October 21, 2000 -- Foothill Leader
Feminists put down roots in La Canada
Her enthusiasm was catching.
Knight was an educated woman.
She liked to read.
She liked to travel.
But why did Elizabeth Frances Knight found the La Canada Thursday Club in 1912? And did she have a feminist agenda?
Not all of the early club members were well educated, but most of them were readers.
Club member Mary Wilbur Pate met her husband Charles in La Canada. He was a "remittance man" from England, which meant that he did not work -- his family sent him money every month. The Pates lived on the monthly remittance.
Mary Pate was a local schoolteacher. In 1919, she became eighth president of the Thursday Club. Her husband stayed busy with his writing, but Mary took the club up a notch. She instituted printed programs and presented the first paid program for members.
Thursday Club board member, Lynn Duvall, says that idea of forming a woman's club to discuss "important questions of the day" was significant.
"In the early 1900s, it was not considered proper for a lady to read the daily newspaper. At home, the man of the house would read the morning news or would return from work to peruse the afternoon newspaper. Whatever items of interest he felt were appropriate for the women of his household, he shared with them. Even though some women were college educated, they were not encouraged to be active in discussions of world affairs or national news in their homes.
"The purpose of our club, written by our founders (and recorded in the bylaws) fascinates me. It is 'the consideration and discussion of all vital and important questions of the day, and the imparting to others of the knowledge and benefits thus acquired."'
Duvall believes that this statement "directly relates to our founders' desire to be ready to accept the responsibility of the vote for women."
Duvall sees a direct connection.
"Some women tease me when I take advantage of an occasion to publicly read the club's purpose at our gatherings. They say, 'Lynn, how can you paint a picture of our early clubwomen as feminists?' The word 'feminist' was transformed in the '70s to equate with 'bra-burner'. It still carries overtones that make women uncomfortable and unwilling to be labeled as feminists. A feminist believes that women should have political, economic and social rights equal to those of men. Our early founders absolutely were feminists. Their goals are recorded in our purpose.
"Membership in a club like ours gives women an opportunity to speak in public, to meet other women of all ages and backgrounds, to learn, to challenge themselves. Nearly all of our members have held positions of leadership in a wide range of organizations stretching all the way back to their college years," says Duvall.
And it all started right here. In these hills. In La Canada.
copyright October 29, 2000 Anita Susan Brenner