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 

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