Palo Alto without a Woman’s Club would have been like a springtime without its showers and its flowers....”

 This reprinted History Corner article, written in December 1998 by Jeanne Farr McDonnell, recounts how the Club introduced physical education into Palo Alto schools and the involvement of members in the Club’s financial affairs.

As we transcribe early Club minutes, the History Committee is intrigued at how club lectures coincided with or fostered projects – some quite ambitious — like the gymnasium the Woman's Club sponsored that successfully introduced physical education to Palo Alto schools.

Children’s welfare was a frequent topic. [Two such lectures were]: Mrs. Alona Glasgow on “Art in the Public Schools,” and Mrs. Florence Bolton and Dr. Clelia Mosher on “Physical Culture.” In response, the Club undertook to provide art assistance to the schools, a project that paid its own way, and a physical culture project [a gymnasium] that did not.

A 1905 report to the board on the gym’s financial difficulties explained that the committee had hired William Sloan, “by far the best Physical Instructor in this part of the Country,” rented space, and purchased equipment, anticipating that “a few years experience will convince both parents and students that Physical Education is a vital necessity. The Woman’s Club can then turn over its apparatus to the School authorities or a town association, as it has turned over the Library to the Town authorities.”

The report went on to explain that working with the “University, the County Board of Education, the town School Board, the High School teachers, and the High School Boys,” took a year and, though now the school board had agreed to begin paying a per-student fee, it did not cover expenses, much less recoup the previous investment.

The Club board had not supervised the project and was dismayed at bills of $416 and a lawsuit for rent of a similar amount. A newspaper account the following spring gallantly called it a “sorry plight,” encouraging businesses to assist “that estimable body ” because Palo Alto without a Woman’s Club would have been like a springtime without its showers and its flowers....”  The Club took out a bank loan and was still paying on the debt five years later.

The episode affected later events. In 1916, the Club empowered a Clubhouse Building Committee to en-ngage architect Charles Hodges and contractor Frank Fox. Twenty-seven members resigned – many had been longtime Club leaders – undoubtedly fearful of another painful bout with indebtedness. The gymnasium debacle educated members about financial over- sight better than any lecture. [In 1916, members were thankful] to the committee for knowing its business and working conscientiously with and for the Club.

— Jeanne Farr McDonnell 



Woman's Club member, Dr. Clelia Duel Mosher

Dr. Clelia Duel Mosher — Women’s Rights Activist, Doctor, Scientist, Professor

Woman's Club member Dr. Clelia Duel Mosher (1863-1940) was the first woman in Palo Alto to cast a vote for emancipation. Mosher’s life was devoted to disproving Victorian stereotypes of females as “frail” and therefore incapapable of male accomplishments. She first tackled these stereotypes when her physician father thought her too delicate to attend college. 

Clelia turned his greenhouse into a florist shop and within eight years was able to attend and pay for college without her parents’ approval. She never looked back. 

While at the University of Wisconsin, Mosher designed a nine-page survey concerning the sexual practices and attitudes of Victorian women. It took 30 years to complete and was never published in her lifetime. Had it been, it might have ended her career, as its sensational findings rival those of Kinsey in their repudiation of outdated notions of female sexuality. Among her respondents: 75% engaged in weekly sex, 80% desired intercourse and 72% experienced orgasm. One even suggested that lack of orgasm was because “Men have not been properly trained.” 

At Johns Hopkins Medical School, Mosher researched menstruation. The medical establishment viewed menses as an incapacitating disease requiring bed rest. She postulated that it was a natural bodily function whose discomfort resulted not from disease but rather from societal expectations of pain, poor diet, impractical clothing and insufficient exercise. She invented exercises called “moshers” intended to strengthen core abdominal muscles. 

Thwarted from completing her gynecological surgery internship because no man would work as her surgical assistant, Mosher returned to Palo Alto and set up a general medicine practice. Her clients were few, as female physicians were accepted only as obstetricians or pediatricians. Forced to supplement her income, she taught high school, worked for Palo Alto’s Health Department during the typhoid epidemic and ultimately returned to Stanford as medical adviser to women. Here Mosher developed a large library for her students on nutrition, health, sexual anatomy and feminist teachings. She organized the first women’s athletic competitions with Berkeley. In 1911, as the first woman to vote for suffrage in Palo Alto, Clelia humorously suggested that voting might solve all female health problems. 

During World War I, Clelia served in France as a Medical Investigator for Children’s Relief. Returning to Stanford in 1922, she became a full professor in 1928. Stanford conferred professorships to women only at retirement because they did not consider them to be full-fledged academics, but only teachers of female students. Dr. Clelia Mosher would certainly have been first in line to vote on November 8, 2016. 

— Margaret R. Feuer



Cookery: Choice Recipes collected by e Woman’s Club of Palo Alto


Twenty-four women organized the Woman’s Club of Palo Alto in 1894. Ten years later, the women were a strong enough organization that they planned to build their own clubhouse. In 1904, they bought the lot at the corner of Homer and Cowper for $1,125. It took the women of the club another 12 years to raise the $5,300 to build the building. ey gave concerts, held food markets, hosted costume parties, featured speakers such as Helen Keller. One of their early fundraisers was Cookery, a collection of club members’ recipes.

