Women’s clubs surged in popularity in the early years of the twentieth century. Groups of women gathered to discuss current affairs, domestic subjects, home gardening techniques, and new developments in preserving and preparing food. Women’s clubs developed in many communities as outgrowths of cooperative extension services, which were funded through land-grant universities by the federal Smith-Lever Act of 1914. In other areas not served by land-grant universities, groups formed through church, family, and neighborhood associations.
In Loudoun County, Virginia, the Home Interest Club was founded in the fall of 1903 by a group of women near Lincoln and operated until March 2013. Most of the founding women were members of the Society of Friends, though involvement with the Friends was not a prerequisite for membership in the club. The constitution and bylaws of the club state that it was to “Benefit the home by making housekeeping easier in the exchanging of recipes and the discussion of all topics tending to elevate and improve the home.” One of the original requirements of membership was that every woman share a proven recipe at each meeting. Some of the recipes were eventually published in a cookbook written to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the founding of the club.
The club held monthly meetings that consisted of a roll call, discussion of club business, a program, and refreshments. The program usually consisted of one or more presentations by members. Presentations often included readings from published material or original writings, but were usually informational in nature. Topics included temperance, suffrage for women, civil rights for African Americans, foreign affairs, local history, and current events. During the meeting held just prior to the presidential election of 1920, the first national election in which women could vote, the women discussed what would happen at the polls and went through the steps of voting. During World War II there was a program on using sugar substitutes and members were asked to contribute sugar-shortage recipes. The membership also shared ideas about education, child rearing, and household maintenance.
More information about the Home Interest Club of Loudoun County can be found at Thomas Balch Library, Leesburg, Virginia.
You can view the full collection guide for the Home Interest Club Records, 1903-2013 (M 077) on Virginia Heritage.