Existed Before Taking Over
and Merging Into the Manor Club.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

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"Our Clubs, Societies and Fraternal Organizations. . . .

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 in 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 B., Our Clubs, Societies and Fraternal Organizations. . . . The Tuesday Afternoon Club OF PELHAM MANOR, The Pelham Sun, Dec. 20, 1913, p. 3, col. 2

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"Mrs. Joan E. Secor Dies In San Francisco; Manor Club President 26 Years
One of Pelham Manor's Most Revered Citizens; Was First President of Tuesday Afternoon Club Founded in 1900; Later Merged With Manor Club; Town Historian for Five Years.

Mrs. Joan Elizabeth Secor, who for twenty-six years was president of the Manor Club and the guiding spirit in the growth of the club, died suddenly on Saturday at San Francisco, where she has made her home since May, 1925.  Funeral services were held at San Francisco on Monday.  The remains will be brought east for interment.  Plans for interment have not been arranged yet.

She was the widow of James F. Secor, old resident and at one time school trustee.

Mrs. Secor was the aunt of Miss Anna Cockle and Isla V. Cockle of Pelham Manor.  She is also survived by four sisters, Mrs. Vincent Cottman and Miss Jane Klink of San Francisco, Mrs. Emil Theiss and Mrs. Franklin Huntington of Norfolk, Va., and two brothers, George T. Klink and William M. Klink, of San Francisco..

Mrs. Secor was born at Vallejo, Calif., in 1858.  In 1880 Mr. Secor while inspecting the dry docks at Vallejo, which were constructed by his father, met Miss Joan Elizabeth Klink, and after a short courtship the couple were married at Vallejo.  They came to the Secor home in Pelham Manor to live shortly after.  The dynamic personality of the young bride soon established her as a leader.

In 1900 the need for a women's club in Pelham Manor was recognized and Mrs. Secor was instrumental in establishing the Tuesday Afternoon Club whose meetings soon became the culture center of the village.  Mrs. Secor was elected president of the club.  Other officers were Mrs. Charles B. Hull, vice-president; Mrs. William B. Randall, secretary; Mrs. Charlotte E. Cowles, treasurer.

The Tuesday Afternoon Club used to meet in one of the alcoves of the Manor Club building.  The Manor Club had been established as a men's club in 1887, and for years it has been successful.  However, at the time of the organization of the Tuesday Afternoon Club, the Manor Club was experiencing difficulties, and the organization was glad to encourage the use, at a nominal fee, of the building by the women's club.

(Continued on Page Four)

(Continued from Page One)

In 1914 the Manor Club joined with the Tuesday Afternoon Club, and the women replaced the men as officers.  Mrs. Secor was elected president of the new Manor Club and she remained in the chair until her departure from Pelham in 1925.  After that she was honorary president.

It was under the guidance of Mrs. Secor that the Manor Club extended its membership from a handful of women to more than 500.  It was also under her direction that the present clubhouse of the Manor Club was financed and constructed.  She officiated at the laying of the cornerstone in 1921 and at the dedication of the building in 1922.

Mrs. Secor retired as president of the club in May, 1925, at which time she left Pelham to take up her residence in San Francisco.  Glowing tribute to her 26 years as president of the club was paid by the members of the Manor Club at the annual banquet.  An engrossed resolution was presented to the retiring president as well as handsome gifts in token on the esteem in which Mrs. Secor was held.  

Mrs. Secor was unanimously elected Honorary President and in recent years acted in an advisory capacity.  

Annually at the final meeting of the Manor Club a telegram of love and congratulation was forwarded to the honorary president of the club.  A similar greeting was received from Mrs. Secor.  At the last annual meeting she sent the following message:

'Greetings from the far away California coast, where I lived until I was in my 23rd year and then upon occasion of my marriage to Mr. Secor in 1880, I came to New York and shortly afterward to Pelham Manor.  I can truly say that I have lived my life in Pelham Manor, that is, in its working years, and they are the years that count.

'It was the Manor Club which gave me my first experience in the art of managing public affairs, and I learned during the years I was its president.  It is not the length of time one is in office, but what one accomplished while there which counts.  I now see that the whole-hearted cooperation in things that are uplifting, the generous willingness to do something to make the club better, more stimulating to what is highest and best in our daily lives, had made the Pelhams a finer place in which to live.  This was the great aim of our young years, and it has been accomplished as I see and feel although so many miles away.

'Life in the Pelhams is a finer thing by reason of the influence of a group of women who worked and still do, to bring out the best qualities of those about them through the study of literature, music, art, the drama and the various sections.

'Therefore, I say to you who thus labor, 'go forward, be not weary of well-doing.'  To my dear friends Mrs. Longley, who is to retire from the office of president, I send my warm love and congratulations upon her successful presidency, and now will close, my dear Sophie (Mrs. H. E. Dey) with kind remembrances to my many friends in the Manor Club, among whom you are surely included.


'Honorary President.'

Mrs. Secor was for many years a contributor to The Pelham Sun.  Her historical articles were widely read and her history of Pelham, which she compiled as Town Historian, is very interesting.

