Advocating for women. Driving Change.
Woman's Club members initiated many community initiatives we often take for granted today.
- They convinced City Hall to install sewers to prevent typhoid that had decimated other towns.
- They purchased, planted, watered, pruned street trees.
- They opened the first Elementary and High Schools in Palo Alto.
- The Club's Village Improvement Committee recommended park locations and landscaping.
- They sponsored town clean-up days.
- They founded the Palo Alto library.
In 1901, before Carnegie funds were granted, The Woman’s Club circulated a petition requesting a Public Library. The necessary number of signatures was acquired and the City was compelled, according to State Law, to provide a Public Library. Founding the library took countless hours of fund raising, holding Book Socials and applying for a grant to build the first town library. They rented a space, staffed it with Woman's Club volunteers, and donated the first books.
Every year, schools were high on the Club agenda. The Club donated art for classrooms, petitioned for better pay for teachers, paid all the expenses of a gymnasium, and argued for free textbooks. To this day, the Club has a scholarship fund. At the request of teachers, the Club hosted Home and School meetings—the predecessor of the PTA. In 1909, the Club nominated for Board of School Trustees. Our member Mrs. C.L. Place was the first woman elected to any Palo Alto office.
The Club responded then and now to crises. During the typhoid epidemic of 1903, they delivered food to the sick. In 1906, they helped San Francisco earthquake refugees. The Woman's Club provided hospitality to Camp Fremont soldiers and their families during World War I. In 1989, the Club sent money and supplies to Watsonville, hard-hit by the earthquake. Responding to the hurricane relief efforts in 2005, the Club engaged in fund raising to support needs in Mississippi and Louisiana.
From 1909 to 1911 The Woman's Club of Palo Alto members, Alice Park and Emily Pardee Karns led the way in the successful Palo Alto campaign for women's suffrage. A ballot measure for women’s suffrage failed in California by a slim margin in 1896 (however, Palo Alto, in it inimitable way, had voted in favor). In 1909, the Woman’s Club nominated Mrs. Place to be a candidate for the School Board. Her victory primed them for the woman’s suffrage amendment which was again presented to California voters in 1911.