The Nineteenth Century Club & The Nineteenth Century Charitable Association - Learning and Giving: Our Focus


Recent Historical Events

2010 - Oak Park Landmark Status for our historic building's exterior was applied for and obtained by a committee headed by Barbara Furlong, Mildred Erhardt and Barbara Ballinger.

The Board, with the approval of the membership, formed a new Illinois charitable corporation known as the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association in 2010 (chaired by Georga Parchem). The NCCA was formed as the umbrella for all charitable activities of The Nineteenth Century Club.

The Association applied for and obtained a 501(c)(3) status under the IRS tax code in 2010.

As of April 15, 2010 donations made to the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association (NCCA) are tax deductible to the letter of the law.

The Association has assumed all responsibilities for the much needed charitable activities formerly provided by the Club.

These activities are made possible through the substantial charitable support developed through the Nineteenth Century's 120+ year legacy and well developed reputation for charitable services.

The Nineteenth Century continues its charitable legacy through the NCCA; this includes financial contributions and countless hours of volunteer service.

Our Beginnings as The Nineteenth Century Club

The Nineteenth Century Club was established in 1891 by a group of far-sighted women who realized that education and civic involvement were essential elements in building a community. The Nineteenth Century Club was been a leader in providing opportunities for women and in developing support systems for families within the community. Upon its incorporation in 1909, the Club adopted as its purpose "the intellectual advancement of its members, the promotion of higher social, educational, and moral conditions in the community, and a united effort toward the higher development of humanity."

Times changed over the year (as did the Club). In returning to the spirit of its founders, the Club developed a Mission Statement to guide it into a third century. Adopted in April, 1997, the Mission Statement read:

"The Nineteenth Century Club promotes social responsibility and life-long learning by providing philanthropic opportunities and multicultural programs for an intergenerational, ethnically diverse audience."

To accomplish this mission, the Club shall:

  • Provide a forum for members to interact, discuss and act upon issues of concern;
  • Provide accessible, affordable, and intellectually stimulating programs for members and the community;
  • Promote community building by creating a climate for dialogue, issue awareness and volunteerism within the Club and the community at large and by partnering with community leaders, members, and other not-for profit organizations;
  • Provide opportunities to strengthen an appreciation of cultural diversity within the Club and in the community;
  • Assist local and regional not-for-profit organizations in forwarding their missions through education and service exchanges and by providing affordable rental of our facilities and funding from the Benevolence Trust;
  • Encourage education by providing scholarships from the Founders' Memorial Scholarship and the Margaret R. Houck Nursing Scholarship.


Mrs. Mary E. Baker, Mrs. Elizabeth H. Ball, Mrs. Nellie C. Beye, Mrs. Phoebe M. Butler, Mrs. Emily C. Conant, Miss May Estelle Cook, Mrs. Amanda Horton, Mrs. Louise M. Luff, Mrs. Mary P. Marsh, Mrs. Julia Morris, Mrs. Marie C. Remick, Mrs. Mary C. Rogers, Mrs. Clara W. Seabury, Mrs. Minnie M. Ward and Mrs. Anna Lloyd Wright.


