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
- Adams, Lucinda J. "From the Stacks: The Twin Citians: A Black Women's Club and Its Battle for Civil Rights in Kansas City."
Missouri Historical Review 62, no. 110 (October 2015): 70-73.
- Bender, Robert Patrick "This Noble and Philanthropic Enterprise: The Mississippi Valley Sanitary Fair of 1864 and the Practice of Civil War Philanthropy."
Missouri Historical Review 95 (January 2001): 117-139.
- Firkus, Angela. "'Work, Play, and Be Merry but Don't Forget the First!': College Women and the Founding of Phi Theta Kappa in Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 112, no. 4 (July 2018): 260-279.
- Ford, Elyssa. "'We Sure Led the Parade:' Alma Nash, the Missouri Ladies Military Band, and the Push for Women's Suffrage from Rural Missouri to the Nation's Capital."
Missouri Historical Review 113, no. 3 (April 2019): 145-165.
- Montgomery, Rebecca S. "With the Brain of a Man and the Heart of a Woman: Missouri Women and Rural Change, 1890-1915."
Missouri Historical Review 104 (April 2010): 159-178.
- Morris, Monia Cook "The History of Woman Suffrage in Missouri, 1867-1901."
Missouri Historical Review 25 (October 1930): 67-82.
- Nickell, Frank, and Cox, Jessica. "From the Stacks: Amy Husband Kimmel and the Wednesday Club of Cape Girardeau."
Missouri Historical Review 110 (January 2016): 132-135.
- Painter, Mrs. W. R. "Achievements of the Missouri D. A. R."
Missouri Historical Review 20 (April 1926): 382-387.
- Scott, Mary Semple "History of Woman Suffrage in Missouri."
Missouri Historical Review 14 (April-July 1920): 281-384.
"’Missouri Day' Program for Missouri Club Women."
Missouri Historical Review 9 (July 1915): 241-247.
"Temperance Societies Flourished in Missouri a Century Ago."
Missouri Historical Review 46 (January 1952): 147-149.
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
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.
"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
- Episode 20: "Kate Franklin Newton and the Memorial to Missouri's Great Heart"
This episode focuses on Carthage resident Kate Franklin Newton and her efforts as president of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) to commission a marble bust in honor of "Missouri's Great Heart," Clara C. Hoffman. Today, the Hoffman Bust resides in the art collection at the State Historical Society of Missouri's Center for Missouri Studies.
Episode 28: "Battle Lines & The Golden Lane" with Joan Stack
SHSMO Curator of Art collections Joan Stack discusses editorial cartoons from St. Louis-based artists Daniel Fitzpatrick, Bill Mauldin, and Tom Engelhardt, as well as the upcoming "Battle Lines" and "Missouri Women: Suffrage to Statecraft" exhibits in the Center for Missouri Studies Art Gallery.
Episode 34: "Commonwealth of Compromise" with Amy Laurel Fluker
A conversation with Amy Laurel Fluker about her new book, Commonwealth of Compromise: Civil War Commemoration in Missouri, published by the University of Missouri Press.
- Episode 43: "Gateway to Equality" with Keona Ervin
Keona Ervin discusses her award-winning book, Gateway to Equality: Black Women and the Struggle for Economic Justice in St. Louis, which was published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2017.
- Episode 51: "Bridging Two Eras" with Virginia Laas
Virginia Laas discusses her book, Bridging Two Eras: The Autobiography of Emily Newell Blair, 1877-1951, and highlights the unique challenges of editing the writings of the noted feminist, suffragist, and political leader.
- Episode 59: "Gender & the Jubilee" with Sharon Romeo
Sharon Romeo discusses how freedwomen and enslaved women fought for their freedom and rights in Missouri during the Civil War.
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.