Louisville Women’s City Club

“Why Is A City Club” by Eleanor Mercein Kelly, 12 December 1917

“Why Is A City Club” by Eleanor Mercein Kelly, 12 December 1917, Louisville Women’s City Club, Vol 1., No. 8. Louisville Women’s City Club Records [Mss. BM L888 77] 

Louisville Women’s City Club

On 26 February 1917, 125 women voted unanimously to disband their joint organization, the Louisville Women’s Civic Association, which had been composed of members from eleven Louisville women’s organizations: the Woman’s Club, Crescent Hill Civic League, Highland Civic League, Outdoor Art League, Sorosts Club, Consumers’ League, Alumnae Club, Woman’s Organization of the Retail Druggists’ Association, Council of Jewish Women, and the Shawnee Civic League. 

Although the Civic Association, founded in 1915, was relatively new, its members believed that a larger organization composed of individual membership would be better equipped to carry out citywide projects. During the 1910s, women’s city clubs, which focused specifically on civic betterment as opposed to general philanthropy, were rising in popularity and usefulness in other major cities, such as Chicago and Cincinnati. Immediately after the vote to disband, the group voted to form the Louisville Women’s City Club, electing Annie Ainslie Halleck, later a charter member of the League of Women Voters, as president and setting dues at $1 per year.

Meeting minutes and bulletins of the LWCC indicate the group’s variety of interests: waste management, city planning and housing, public health, improved education standards, and political engagement. Municipal housekeeping was major focus of the LWCC in the 1920s, with member Louise Morel conducting surveys, providing public education, and directing efforts toward women voters on topics of increased sewer capacity, clean streets and garbage separation, and expanded tuberculosis hospitals. The group also urged women to vote in school board elections prior to full suffrage and provided information about voter registration after the 1920 Constitutional Amendment granting women the right to vote.

While a bulletin published by LWCC on 19 May 1917 indicated that the group “hopes to represent every class of women in Louisville – housekeepers, business women, professional women, club women, social workers, mothers,” it is important to recognize that these middle- and upper-class white club women conducted civic efforts from their own perspectives. Their goal was often “improving” the poor and working class of Louisville, whose own opinions and priorities were not sought.

At its peak in 1921, club membership totaled over nine hundred. A gradual decline in numbers resulted in the club's folding in the late 1980s, when only nine members remained.

Voices for Reform
Louisville Women’s City Club