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 in the Missouri Historical Review


Many of the State Historical Society’s holdings are included in Merlin, the shared library catalog of the four University of Missouri campuses. 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


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.


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.

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.