April 3, 2013 I had the good fortune to be the speaker at the Des Moines Women’s Club. I always am glad when I get to speak to women’s clubs both because I have a great respect for the important work they do and because Laura was a club woman herself. Probably most importantly Laura was a founding member of the Athenian Club that was formed to help create a Wright County Library, but my favorite one of her clubs is Justamere Club because I think it’s one of the cleverest names I’ve come across. Women’s clubs work covered three areas, providing socialization for the women themselves, community improvement projects, and community upliftment projects (from art to opera). While the clubs I’m most familiar are more focused on the second of these, the Des Moines Women’s Club is an outstanding example of the third. Once a thousand strong in members and lead by the rich and elite, the club purchased a mansion and expanded it with an auditorium and rooms for art that was purchased from New York and Europe.
They no longer own the clubhouse because when they wisely realized with so many women now taking paid jobs instead of devoting time to community work that they would no longer be able to handle it. Instead they sold one of their paintings for 5 million dollars to establish a foundation to take care of it indefinitely and now the running of the building is handled by a paid staff. It was still easily the most impressive room I’ve ever presented in and I wish I’d had a little more time just to look at the art.
The venue is available to rent out and they also host events there, so if you live in Iowa, you’ll likely get a chance. I should warn you that entrance does require either quite a few steps or dealing with an elevator that didn’t quite get my vote of confidence. Also, the GPS (at least mine) stopped in front of the hospital and to find the building you have to keep going around the Iowa Methodist hospital, look for a brick mansion and their sign as you travel around.
Here is the website for the building Hoyt Sherman Place (the name of the owner of the mansion): http://www.hoytsherman.org/
They offer this about their history:
And here is the page of the Women’s Club itself: