History

College Club of Cincinnati History

Proud Past, Poised for a Bright Future

The history of The College Club of Cincinnati represents a veritable “Who’s Who” in Cincinnati history. This venerable organization will celebrate its one hundred and twenty-fifth birthday in 2017.

The First 50 Years

EARLY HISTORY AND FOUNDING

The College Club of Cincinnati was founded in 1892 by eight young women in their twenties. Miss Susan Peabody and seven of her friends initially met in her parents’ home on McGregor Avenue near Auburn. Susan Peabody and three others had graduated from Wellesley College, and membership was limited to Eastern colleges and state universities in Ohio. 

In establishing their own collegiate club, these young women had already demonstrated a streak of independence and sidestepped organizational hurdles. After graduating from Wellesley in 1886, Susan Peabody had been appointed Director for Ohio by the then-new Association of Collegiate Alumnae (now the Association of University Women). A survey of college graduates in Ohio found that the majority lived in the northern part of the state: therefore, the headquarters for this territory was established in Cleveland. A small group appealed to Miss Peabody to organize a branch in Cincinnati. Because the Association of Collegiate Alumnae required that its members be graduates of accredited four-year colleges and some of the Cincinnati group had attended college only two years, however, they decided to form an independent organization.

In the spring of 1892, Miss Peabody returned to Cincinnati from Chicago, where she was teaching, to give her blessing and be hostess to the club at its first meeting. In attendance were Elizabeth R. Kellogg, Sarah Hickenlooper, who later became Mrs. John M. Withrow; Mary L. McMillan; Helen Sage, later Mrs. Fran W. Cottle; Adelaide Miller (Mrs. William Henry Walker); Ada Bremfoerder (Mrs. George Bassett); and Jessie Clinton (Mrs. Lelan Banning), who became the first President. 

Currently, our history reflects graduates from Smith, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke as well as The Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati as well as many other academic institutions.


Meeting Locations

(Below Photos Building Oak Street #1 and #2)  Originally, College Club was nomadic, meeting in various locations. Ample quarters were found at the historic Burnet House on Third and Vine Streets. Members were amenable to focusing on homemaking and hospitality as opposed to another strenuous organized work effort. Other quarters were found in a large room at the YMCA at the corner of Seventh and Elm Streets. This became the site of the Schubert Theater. When the Burnet House was razed, members found rooms on Arch Street below the Queen City Club. Arrangements were made in the Fall of 1934 to meet at the building at Oak and May Street. We have enjoyed a long relationship with that organization and appreciate their enduring hospitality. College Club moved to its present location in Clifton.

 

(Below Photo Fuller #3)  The earliest photo of a president in the archives is of Mrs. William Fuller in 1930. “Mrs. Fuller is the President of the College Club of Cincinnati, whose theater party at the Shubert on March 31, 1930, has created widespread interest, for this is the first time that this organization has appealed to the public to aid its philanthropies for many years. Mrs. Fuller is the elder of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Draper’s two charming daughters, and has hosts of friends. She was finished at the National Park Seminary in Washington, where she took her B.A., returning home to enter the University of Cincinnati (to take her master’s degree). Like her parents, she is a devotee of the arts as well as a favorite in society. She is a member of the Junior League, to which her younger sister, Miss Isabelle Draper, likewise belongs.”


SOCIAL SETTLEMENT HOUSE

(Photo of house)

As an emerging organization, College Club grew slowly, rarely numbering more than fifty members. Girls who went to college in those days, except to prepare for the teaching profession, were the exception, and teachers were allergic to club life at that time. In the beginning it was a sublimated culture club, standardized in the rigid framework of Robert’s “Rules of Order.” Our founders were eager to maintain a fraternal and collegial spirit. Their efforts to keep the intellectual fires burning led them to read and write scholarly dissertations on such topics as “Aristotle and Pestalozzi: Their Theories of Education Compared and Contrasted.”

Within two years, however, their research into social problems led them to teachers, writers and social workers who were developing the city’s first Social Settlement. For the settlement house, the members devoted their energies to develop clubs, classes, and choruses for both young and old. This Social Settlement House occupied the energies of these dedicated women for seven years until other social agencies such as the University Settlement House absorbed this effort. In its day, the settlement house initiated many social and educational experiments which are commonplace today. The location of this house moved three times to various locations on East Third Street until it finally faded out in a tiny house on Eastbourne Terrace.

THEATRICAL PERFORMANCES and HOBBY FAIR TO RAISE FUNDS

In order to keep the settlement house afloat financially, College Club presented an imported production of Hansel and Gretel and gathered pledges, and also held children’s parties, lectures, art exhibits, rummage sales, and plays to promote their work. Many of these were organized and presided over by Sarah Hickenlooper (Mrs. John Withrow). College Club published one issue of its own magazine, The Bauble. This publication was available at Mr. James’ Book Store and Mr. Mullane’s Candy Store. One copy, which belonged to foundress Miss Elizabeth Kellogg, remains in our archives.

A debt of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) was incurred during the operation of the settlement house. Funds were raised by “The Plays” to defray this indebtedness and support its endeavor.

