Women's University Club of Seattle holds its first meeting on May 6, 1914.

  • By Catherine Hinchliff
  • Posted 7/23/2008
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 8696
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On May 6, 1914, the  newly founded Women’s University Club meets for the first time in a room in the Henry Building, located at 1318 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle. Even before the first meeting, 276 women have signed the charter. The women elect their first board of trustees and elect Edith B. Backus as president and Anna A. Trefethen as secretary. All of the women are selected from the group of 14 incorporators who had sought permission to incorporate as the Women’s University Club on February 10, 1914.

A group of women led by Edith Backus conceived of the Women’s University Club in 1913, after they realized that there was no place for college-educated women to dine, meet, or entertain outside their own homes. The women founded the Women’s University Club in order to establish a home for educational, cultural, and social activities for educated women despite the fact that the Association of Collegiate Alumnae (ACA), a national organization with a Seattle branch since 1904, already served a nearly identical function in the community. In fact many of the women responsible for planning the new club were already members of the ACA. However, the ACA focused on fundraising to provide graduate fellowships to women, and, therefore, the organization refused the Seattle branch’s request for a clubhouse. Upon being denied, the group of women began to look elsewhere, persisting in their desire for a clubhouse.

Sometime in 1913, the College Women’s Club, organized by another group of Seattle women, invited Backus’s group to join. However, the group rejected the invitation after discovering that the founder did not intend to build a clubhouse. It was also felt that membership requirements were too lax. With the goal of attaining a clubhouse in mind, 14 women applied for permission to incorporate as the “Women’s University Club of Seattle,” with the acquisition of a clubhouse as a stipulation of the incorporation. Shortly afterwards, the club’s articles of incorporation were granted, and the Women’s University Club joined the ranks of Seattle’s two other women’s clubs.

The summer after their first meeting, the newly elected board of trustees approved plans for the Metropolitan Building Company to build a small, one-story building at 1205 5th Avenue, near Seneca Street and next door to the men’s College Club. On September 10, 1914, the Women’s University Club held its first luncheon in its first clubhouse and hosted an open house three weeks later. A mere three months after forming, the Women’s University Club had built its clubhouse and Seattle women finally had “a downtown meeting place all their own” (Laura Carr quoted in Historical Highlights 6).

The Incorporators

  • Adelaide L. Pollock
  • Ottilie G. Boetzkes
  • Jessie Ballard Geary
  • Edith B. Backus
  • Ruth Holmes Huntoon
  • Anna A. Trefethen
  • Margaret Burwell Macklem
  • D. Blanche M. Frein
  • Emma C. Nettleton
  • Laura Whipple Carr
  • Mabel Chilberg
  • H. Jeannette Perry
  • Francisca A. Mackintosh
  • Neva B. Douglas

Sources: Karen J. Blair, "The Limits of Sisterhood: The Woman's Building in Seattle, 1908-1921," in Women In Pacific Northwest History: An Anthology ed. by Karen J. Blair (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988), 65-82; The University Women’s Club of Seattle: Historical Highlights, 1914-1997 (Seattle: Women’s University Club, 1997).  

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