Lewisburg Study Club celebrating centennial

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Lewisburg Study Club will soon be 100 years old.

Documented by member records as the oldest social club in Marshall County, the study club began in 1912 when several well-educated young women gathered to study music, art, history, literature and current events.

To commemorate the club's centennial, its members are launching a two-year celebration including the entire community starting Saturday at 10 a.m. in the McKnight Center on Fourth Avenue North with open meetings every month.

Major Amy Irvin, USMC, Ret., is the first guest speaker.

"The program committee has worked diligently throughout the summer to prepare for the next two years," club president Elaine Cagle said. "I am amazed that an organization could remain active for 100 years. The officers are excited about inviting the community to the upcoming programs."

Cagle was assisted by vice-president Beth Smith, secretary-treasurer Cathey Madeo and long time members Karen Adams, Lynda Potts and Elaine Whitaker.

The first members of the club included recent college graduates, several gifted musicians, and at least one popular high school teacher. Membership was by invitation and limited to 21 women. The group originally met every other week for a luncheon with a program of music and a topic of interest.

Accomplishments of the club include founding the town's first library, which meant providing a place to house the books and pay the staff from 1912 until 1944, followed by years of fundraisers to pay for new books and additions to the Marshall County Memorial Library.

These women were also instrumental in establishing the first high school band, sponsoring Better Speech Week in the schools, and bringing theatrical productions to local stages via the Chautauqua, Children's Theatre and Barter Theatre.

The club is now limited to 30 women who meet at 10 a.m. on the second Saturday of the month, September through April at a place, usually a home or church parlor, determined by the hostess committee.

However, for the next two club years, the meetings will be open to the public. Guest speakers and musicians have been secured for all but two of the 16 meetings. Speakers are to enhance the theme Defining Ourselves by Redefining Our Past: Celebrating 100 Years of the Lewisburg Study Club. Venues have been selected to accommodate larger crowds.

"Amy Irvin was chosen as the first speaker because her role as a Methodist minister's wife parallels the role of founding member, Judith Wilkes Steel, young bride of the Rev. E.M. Steel. Irvin, as a retired military officer, followed a career never considered by Judith Steel," club historian Lynda Potts said. "Mrs. Steel was, however, a graduate of Vanderbilt University and set up the town's first library in the front room of the Methodist parsonage.

"Saturday's presentation will draw attention to the changes in women's roles over ... 100 years while emphasizing the empowerment that comes with knowledge and a well-rounded life," Potts said.

In keeping with the club's early history, Katie Jewel will present a vocal selection.