1891 Founding of The Nineteenth Century Woman's Club.
1892 Club launches effort to elect founder Mrs. A.O. Butler to school board. She is defeated by financier John Farson.
1893 Club member Mrs. E.H. Pitkin becomes the first woman elected to the High School Board. Club members continue to serve on the Board for over 60 years.
1893 First Club president, Marie Remick, elected president of the Woman's Club of Chicago. Later, Club members Phoebe Butler, Elizabeth Ball and Mrs. Johnson also serve as president.
1894 Club members visit Hull House. Members urged to register to vote in local elections.
1895 Club hosts first of three picnics for the women and children of Hull House
1886 Club joins the Illinois and General Federations of Women's Clubs. Bylaws changed: "The object of this association shall be the intellectual improvement of its members and the study of educational and social problems."
1897 Club launches first of seven traveling libraries, establishes four home libraries and canvasses for funds for the local Scoville Library.
1899 Club withdraws from the General Federation. Member Martha Falconer becomes the first volunteer truant officer in the state. Jane Addams debates Mrs. McCullough on women's suffrage.
1900 Club hosts National Home Economics Association conference.
1902 Club withdraws from the Illinois Federation of Women's Clubs.
1903 Club member Dr. Anna Blount chairs suffrage convention in New Orleans. Club president Anna Mathews chairs village debate on sororities at the high school.
1909 Club incorporates. Club member Jennis Smeeth writes the first bylaws. Members request that women be included on village committees and commissions; Club is also active in the establishment of Illinois State Parks.
1910 Club establishes a day nursery in memory of Mrs. Charlton (now the Oak Park-River Forest Day Nursery); supports efforts of Chicago Lying-In Hospital to legislate standards and training for hospitals, doctors and nurses.
1912 Club establishes a fund for a building of its own.
1913 Three members of Club serve on first all-female jury convened in Cook County.
1916 Club celebrates its 25th anniversary; Illinois women permitted to vote in presidential elections for the first time. Club urges passage of Keating-Oliver Child Labor bill, requests that school playgrounds be open during the summer, and asks that the Library be open on Sunday afternoons. Corner lot at Grove and Ontario purchased for new club building.
1917 Club sells war bonds and works with Red Cross throughout the war years; invites high school students to hear Illinois poet Vachel Lindsay.
1918 Club president Anna Mathews serves on the Library Board until 1926.
1918 Club president Anna Mathews serves on the Library Board until 1926.
1919 Club sponsors Americanization nights at the high school and works for interracial betterment by supporting the Frederick Douglass Center with leadership delegates and funds.
1920 May Estelle Cook and other club members rally in Chicago celebrating the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, granting full female suffrage. Club lobbies for more money for schools, tax support for libraries, passage of the Child-Labor law, and citizenship for American Indians. Lot at Ontario and Grove sold.
1922 Club president Edna Austin establishes the Conference on International Affairs, serves as a member of the high school board and as president of the Art League. Club members campaign for comfort stations in the park.
1923 Associate membership proposed for working women. Lot at 178 Forest purchased for site of clubhouse.
1924 Club rejoins General Federation of Women's Clubs. Campaign to elect a woman to the village board begins.
1926 Club president Anna Hook serves as president of the Vocational Society for Shut-Ins.
1927 Groundbreaking ceremonies for building the Clubhouse at 178 Forest Avenue. Club member Dorothy Kerr elected as first woman trustee of Oak Park.
1928 Clubhouse opens to the public; meetings held every Monday.
1928 Club lobbies against a bill forbidding married women from holding public office.
1929 Club lobbies against a bill forbidding married women from holding public office
1930 Club tax records, benevolences, and activities examined for qualification for real estate tax exemption. Exemption granted in 1934.
1934 Club president Jewell Tomlinson Belknap serves two terms on the elementary school board, as well as on the board of the Chicago Metropolitan YWCA.
1936 Club president Rachel Crandell serves as president of the Family Service Agency as it receives national accreditation.
1938 Club adopts a policy of not entering campaigns or demonstrations.
1941 Club celebrates 50th anniversary. Founder May Estelle Cook writes Our First Fifty Years. Junior membership formed.
1941-1944 Club active in war effort-selling bonds, entertaining troops, supporting Red Cross, raising funds for ambulances.
1942 Club president Sarah Fox organizes the Social Welfare Department.
1946 Club membership consists of 1,050 seniors, 13 juniors, 53 non-residents, and 401 associates.
1948 Club president Priscilla Pratt continues tradition of leadership by serving as commission of the Lone Tree Council and as a member of the board of the International Girl Scouts of America.
1949 Club petitions local planning commission to consider and plan for housing for the elderly.
1950 Club installs elevator in building.
1951 Club records are bound and updated by member Elizabeth Browne. Founders' Memorial Scholarship established for 60th anniversary.
1952 Club president Ruth Holt helps establish Senior Citizens Center; serves as president of the Community Welfare Council.
1953 Club establishes Trust Fund for the Founders' Memorial Scholarship, and awards four $500 annual scholarships to girl graduates of Oak Park and River Forest High School. Benevolence budget tops $3,000.