Two copies of the cookbook remain in the archives of the Palo Alto Historical Associa- tion at Cubberley.

However, in order to follow the recipes, one needs to translate directions to the 21st century:

  • A peck of strawberries = 4 dry quarts; half a peck = two dry quarts
  • A little thickening = a tablespoon or two of our or cornstarch mixed in a half cup water “Mash through a sieve” = Use a food mill
  • A quart can of tomatoes = Does not exist. Use a 28 oz. can plus one more half cup
  • A “well seasoned tomato sauce” = probably use marinara sauce
  • A quick oven = I am guessing an oven heated to 400 degrees

The recipe for Chicken Broth calls for, “An old hen makes the best broth. Cut up and put into pot with 2 quarts cold water. Simmer 6 or 7 hours in a ‘closely covered’ vessel. When the meat begins to leave the bones, take the chicken from the pot, strip o meat, crack the bones, and return all to the pot... Strain through cloth when hot, and skim o all fat when cold...”

Not attractive to today’s cooks would be “Sweet Bread Salad”. e directions say to boil “sweet breads” for 20 minutes, plunge them into cold water, then remove “the membranes and little pipes, cut into dice; lay by table- spoons on crisp lettuce leaves; cover with mayonnaise.” Mrs. Addie Wershing submitted this recipe, and at least 50 other women contributed recipes to the cookbook. – Vicki Sullivan



Lewis Hines Exhibit at The Cantor Through October 30, 2016

On October 7, 2016 the Museum Friday interest group visited The Cantor Museum at Stanford for the exhibit "Soulmaker: The Times of Lewis Hine".  This exhibit continues through Oct 30th.  We received a special lecture by the exhibit curator, Alexander Nemerov, Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities and Chair of the Department of Art & Art History, Stanford University.

One hundred years ago, the photographer Lewis Hine travelled to mills and factories in New England and the South, photographing child laborers. His photographs are among the most haunting images of children ever made. In this exhibition, a beautiful selection of Hine’s child-labor photographs is juxtaposed with stunning contemporary photographs taken by photographer Jason Francisco (Stanford M.F.A., ’89) of those same mill and factory sites as they look now. The Lewis Hine photos helped sway Congress to pass a child labor law in 1916.  At that time child labor was regulated by state law and every state had different rules. There were an estimated two million working children under the age of sixteen and some as young as five. 

Congress did not abolish child labor in 1916.  It simply barred the movement of goods across state lines if they were produced by children under the age of 14, children who worked more than 8 hours per day or who worked more than 6 days a week.  In 1918 the Supreme Court struck down the 1916 law as unconstitutional as per the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution.  This Supreme Court ruling stood until 1941 when it was overturned in the case of U.S. versus Darby.   



LifeMoves and Haven Family House Celebrate The Woman's Club!

On Wednesday September 28, 2016, Haven Family House and LifeMoves (formerly Invasion Shelter Network) invited the Woman's Club of Palo Alto Outreach committee to afternoon tea and a celebration of our good work for Haven Family House these past 5 years.  The theme of the celebration was "It takes a village to provide a safe haven for homeless families in our community".  It is an honor for the Woman's Club to support Haven Family House and LifeMoves! A huge thank you to all members who donate items at our monthly lunches.

Members of the Outreach Committee were honored!  Our Outreach Committee and the Woman’s Club have supported Haven Family House for more than six years with twice-monthly volunteering, Mother’s Day and Family BBQ special events and luncheon collection donations. rough this partnership we have helped hundreds of families break the cycle of homelessness and move on to successful employment and perma- nent housing.

If you would like to be part of this effort, please contact Anne Ercolani, our Haven Family House liaison. Our volunteer days are the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 9:45 a.m. to noon. 



An Armchair Tour of Historic Members Homes and Lives


The D.A.R. pin belonged to Ms. Rice's mother. The top bar is engraved with “Ex-Chapter Regent, Kaskaskia Chapter" from when she lived in Illinois. This is the name of a tribe of Native Americans in Illinois.  The three pins attached to the blue and white ribbon are each inscribed with the name of an ancestor who fought in the American Revolution. 

Here's a little bit about the

 Geo W. Welch & Son company.

Our September 2016 luncheon speaker, Joyce Rice, gave our members "An Armchair Tour of Historic Members Homes and Lives"  This was the final piece in The Woman's Club of Palo Alto Centennial Celebration series.  Ms Rice is a former Oak Park (Chicago) and PAST-Heritage docent and gave our members a very interesting perspective of historic homes.

Ms. Rice came in costume and wore a lovely period outfit, plus 2 pieces of jewelry of interest.  

The watch belonged to a great-great aunt. It was given to Ms Rice by her grandmother when she graduated from college. The watch was manufactured by Geo. W. Welsh's Son and is more than 125 years old.

Of course women did not wear watches on their wrists in those days. Watches were usually tucked into a pocket or cummerbund.