Archive for Sunday, April 11, 1999

April 11, 1999


The only schism in the 100-year-old club came in 1929 when a prospective was rejected.

The Kanwaka Literary Club was the vision of three women -- Mrs. J.R. Topping, Miss May Etta Richardson and Miss Leonora Ricker -- who wanted to establish "a mutual improvement society" for women living in April 1899 in the rural Lawrence area, according to the club's records on file with the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka.

The women placed an advertisement in the Jeffersonian Gazette in Lawrence stating that a meeting would be held at the Topping home to form a literary summer club. At the meeting, Mrs. Topping would discuss scientific subjects, Miss Richardson would talk about foreign events and Miss Ricker would discuss American current events.

The ad also said, "When the club is fully organized they expect to discuss the race problems and all living issues of the day."

Twenty women attended that first meeting, where they decided to meet from May 1 "until the weather gets too cold." "Too cold" referred to the time "when horses become unruly and it was unsafe for ladies to drive," according to the club's records.

The club had no constitution, no voting on membership and no dues. However, a penny was collected from each member at each meeting for its flower fund.

As the club's popularity grew, its membership increased and some meetings had up to 60 women, children and guests -- yes, even a few men -- in attendance.

A constitution was drafted in 1920 and members began to be admitted by club approval. The club's flower became the pansy; its colors, purple and gold; and its motto, "Loyal to each other, and true to the best within us."

In 1929, a schism resulted when the name of a prospective member received an unfavorable vote. About 16 members left the club to form The Goodwill Club, which was active for 30 years before disbanding in the early 1960s.

At the turn of the century, the club became known as the Kanwaka Literary Club, but it wasn't until 1945 that the meeting schedule was altered to run from September through May. The time of meetings was changed from 2 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. so members could be home by the time their children returned from school.

Kanwaka Literary Club has always been active in community projects. In May 1905, members held a play and ice cream social to raise money for the Community Rest Room, which helped rural women and their children. In 1923, members sent used clothing and bolts of new muslin to destitute Russians. During World War I, club members helped the Red Cross by making bandages and expressed their patriotism by serving "Hooverized" refreshments without sugar and wheat flour.

For the past 45 years, the most important event for the club has been its Founders Day luncheon in mid-April. The luncheon has been held every year, except 1982 when two members were killed in an automobile accident a few days before the gathering.

-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is

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