Mrs. Secor's love for Pelham is shown in the tribute, 'A Toast to Pelham' which is printed in this issue of The Pelham Sun.  A framed copy of this tribute was presented to The Pelham Sun by Mrs. E. T. Gilliland, old resident who was a dear friend of Mrs. Secor.

As a tribute to the memory of the late Mrs. Secor the flag on the clubhouse grounds will be flown at half mast staff for a month.

The portrait of Mrs. Secor, painted by George Brehm and hanging in the assembly room of the club is draped in black.

A large spray of flowers to entirely cover the coffin was sent by the Manor Club to San Francisco."

Source:  Mrs. Joan E. Secor Dies In San Francisco; Manor Club President 26 Years -- One of Pelham Manor's Most Revered Citizens; Was First President of Tuesday Afternoon Club Founded in 1900; Later Merged With Manor Club; Town Historian for Five YearsThe Pelham Sun, Jul. 29, 1932, Vol. 23, No. 19, p. 1, cols. 1-2 & p. 4, cols. 4-7.  

"Pelham Manor:  Manor Club Directors To Open Season Tuesday. . . .

Mrs. William B. Randall, the Manor Club Bulletin, which contains an apt summary of the club's later history.

Founded Afternoon Club

'In 1900 a small group of women of the Manor arranged to read and study together.  They founded the Tuesday Afternoon Club, which for 14 years had but one president, Mrs. James Secor.  This little club held its meetings in the Manor Club house, and it grew as the village grew.  It developed a fine spirit and a real love for culture.  In congenial company the members felt equal to almost any task, and were wont to spend an entire year studying Homer, Dante, Goethe or Browning.'

As the village was not large, the income of the Manor Club was totally inadequate to the task of financing itself.  After 20 years of effort, the club was ready to give up the struggle, when Mr. Harry Dey suggested turning the Manor Club over to the women of the Tuesday . . .'

'So it was that the old Manor Club became a typical women's club, devoted a typical women's club, devoted to study and to the personal development of its members, and again it continued to grow . . . On a certain Winter evening in 1922 the new club house was formally opened by a gala performance on the stage, with flowers and speeches and congratulations on both sides of the curtain.' . . . .

Source:  Pelham Manor:  Manor Club Directors To Open Season Tuesday, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Oct. 3, 1937, p. 14, cols. 1-2.  

"40th Birthday Of Tuesday Afternoon Club Is Observed At Gala Luncheon
Mrs. Hillard Birney, Manor Club President, Hostess at Luncheon Honoring Tuesday Afternoon Club, Honorary Club Members and Past Presidents.  Mrs. Dey is Made an Honorary Member.

Mrs. Hilliard C. Birney, president of the Manor Club was hostess at a gala luncheon party in the clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon, honoring members of the Tuesday Afternoon Club, honorary members of the club and past presidents.  The occasion marked the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Tuesday Afternoon Club, one of the predecessors of the present woman's club.  Reminiscences of members of the early club added interest to the occasion which also marked Mrs. Birney's own birthday, and brought out the fact that the Manor Club was founded in 1882 as a social organization for both men and women.

The Tuesday Afternoon Club, after 14 years independent existence was merged with the Manor Club in 1914 and the organization has continued to flourish as an outstanding woman's club.  The Manor Club will observe its 60th birthday in 1942.  

At the luncheon party which was also attended by presidents of nearby women's clubs and by Mrs. Edward Whitney, president of the the Westchester Federation, Mrs. Birney announced on behalf of the Board of Directors, the election of Mrs. Henry E. Dey of Pelham Manor as an honorary member of the Manor Club.  Calling Mrs. Dey, 'one of the most beloved members of both the Tuesday Afternoon Club and of the Manor Club,' Mrs. Birney made known the honor paid to her in recognition of long and devoted service.

Singing of the tradition 'Blessing' the words of which were written by Mrs. Joan E. Secor who was first president of the Tuesday Afternoon Club and also of the Manor Club when it became a women's organization in 1914, opened the exercises.  Mrs. Hugh G. Curran, widely known as Pearl Curran, the composer, who wrote the music was at the piano.  The 'Blessing' was sung by Mrs. Winfred B. Holten, Jr., Mrs. Clarence H. Connor, Mrs. Laurence T. Hemmenway and Mrs. Francis Moore.

Mrs. Birney paid tribute to the women who made up the Tuesday Afternoon Club, 'a forward-looking' group who grew from 1900 to 1914 at which date they merged with the older Manor Club, and developed into the large and flourishing woman's club of today.

Mrs. Francis T. Kingsley and Mrs. William B. Randall both presented intimate pictures of the days of the Tuesday Afternoon Club as they knew it.  Mrs. Kingsley, who became the first treasurer of the Manor Club as a woman's club in 1914, recalled the earlier days of the community when telephones were few and far between and when the work of organization was necessarily much slower than it is today.  In Pelham was to be found, she said, a very cultured group of people.  She described briefly the limited quarters of the old Manor Club, the scene of much cultural and social activity.  