1956 Club supports Ruth Holt's work with the Leisure Group, later to become the Senior Citizens' Center. Gladys Houser, former president, heads the Chicago Drama League. Angeline Gebhard becomes the second woman trustee of Oak Park. Summer programs and Club Chorus discontinued.
1958 Club and Village co-sponsor the Oak Park Planning Conference.
1959 Club withdraws from the Illinois and the General Federations of Women's Clubs. Club Manager suggests adding a liquor license, but is overruled.
1960 Club president Marian Howie has founder May Estelle Cook's book, Little Old Oak Park, published. She also serves as president of the Community Welfare Council and on the board of the League of Women Voters and the Senior Citizen's Center.
1961 May Estelle Cook, last of the Club founders, dies.
1964 Benevolence Trust Fund established. Club president Margaret R. Houck is the first woman to serve as a trustee for the Oak Park Trust & Savings Bank; she also served as president of the Infant Welfare Board of Oak Park and as director of the Chicago Infant Welfare Society, as president of the Community Welfare Council, and as a life trustee of the West Suburban Hospital Auxiliary and Medical Center; encourages members to canvass for the Community Chest.
1966 Club celebrates 75th anniversary
1968 Last year dance classes held at Club.
1970 Club member Lucy Reum serves as delegate to the Illinois State Constitutional Convention.
1973 First Benevolence Trust Benefit held.
1978 Club president Marion Herzog develops literature to promote Oak Park's role in the Prairie School of Architecture.
1980 Club member Nancy Follett appointed as first woman on the Oak Park Police and Fire Commission.
1982 Club president Edith Crabbe establishes the Hunger Task Force; she also served as president of the Senior Citizens Center and received an award from the Cook County Council on Aging.
1983 Club sponsors symposia on women's changing roles in community life with all local non-sectarian women's clubs.
1988 Club installs stair lift, making the building completely accessible.
1990 Rose Sugden chaired the committee that produced the Nineteenth Century Woman's Club Historical Centennial Cookbook, 1891-1991.
1991 Club member Vernette Schultz elected to Village Board. Club increases Scholarship awards to $1,000 in honor of centennial; doubles Benevolence giving. Past President Carolyn Poplett publishes The Gentle Force, a history of the Club. Past President Margaret R. Houck establishes President's Photo Gallery.
1992 Club establishes "The Marie C. Remick Collection of Literature by and about Women" at the Oak Park Public Library; increases number of Scholarships awarded. Past President Margaret R. Houck receives Rita Johnson Humanitarian Award.
1993 Scholarship awards increased to $1,000. Club members Mildred, Ruth and Nancy Follett receive Rita Johnson Humanitarian Awards.
1994 Past President Faye Devine completes a four-year term as president of The Historical Society of Oak Park/River Forest.
1995 First Scholarship Awards Presentation Luncheon held.
1996 Unification of Active and Associate Membership.
1997 Club initiates ACCESS 2000 Capital Campaign (Advancing Community, Charity, Education, Service, Sociability) to make the building handicap accessible. First Painted Lady Housewalk, chaired by Faye Devine. Club member Barbara Furlong is elected president of the Village of Oak Park.
1998 New elevator installed; exterior stairs eliminated; ADA restroom installed. Club wins Nicholas Award and Universal Access Award for accessibility renovations.
1999 Initiated luminarias to light up our villages for the Holiday season. Margaret R. Houck Scholarship for a nursing student established. The Nineteenth Century Woman's Club becomes a member of the Community Foundation of Oak Park & River Forest with the ACCESS 2000 designated fund.
2000 Past President Carolyn Poplett and member Mary Ann Porucznik co-write A Woman Who Never Fails: Grace Wilbur Trout and Illinois Suffrage, a biography of a Club member who successfully won presidential suffrage for Illinois women in 1913.
2001 Past President Carolyn Poplett receives the Rita Johnson Humanitarian Award.
2003 Barbara Furlong, past President of Oak Park, receives Cook County's Unsung Heroine Award.
2004 Past president Faye Devine receives Rotary Club's Carl S. Winters award, given to local activists who have made significant contributions to the community; NAACP honors Sherlynn Reid by awarding her life membership. Sherlynn Reid receives first Ulyssean Award from the Senior Citizens' Center. A "Ulyssean Journey" is one in which we continue to grow, create and develop. Club changes program schedule to have only one program each Monday. Renovation of first floor completed. Renovation made possible due to a generous bequest from Club member Elizabeth Snow. Plan for air conditioning the auditorium developed.
2005 Mary Glenn Kirkland receives Chicago Audubon's "Protector of the Environment-Avocation" Award for her work as past president of the Illinois Audubon Society.
2006 Sherlynn Reid elected the first African-American president of the Nineteenth Century Club. Auditorium is fully air-conditioned under a bequest from Club member Gladys Boller. Celebration of former president and the Club's most generous benefactor, Margaret Houck's 100th birthday at the President's Tea. A Star Magnolia tree is planted on the front lawn to honor Pat Leavy, President 2002-2006 and her many years of devoted service to the Club. Club website is updated, thanks to member Webmaster, Pat Davis.
2007 Club member W. Lee Brooke publishes book about the Kettlestrings, Oak Park's founding family. Lee and Marcy Kubat have published many other titles concerning Oak Park.
2008 Evelyn Gross, club member and former board member, was chosen last year to be part of an international legal team meeting in Russia. This year she has been asked to serve on a like committee in Cairo, Egypt. Evelyn is a well known local lawyer and has been admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.