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

  • 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.

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.