Mrs. Randall, who was the first secretary-treasurer of the Tuesday Afternoon Club and the first secretary of the Manor Club when it became a woman's group in 1914, gave an interesting view also of the 'old days.'  She recalled a small group of about twenty women meeting once a week in the months after Christmas, in the music room of the home of Mrs. Robert C. Black and her own collaboration with Mrs. Secor in mapping out a five year study plan for the Tuesday Afternoon Group which studied the world's great writers.  Mrs. Robert C. Black became the first vice-president of the Manor Club as a woman's club in 1914.

Mrs. H. G. K. Heath, an honorary member of the Manor Club, and a vice-president of the Tuesday Afternoon Club spoke briefly and the past presidents of the Manor Club were presented by Mrs. Birney and also were heard briefly.  They are:  Mrs. James Longley, Mrs. Walter B. Parsons, Mrs. Charles M. Chenery and Mrs. Louis Carreau.

Mrs. James L. Gerry, club historian and Mrs. Manning Stires, club representative with the Westchester Federation, both of the Tuesday Afternoon Club, were also presented by Mrs. Birney.  Mrs. Henry E. Dey acknowledging the honor paid to her by making her an honorary member of the club, paid tribute to Mrs. Secor, 'the spirit of the old days was the spirit of Mrs. Joan Secor,' she declared.

Guests Are Introduced

Presidents of women's clubs in nearby communities were introduced by Mrs. Birney who also presented Mrs. Whitney the Westchester Federation head; Mrs. Wilfred Winaus, president of the New Rochelle Woman's Club; Mrs. Stirling Smith, president of Larchmont Woman's Club; Mrs. Albert Ferris, president of the Crestwood Woman's Club, and Mrs. F. Leslie Jones, president of the Rye Woman's Club.

Mrs. Birney also introduced members of the present Board of Directors of the Manor Club:  Mrs. Arthur Procter, Mrs. William G. Luke, Mrs. Charles M. Hart, Mrs. John F. Hamond, Mrs. James Aukland, Mrs. Richard G. Knowland, Mrs. J. Donald Robb and Mrs. Wm. R. Butler.  Alas Mrs. Alexander Freehold, editor of the Club Mullets and the chairmen of that section; American Home, Mrs. John W. Darr; Mrs. Edward Albright, Art; Mrs. William R. Bull, Choral; Mrs. Edward A. Scott, Jr., Civic; Mrs. Talbert Sprague, Drama; Mrs. Edmund D. Scotti, French; Mrs. James B. Thorpe, Garden; Mrs. C. Kermit Ewing, Junior; Mrs. H. Llewelyn Roberts, Literature; Mrs. Pike Waldrop, Travel; Mrs. Richard Block, Music; Mrs. Robert J. Woods, Chairman of the Holiday Dance Committee; Mrs. Forrest M. Anderson, Hospitality Chairman; Mrs. George Cusack, Social Committee Chairman, and Mrs. William S. Banks, Librarian.

A birthday cake with lighted candels, in honor of the occasion was carried to the speakers' table where Mrs. Randall, at the invitation of Mrs. Birney, cut the first piece of cake.  Birthday greetings appropriate to the anniversary and birthday greetings for Mrs. Birney were sung by the club members and guests.

Songs written by Mrs. Curran added to the anniversary luncheon.  Mrs. Moore sang a number called, 'Contentment,' and Mrs. Holton, daughter of the composer, sang 'The Best is Yet to Be.'  Mrs. Curran accompanied both singers.

Guests of honor at the anniversary luncheon included:  Mrs. R. Clifford Black, Mrs. William H. Blymer, Mrs. Danforth Brown (an honorary member); Mrs. Louis Carreau, Mrs. Charles Chenery, Mrs. Theodore J. Deuscher, Mrs. Dey, Mrs. J. T. Fenlon, Mrs. Albert C. Field, Mrs. Gerry, Mrs. E. Kendall Gillett, Mrs. Ezra T. Gilliland (an honorary member); Mrs. H. G. K. Heath (an honorary member); Mrs. Edward C. King, Mrs. Kingsley (an honorary member); Mrs. George W. Lawrence, Mrs. Longley, Mrs. Schuyler Mills, Mrs. William R. Montgomery, Mrs. Robert M. Morgan, Mrs. H. B. Mulliken, Mrs. William H. Orchard, Mrs. Walter B. Parson, Mrs. Edward Penfield, Mrs. William B. Randall, Mrs. Merton C. Robbins, Mrs. Manning Stires, Mrs. W. W. Warner, Mrs. Ellen S. Whitall, Mrs. Joseph C. Wilberding. 

Mrs. Randall and Mrs. Wilberding are both honorary club members also.

The luncheon tables were decorated with red roses and stocks.  Luncheon arrangements were made by the Social Committee and the Hospitality Committee.  About 100 club members and guests also made reservations.  

The musical part of the program was under Mrs. Curran's direction."

Source:  40th Birthday Of Tuesday Afternoon Club Is Observed At Gala Luncheon -- Mrs. Hillard Birney, Manor Club President, Hostess at Luncheon Honoring Tuesday Afternoon Club, Honorary Club Members and Past Presidents.  Mrs. Dey is Made an Honorary Member, The Pelham Sun, Jan. 12, 1940, p. 7, cols. 3-4.

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