The Women’s Industrial Club of Detroit

By Jeff Blakley

I ran across an article that appeared in the Homestead Enterprise on July 16, 1914, giving a history of the Women’s Industrial Club in Detroit. It was organized for social reasons as well as to promote the civic betterment of Detroit on October 29, 1911, shortly after the Longview Club was organized in May of 1911. Both clubs were established before the Homestead Woman’s Club was founded on September 26, 1914.


It was a happy and enthusiastic crowd of pioneers who arrived at Detroit on October 28, 1910. The stopping of the train was a notable event and the merry laughter, ejaculations of surprise and delight made the pine woods ring.

Were we glad to be alive and in Detroit, Florida? The place where we were to make a city, “Where life is worth living,” patterned after Detroit, “The City of the Straits?” Yes, most emphatically, yes.

We all worked hard to make our own corner comfortable and attractive by building up the town little by little.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy;” that would never do, and then we were too full of the joy of living in a country where the sun shone every day and the moonlight bright enough to read by.

The young ladies of the town formed the first club. It was known as “The Big Four.” The members were Miss Lillian Hunter, Miss Marion Sharp, Miss Eleanor Shields, Miss Octavia Stiling. There were no rules and regulations, but the young ladies accomplished a great and good work, for they helped themselves and others not to be homesick for friends and associates in the north.

The matrons of the town were also pleasure seekers. The planned many social gatherings. You who were here will well remember the masquerades, dances, card parties, see-saw parties, poverty parties, joy rides on moonlight nights in our auto-mobiles were a never-ending lark.

The ladies met afternoons with their sewing, tried to help each other with suggestions in cooking, gardening and home-making.

The men were not idle all these hours. When not busy in the fields, they were planning for the welfare of the town. One of the first fruits of their labor was the erection of the Town Hall. People of Miami, Detroit and vicinity were generous with their subscriptions of time and money The frame was up, floor down and roof on in short order, but, sad to say, the funds were not sufficient to even pay for all the lumber used; as a result, the building was closed till such bills should be paid. This is when the women took an active hand in public affairs.

On October 29, 1911, the following petition was drawn up and signed:

“We, the undersigned ladies, hereby agree to take it upon ourselves to do all in our power to pay the claims on the Town Hall, held by Mr. Ring and others.

“Possession to be given at once to the ladies as a society, that the hall may be opened to the public.

“Mrs. Geo. A. Reynolds, Mrs. Chas. E. Sharp, Mrs. T. W. Shields, Mrs. S. S. Shields, Mrs. M. E. Tanner, Mrs. E. H. Ring, Mrs. F. L. Young, Mrs. E. M. Van Horn, Miss Flossie Van Horn, Mrs. J. L. Ishmael, Mrs. A. Gromaire, Mrs. Edward Stiling, Mrs. Mabelle Rue, Miss Marion Turner, Miss Eleanor Shields, Mrs. Stanley Havens, Mrs. H. C. Hung, Miss Lillie D. Hunter, Mrs. W. H. Hunter, Miss Ada Haile, Mrs. J. Allen Brown, Mrs. Clara Tucker, Mrs. M. L. Williams, Mrs. L. E. Watson, Mrs. Lura B. Morrison, Miss Gladys Graves, Mrs. Tom Brooker, Mrs. Addie M. Calkins, Mrs. Ed Brooker, Mrs. Norwood, Mrs. Henry Brooker, Miss Chloe Flora, Miss Carrie Flora.”

This was the beginning of a club for Detroit. The ladies met in the Town Hall, held an election, and the following officers were elected and installed: President, Mrs. Geo. A. Reynolds; vice-president, Mrs. Edward Stiling; secretary, Mrs. B. W. Mason; treasurer, Mrs. Chas. Sharp.

A constitution and by-laws were drawn up and approved by the members. The name decided upon was the “Women’s Industrial Club.” Their purpose was the advancement and upbuilding of the town, religiously, socially and civically.

The first social gathering held by the ladies under their new organization was an ice cream social and dance. It was a huge success, people for miles around coming, and were royally entertained, and went home ready and willing to attend all future undertakings of the club.

Other social successes of the winter were the Thanksgiving party. Do you remember how cold it was, and how everyone drank steaming coffee, ate sandwiches, pie and doughnuts? And those never-to-be-forgotten square dances? They were the great event for each new comer.

An impromptu entertainment was given, at which time Mrs. Ring read a clever rhyme she had composed, telling how the ladies had earned their dollar of experience money given to the club.

A box social given on New Year’s afforded a most interesting evening. The bidding was lively, and the daintily decorated boxes went at high prices. Even then the men considered themselves fortunate to get such pretty girls and delicious suppers for the money.

Our crowning success was the way in which we had won the respect and loyalty of the surrounding people.

The Neighborhood Club of Longview entertained the W. I. C. at a daintily appointed luncheon at the home of Mrs. Roy D. Marsh.

In return for their hospitality, the W. I. C. entertained them at the Town Hall, serving 1 o’clock luncheon to over seventy-five ladies and children.

These two delightful days will long be remembered, for we learned to know our neighbors for their true worth and realized more fully the rapid growth of the community.

The Pioneer Guild of Redland has always been ready and willing to aid us in all undertakings, and we hope to find ways and means to show our appreciation for their kind acts and the jolly times they have given us.

Up to this time $198.25 had been paid out by the ladies for labor and lumber, leaving $32.17 still to be paid on the Town Hall.

The club adjourned for the summer, as many of the members went north.

In May of 1912 the club had received an invitation from Mrs. Frederick, the president of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs, to join. The club was now ready to work, met the requirements as to membership, etc., and gladly accepted the honor.

In the fall of 1912 a new difficulty confronted the club. Much to our delight, new people had settled in town during our vacation, but woe to our peace and prosperity, they wanted to break up our W. I. C. and form a new organization. The new club was formed, but the loyal members of the W. I. C. rallied around their president, Mrs. Reynolds, and continued to carry out their original purpose.

Through the diligent efforts of Mr. Edward Stiling the Town Hall had been transformed from a structure disfigured by scaffolding, with no windows or paint, to a finished article. The white paint just shone in the sun and the windows with their full length copper screens bade fair to make our future audiences comfortable under any and all conditions.

The Detroit Dramatic Club had already bought one hundred chairs which they generously kept in the building, allowing the public free use of them for all occasions. They had also bought a gasoline lamp and the dancing class another, so that now the great need was a musical instrument.

The proceeds of the first entertainment in the fall of 1912 cleared the debt on the Town Hall, so we were ready for a new enterprise.

The ladies of the W. I. C. decided to buy a piano of Mr. Calkins, for which they paid $300 cash. The piano was placed in the hall and used for church school and entertainments.

At the annual election in January 1913, the following officers were elected: President, Mrs. Geo. A. Reynolds; vice-president, Mrs. W. C. Norwood; secretary, Mrs. Calkins; assistant secretary, Miss O. R. Stiling; treasurer, Mrs. Edward Stiling. Many new members were enrolled.

Among the social successes of the winter 1912-1913 was the bazaar in January, at which time $70.14 was made. A Washington’s birthday party consisting of tableaux, followed by a dance, ice cream and box socials, besides musical programs, was given.

A vacation was again planned for the summer, but not so with our rivals. They not only carried on their own business, but tried to run ours, also. As a result, the W. I. C., by a vote of the majority of the members, had their piano removed from the hall, as they were not willing that it should be voted public property just because it pleased a certain few to do so.

The regular meetings were resumed in October, 1913, but the family circle had been broken; the town was no longer united, for bitter rivalry was in the hearts of many.

Plans were made to continue the work of the club, meetings were held, and everything was in good working order.

At the election in January, 1914, the officers were as follows: President, Mrs. Lee H. Lehman; vice-president, Mrs. T. L. Graves; secretary, Mrs. Frank Skill; treasurer, Mrs. Edward Stiling.

The ladies planned a “Twelfth Night” party for January 6th. Invitations were issued to the neighboring clubs, and were accepted. Everyone was looking forward to an evening of frolic and fun in the Town Hall. The ladies, as was their custom, went in the afternoon to prepare the hall for the evening, when certain men of the town proceeded to clear the hall of women, children and several men who were there to help the ladies, for they must hold a meeting there and then. The result was disastrous to many, but fortunately almost all of them have recovered from the bodily injuries received.

Our friends came to the number of 125, the evening was a success, and strengthened the bond of friendship and loyalty.

Other successful entertainments have been given, among which was the “stocking party.” A short program of songs, readings and numbers by the orchestra preceded the dancing and serving refreshments of sandwiches and coffee.

The chicken supper was well patronized. The people enjoyed a bountiful supper, good music and dancing.

The monthly afternoon and evening meetings have been well attended.

Contrary to the usual custom of the club, meetings will be held during the summer months. An afternoon meeting on the third Tuesday, an evening meeting the full of the moon.

At present the club is composed of twenty-five active members. They are not all living in Detroit, but have proven themselves true as steel to the interests of the club.

Since October 20, 1911, the club has raised $798.03.

We do not have to say much more, for you can see for yourselves the building we have worked faithfully to help pay for, and people for miles around will tell you of our hospitality and ability.

We are still members of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs, and are planning to take a more active part in their work in the future.

From the Miami Herald on January 8, 1913:

“Detroit, Fla., Jan. 6 — The annual election of officers of the Women’s Industrial Club was held in the town hall at Detroit, Thursday afternoon, January 2, 1913. The following officers were duly elected:

President: Mrs. George B. Reynolds
Vice-President: Mrs. W. C. Norwood
Secretary: Mrs. O.W. Calkins
Treasurer: Mrs. Edward Etiling (sic)
Trustees: Mrs. E. H. Ring, Mrs. Haas, Mrs. Tanner

“The following ladies were admitted as members of the club: Mrs. Fox, Mrs. J.M. Powers, Mrs. Forrest, Mrs. Riley, Mrs. Priestly, Mrs. R.L. Bow, Mrs. L.L. Bow, Miss Margaret Baker.”

As time goes on, I’ll attempt to identify some of these women. We already know who Mmes. Norwood, Calkins and Powers were. Mrs. Edward Etiling (sic) was Edward Stiling’s wife, of course. I found it interesting that Mrs. Richard L. Bow and Mrs. Lily Lawrence Bow were listed as members of the Women’s Industrial Club in Detroit, because they lived in Homestead, not Detroit. The reason for that was because the Women’s Industrial Club in Detroit was formed before the Homestead Women’s Club. The first meeting of the Homestead Women’s Club was held at the Evans Hotel (now called the Redland Hotel) on September 26, 1914, almost three years after the Women’s Industrial Club in Detroit drew up and signed its founding petition on October 29, 1911.

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