History of the Club
“I believe in pure water, pure milk and pure food. I believe the highest ideals for my community, specifically, that health, music, art, love, and work are ours to enjoy.”
This was the creed of those courageous “Ladies of the Club.” The key words are love and service. That was the inspiration of a group of young women to organize the first women’s civic club in the State of Tennessee.
It all began back in 1909 – Nashville was emerging into the beautiful city it was destined to become. A group of young women who were civic minded wanted to contribute something to their community. They decided it was time to declare the things they stood for and things they were against. The East Nashville Civic Club was organized that day.
The first department of the club was the “Children’s Hour,” meeting in parks, yards, and playgrounds telling stories to the children. Through their efforts they were successful in securing three branch libraries from The Carnegie Foundation.
Concern for the health of their families led to the enactment of clean health laws. Houses were unscreened; flies were a nuisance; chickens ran loose, ruining gardens and yards; bread was unwrapped and meat was uncovered in the markets; smoke from burning leaves and trash polluted the air -- all of this a hazard to their health. The women of East Nashville Civic Club successfully attacked these problems. These issues were enacted into law and remain today.
Mindful of the children who were not receiving proper food and care, they worked with the East Nashville Milk and Ice Association and Daycare to furnish food and care for the children. From this was the beginning of the McNeilly Day Home.
The first woman was placed on the school board – she just happened to be a member of the East Nashville Civic Club. Attention was focused on schools and improved education.
Dark clouds of World War I gathered. Each member gave of her time and talents to the war effort. When peace came, to keep pace with the wider interest, the East Nashville Civic Club changed the name to the East Nashville Woman’s Club. A membership drive brought the Club to 1,000 members from all over the city and the name was changed to The Woman’s Club of Nashville.
They joined the movement for the “Woman’s Right to Vote” and marched on the State Capitol to show their support.
On July 31, 1931, the Club was chartered – stating the purpose to be “To bring together women interested in education, civic progress, protection of youth, literary studies, and homemaking.”
Time moved on – women, with the help of The Woman’s Club of Nashville, had earned the right to vote. The city and the nation were soaring into a new era, one of speed and motion. The Ladies of the Club endorsed the movement to secure an “A-1” airport for the city. They worked with the Mayor’s office on law enforcement and helped to form the City Beautiful Commission.
Pearl Harbor brought sadness to the country. Club members directed their attention to selling war bonds and stamps. They worked with The Red Cross. They furnished and maintained a room at the Classification Center on Thompson Lane for the duration. They even saved “tin foil.”
In the beginning, the Ladies of the Club met in homes. When the interest outgrew this, they met in hotels and public halls. Our first Clubhouse at 217 Louise Avenue – the former home of the Ridley Wills family - was purchased in October 1931. When The Woman’s Club outgrew this location, our current Clubhouse was purchased and on November 14, 1957, the “Ladies of the Club” were in session at 3206 Hillsboro Road. A more detailed History of the House is on the previous page.
In the 1980’s, two and one-half acres on the undeveloped north side of the building was sold to Stokes Lane for the sum of $1,250,000. This money was invested to secure the future of the Club. Improvements were made, the leaky roof replaced, the building painted inside and out, drapes and carpets were installed in Haley Hall and we had money in the bank. In 1999-2001 the house was completely redecorated and we are enjoying this beautiful facility today.
In keeping with the traditions of the founders, The Woman’s Club of Nashville continues to contribute to projects and causes. Commitment to service is still the purpose of The Woman’s Club of Nashville. Through the years contributions have been made to: The American Heart Association, the Kidney Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis, Alive Hospice, Nashville Symphony, Family Health Centers, Abuse Centers and many others. We continue to hold fundraisers for the benefit of service organizations.
A Scholarship Endowment has been established to assist young women in furthering their education.
Each year, for almost 100 years, women have joined to find a way not only to reach out but to touch others. Through the years The Woman’s Club of Nashville has made a difference in the future of our city. The Ladies of The Club have left a heritage and a tradition for us to follow. Be proud of their achievements; hold on to the legacy that has been given to us.
There are still dragons to be slain and things to be done. In the tradition of those who have made it possible for us, we must strive to meet the goals set by our founders to “KEEP ON KEEPING ON!”