Women's Societies Research Guide

Women’s clubs and societies have a long history in Missouri. Prior to the Civil War, most women’s clubs were either religious in nature or auxiliaries to men’s organizations. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, numerous women’s organizations were formed for social, educational, civic, professional, or philanthropic purposes. Additionally, clubs with specific political goals began to organize, often in the form of suffrage organizations, and eventually engaged in issues such as abortion, equal rights, and discrimination.

Articles from Missouri Historical Review and Missouri Times


Many of the State Historical Society’s holdings are included in the SHSMO online catalog. The State Historical Society holds numerous books both about the history of women’s clubs and societies in Missouri as well as publications generated by these organizations. The best means to search for women’s societies is with the subject term “Women -- Societies and Clubs”. For a more specific search on women in Missouri, simply add the subject term “Missouri” to your search.

Historic Missourian Biographies

  • Emily Newell Blair - Emily Newell Blair was a prominent suffragist, writer, activist, and elected official. She worked throughout her life to help women gain the right to vote as well as exercise their political power.

  • Edna Fischel Gellhorn - Edna Fischel Gellhorn was a suffragist, civic leader, and reformer who helped found the National League of Women Voters. She dedicated her life to helping and serving others through her work as a social and political activist.

  • Carry A. Nation - Carry Nation was a famous leader and activist before women could vote in America. She believed that drunkenness was the cause of many problems in society. She gained national attention when she started using violence. Though she was beaten and jailed many times for “smashing” saloons, Carry Nation remained opposed to drinking and smoking throughout her life. Her crusade against drinking contributed to the passing of the Eighteenth Amendment.


The State Historical Society of Missouri manuscript collections contain materials dealing with organizations that promote the goals, careers, or viewpoints of women. Examples of these collections include the Women’s Progressive Farmers Association of Missouri, Inc. Records, the Book Lovers’ Club Records, and the Greater Kansas City Women’s Political Caucus Records.

View All Women's Societies Manuscript Collections

Highlighted Collection

Missouri Association of Colored Women's Clubs Records - Records of the state organization and member clubs of an association to improve the status of black women in the home and community include correspondence, financial records, conference files and programs, and information on the history of the organization and member clubs.

On Demand Programs

"Votes for Missouri Women!"

In 2020, as the US commemorated the centennial of the 19th Amendment that gave women the vote, the State Historical Society of Missouri and the Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection collaborated on the two-part video series "Votes for Missouri Women!" and created the exhibition Missouri Women: Suffrage to Statecraft.

Learn More or Watch

"Earnest Endeavour": Missouri Women and the Work of Civil War Commemoration

As part of the SHSMO Fall Lecture Series, we welcomed speaker Amy Laurel Fluker, the Robert W. Reeder I Professor of nineteenth-century American history at Youngstown State University. Watch as Fluker discusses Civil War commemoration in Missouri as pursued most often by women and from both sides of the conflict in a free video from SHSMO On Demand.

Our Missouri Podcast Episodes

Our Missouri is a podcast about the people, places, culture, and history of the 114 counties and independent city of St. Louis that comprise the great state of Missouri. Engaging with subject matter experts in each episode, host Sean Rost explores topics related to the state's complex history and culture, from publications about Missouri’s history to current projects undertaken by organizations to preserve and promote local institutions. 

Summer Series 2020: "Show-Me Suffragists"

In 1920, Missourians awaited news regarding the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The state had approved the amendment, which prohibited the federal government and states from denying a citizen the right to vote based upon sex, a year prior, in 1919. However, it would take another year before Tennessee became the 36th and final state needed to ratify the new constitutional amendment in August 1920. Our Missouri invites listeners to join us as we explore the fight for the vote through the eyes of a group of "Show-Me Suffragists" who are not as well-known in Missouri History.

  • Part 1: Alma Nash & the Maryville Milieu with Elyssa Ford

    Elyssa Ford discusses Alma Nash and how Maryville's Missouri Ladies Military Band became key participants in the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession.

  • Part 2: The Clark Family with Ethan Colbert

    Ethan Colbert discusses the Clark Family of Bowling Green, particularly Genevieve Davis Bennett Clark and Genevieve Clark Thomson, and how discussions of suffrage in their home eventually made it to the halls of Congress.

  • Part 3: Carrie Lee Carter Stokes with Janet Olson

    Janet Olson joins us to talk about the life of Carrie Lee Carter Stokes, and explains how the Dexter (MO) schoolteacher rose to become a prominent leader in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Missouri Equal Suffrage Association.

  • Part 4: Voda Curtis, Suffrage, & Civil Rights with Keely Doll

    This episode focuses on the life of Voda "Bea" Hardy Curtis, and documents the path of her family from slavery to suffrage. The episode also features audio clips from Voda Curtis' 1977 oral history (S0829) housed at the State Historical Society of Missouri's St. Louis Research Center, as well as final thoughts from past oral history interns–Cydney Smith, Cassie Draudt, and Keely Doll–who conducted research on Voda Curtis' life.

More Our Missouri Episodes


Vertical Files

The vertical files contain magazine and newspaper clippings, handwritten information donated by patrons, bibliographies, programs, brochures, flyers, and other materials that, by reason of their physical formats, cannot be placed on the shelves with books. SHSMO's Columbia Research Center has numerous vertical files on specific women’s clubs, such as the Fortnightly Club. Ask a librarian or archivist for more assistance with these paper files.