The Fortnightly concluded its 117th season with its annual Merrymaking event for its members at the Sheldon House on Thursday, Feb. 24.
Joyce Rose, chairperson, was assisted by Rebecca Mazzie and Christine Leitch. In keeping with the theme - ''Let's Celebrate What We Want To See More Of'' - members dressed in outfits with accessories which symbolized what the wearer wanted to celebrate, or have more abundantly, in her own life. Everyone truly ''made merry.''
Candy Larson presented the seventh and final paper of the 2010-11 season on Feb. 10. Her topic, ''The Family - Evolution or Revolution?,'' was the last in a series connected to the year's program theme: The 21st Century - One Decade Over, Nine To Go. Other paper presentations during the year were made by Dorie Deyo, Kathleen Kane, Brigetta Overcash, Marcy Guarino, Frieda Fairburn and Gwynneth Tigner.
Local Fortnightly members are seen during the Jamestown club’s annual Merrymaking event at the Sheldon House concluding its 117th season.
THE QUEST BEGINS
Earlier in the season, president Joyce Mallare shared a letter along with historical information that she received from a former Jamestown resident and 1948 graduate of Jamestown High School, Rosalie Valone Monaco.
Mrs. Monaco is the president of the Fortnightly Club in Rockville Centre, N.Y., on Long Island. She wrote that she was interested in finding out more about Fortnightly groups across the United States. Mrs. Monaco found that her group in Rockville Centre was founded in 1898 - four years after the Fortnightly in Jamestown began - by women who ''wanted intellectual stimulation and social interaction.''
''It is fascinating to learn that Fortnightly Clubs were founded in the late 1800s and early 1900s throughout the United States without knowledge of each other,'' Mrs. Monaco said. ''They had the same format, goals and structure. Some chose yearly themes with members giving presentations as is done in Jamestown. A few established libraries. All valued tradition.''
In reading the biography of Molly Brown by Kristen Iversen, Mrs. Monaco read a paragraph in the book:
''Barred from entering most business and professional arenas, women turned to 'club work' as a way to gain recognition and power and work toward social change. ... Clubs devoted to literature and culture included the Denver Fortnightly Club, founded in 1881.''
After reading this, Mrs. Monaco began a personal quest to find out who started the first Fortnightly Club, and where, and when. The following is more of what she discovered and shared.
MRS. MONACO'S FINDINGS
Most of the Fortnightly Clubs in the United States, from New York to California, were started in the late 1800s and early 1900s by women. The clubs were literary and social. What was going on in our country that prompted and motivated so many women to found these clubs? The answer - the Industrial Revolution and the westward expansion; the building of railroads; the discovery of gold and silver; and homesteading.
In the West, the women who traveled from the East left behind female family members, friends, churches, schools - their support system. Women wanted to rebuild these support systems by establishing women's organizations which provided intellectual stimulation and social interaction. ''The Women's West'' by Susan Armitage and Elizabeth Jameson tells us that ''literary clubs provided intellectual stimulation for housebound women: that Mrs. Ione Hanna who founded the Denver Fortnightly Club (1881) hoped to encourage study, discussion, philanthropy, sisterly love and sympathy.''
In the cities a wealthy class developed which provided leisure time, also freedom and boredom. Women were denied higher education but needed a way to address their intellectual curiosity and also communicate with women of like interests and status.
For instance in Chicago, the Fortnightly Club and other literary clubs exemplified Chicago's progress from a city focused on the marketplace toward one in which some of its citizens had the leisure to patronize and promote the arts. As Julia Ward Howe stated in her article Associations of Women, ''the Fortnightly has always been purely literary in character, and has done much to improve the tone and taste of Chicago.''
So far my information had come from reading. I needed personal contact in my search. I called a cousin in Denver. I asked her to find out if the Denver Fortnightly Club were active. She wrote back, ''Yes, and a record of the minutes of its first meeting reflected their purpose: 'to organize a society for mutual benefit in study and thought, upon subjects as may present themselves for consideration.'''
I spoke to Norma Meyer, our historian. She lent me a bag of RVC Fortnightly treasures - scrapbooks, articles and journals. She showed me Mary Haight's articles written for the RVC Review Star describing life on the South Shore in the 1900s. Mrs. Haight had founded the RVC Fortnightly Club in 1898. She wrote, ''I felt trapped in my environment. I saw nothing ahead but mental stagnation. I realized the need to make a definite effort to stay mentally alert, to keep abreast of the things going on in the world, to cultivate an active interest in things and people outside the limited round of our little town.''
I called a school friend in my hometown of Jamestown, N.Y., who is a retired reading teacher and asked if she knew of any Fortnightly Clubs. She informed me that there is one in Jamestown and that she would get information about it. She wrote that there is one in Jamestown and that she would get information about it. She wrote that the Club was founded in 1894; their purpose, ''to encourage study and enrichment for the literary culture and intellectual development of its members.''
My next call was to Honeoye Falls, N.Y., to Lola Gilbert, Fortnightly spokeswoman, given her name by the local library. She said the wives of the local businessmen founded their Fortnightly Club in 1895. They wanted to educate themselves. They bought books to read, gave book reports as their meetings and were graded. It was a feather in your cap to be a member of the Fortnightly Club. They had a waiting list. Now they are begging for members. Lola bemoaned that the newer members do not want to carry out the sophistication of the club - they dress too casually. She did not know there were other Fortnightly Clubs.
My last call was to the Chicago Fortnightly Club. They have their own facility. Their general manager told me that the Chicago Club was founded in 1873 by the wives of the founders of the city for intellectual pursuits. They have 450 members. Many activities are sponsored by the Club throughout the year.
1873! This was as far back as I could go.
I realized there were common threads amongst Fortnightly Clubs.
Most were founded by women.
The members met twice a month.
They had a need for intellectual stimulation and social contact.
They presented a program at each meeting, many based on a yearly theme.
They had refreshments.
They paid dues.
And the women dressed up.
I don't know where and when the first Fortnightly Club was started. It may have had its origin in England and was brought here. However, in 2007, as a member of the Rockville Centre Fortnightly Club, I experience the fulfillment of the first Club's purpose - intellectual stimulation and social interaction.
THE QUEST CONTINUES
President Mallare wanted to share this information with readers of The Post-Journal, especially because this is the bicentennial year celebration in Chautauqua County. She has made contact with the Fortnightly Club in Stillwater, N.Y., founded in 1898; the Honeoye Falls, N.Y., Fortnightly in Monroe County, founded in 1895; and the Fortnightly Club in Chicago with 450 members, founded in 1873. There are more than 21,000 results of ''Fortnightly Club'' in searching via Google on the Internet.
President Mallare is joining the efforts of Mrs. Monaco - continuing to do research to discover the origins of The Fortnightly in the United States. The quest continues.