(Below Photos Plays #1, 2, 5, 6) Among these productions was a memorable English comedy, “Ralph Roister Doister,” as well as “The Way of the World” and “Twelfth Night.”

(Below Photos Twelfth Night #3 and #4) This photo portrays the drinking scene from the College Club’s presentation of “Twelfth Night” tomorrow afternoon and evening at the auditorium. The club is already assured of $1,000 clear profits, and the Social Settlement House will consequently be freed from debt and will be started on a new basis. The “Twelfth Night” cast represents the following colleges: Wellesley, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Cincinnati University, and Oberlin. The Manager of the play, Miss McFadden, was chairman of the Committee at Smith, when the seniors put on “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which generated such favorable comments that it was given in New York with equal success. A string quartet will play between acts.

There was also the annual Christmas Play and other productions created by College Club members to showcase the talents of our membership. Miss Mary Louise McMillan became College Club’s resident playwright. Many of her plays were originally performed by College Club members but went on to be performed by small drama and art groups across the country. Through the 1970’s, College Club had its own theater group and produced plays. Today, we typically enjoy a play by the CWC Players as part of our annual season of programs. 

(Below Photo Barbour 1939) Mrs. George B. Barbour is Chairman of the unique and highly anticipated Hobby Fair, which the College Club of Cincinnati is giving on Saturday, October 14, 1934 at the Cincinnati Woman’s Club. 

This event, which was originated by Mrs. Barbour, has evolved such widespread enthusiasm among this membership, that over 180 members are entering exhibits in this fascinating display. 

Members are reminded that they may bring only one guest, the regulation against guests having been altered by Mrs. Orville Crane, the President of the club, after she had received an unusually large number of requests.

Tea will be a delightful aftermath to the exhibit, this affair taking place in the spacious tea room of the Cincinnati Woman’s Club.

Following the fulfillment of the members’ involvement with the Settlement House, College Club began to organize its meeting for the “refreshment and enlightenment of its members since so many of them were involved with other civic activities,” according to a reference in College Club archives on March 16, 1930. At this time, the club developed a format similar to that which we enjoy today with a luncheon followed by a program reflecting the arts as well as civic concerns and historical programs.

The 50th Anniversary

The fiftieth anniversary in 1942 of College Club’s founding enjoyed wide spread coverage in The Cincinnati Post. At this time, membership had increased to as much as four hundred members with long waiting lists to join.

(Below Photo #3 Invite, Cincinnati Post 4-13-43) The College Club of Cincinnati will meet at 12:15 on Saturday in the Hall of Mirrors of the Hotel Netherland Plaza to celebrate the completion of 50 years of service to the community and the country. Due to the troubled times, the committee debated the advisability of proceeding with plans for a celebration. But, as it is admittedly a time of peril for the universities of the world, it seemed to be a fitting time for the friends of those institutions to rally to their support. The club will make its fiftieth anniversary occasion a demonstration of faith.

(Below Photo #2 Mrs. Lawrence B. Murphy, President)  (Photo #4 Mrs. Ellsworth Ireland, Program Chair)The speaker, Dr. Raymond Walters, President of the University of Cincinnati, has chosen the role of liberal education in the coming era as his theme. Mrs. Lawrence B. Murphy, President of the club, will call the meeting to order. Miss Frieda Lotz will be tribune. Invocation will be given by Bishop Henry W. Hobson. Mrs. Ellsworth F. Ireland is General Chairman of the Quinquagesima Committee. Mrs. Orville W. Crane is director of the celebration, which will be reminiscent of the past history of the organization.

A narrated pageant was presented which was an allegory of the club’s history. A baby was presented with gifts from its seven godmothers: “a cook stove, laughter, continuance, imagination, adaptability, the ability to live anywhere, and finally an uncontrollable urge to give a play.”

 (Below Photo #3 Invite, Cincinnati Post 4-13-43)  The College Club turned back the clock, at its Golden Anniversary celebration Saturday at the Netherland Plaza to review its stage successes from 1895 to 1941.

(Below Photo #1 Cast)  Mrs. Lewis Earle Lee, extreme left, author of the script for the Pageant of Plays, represents the Old Woman of “Pot of Broth,” production of 1900.

Tyltyl, Sugar, and Mytil, standing next in line, are the disguises of Miss Inez Richard, Mrs. Henry Arnold, and Mrs. Norman C. Lucas, cast of the 1928 production of “The Bluebird.”

The pageant closed with a melodramatic death, which represented the one-thousand-dollar debt the responsibility for which had been fulfilled years prior to 1943.

(photo of chorus above) Mr. Sherwood Kains, director of the University of Cincinnati Glee Club and Oratorio Society and a member of the faculty of the University, is directing the chorus of members which will sing at the fiftieth anniversary of the College Club of Cincinnati on Saturday, April 10 at 12:15 in the Hall of Mirrors at the Hotel Netherland Plaza. Prominently identified with musical life in Cincinnati, Mr. Kains was graduated cum laude from the Conservatory of Music and received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Cincinnati. He has also studied in New York, England, and Germany, and has also sung as soloist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He is a director of the Baker Hunt Foundation.

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