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May 5, 2013

Supporting the community: Woman’s Department Club continues long history of philanthropy

TERRE HAUTE — Giving support to worthwhile projects and philanthropies has long been the purpose of the Woman’s Department Club. And a new group of leaders were inducted Saturday to continue the ongoing achievements of the nearly 100-year-old organization.

“You have everything in the world to look forward to, and I hope the new year is full of success for you,” Club president Carolyn Jeffries told the new officers of the Junior Department, which is now served by chairman Maryann Etling, vice chairman Elizabeth Payne, recording secretary Holly Osburn, treasurer Madeline Howes, and corresponding secretary Madison Smiley.

The Junior Department was organized in 1927 for the daughters of the club members.

The Woman’s Department Club itself came about as a way to consolidate the activities of the almost 40 women’s clubs in the Terre Haute area that had been organized by many of the prominent and wealthy female residents of the city. According to records, many local women wanted intellectual and charitable outlets for their energies through civic improvements during the Suffragette Women’s Rights movement. Eventually, a committee was formed to plan the combination of many of the women’s clubs into the Woman’s Department Club to present programs of art, drama, literature, music, nature study and social science.

Today, the group still has a broad focus of interest. Installed as department chairs were Rose Mary Freeze for social service, Leslie Bilyeu for garden and nature study, and Linda West for arts.

The club continues to meet in the original club house at Sixth and Oak streets that the group purchased in 1931 and opened in 1932. The historic mansion was built by Col. Robert N. Hudson in 1873. Ownership passed through the Johns, Cox, Ogle and Bogart families before the club purchased the property from prominent banker Paul N. Bogart.

The historic mansion has undergone only minor changes since the club moved in. Many of the antique furnishings such as buffets and cabinets have been donated by club members.

Through the years, the club has supported many community projects such as the Community Fund, Anti-tuberculosis Society, Girls’ Week and the American Red Cross, and institutions such as Community Theater and the Swope Art Gallery.

On Saturday, the club presented is annual scholarship to Kayla Danielle Lindsay, a senior at West Vigo High School who plans to attend Indiana State University and major in communications and minor in civic leadership. Lindsay credits her past four years of involvement in the Junior Department with paving the way for her leadership career choice.

She said that her volunteer work with Clothe-A-Child, the Abbondanza Dance, Wabash Valley Road Runners events and assisting in club activities has given her a good foundation for community service. She is a four-year track and cheerleading letterman at WVHS.

Her mother, Teresa Stuckey, was a former club member, and Lindsay credits club member Madonna Click with prompting her involvement as a Junior Department member. For the future, the club will continue with its philanthropic activities, including a summer garden party for members and appreciation events for the Good Cheer Club for the Blind.

Officers installed Saturday for a new two-year term are Carolyn Jeffries as president, Rachel Groves as vice president, Marlene Bilyou as recording secretary, Becky Evans as treasurer, Louise Kerr as membership treasurer and Betty Purcell as assistant membership treasurer. Directors are Carol Goy, Linda Smith, Frederica Kramer, Lynn Dowell, Jean Eyster and Diane Moore.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter@TribStarLisa.


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