Many women’s roles in the home have evolved over the past 75 years, but a local group formed in the 1940s for women who felt isolated to think beyond the limitations of their time continues to thrive.
Every first and third Wednesday from September through May, a group of 35 women gathers to engage in intellectual growth. Together they form the local Wednesday Review Club, which dates back to 1945.
The group marked 75 years earlier this month with a kickoff dinner at the Freeport Historical Museum in honor of the city members call home.
“I think the reason this club came into being was because there were women who found themselves in a very small place on the edge of the United States, near the Gulf, and they felt a little isolated,” President Ginni Leathers said. “I think they wanted a place where they could meet and think of things beyond the traditional roles of women at that time.”
The club began as a book discussion group, Leathers said. Members would discuss books they had read, but those discussions would eventually turn to local topics.
And the group still operates much in the same way. Members might start out discussing a book, but “our programs are so diverse, and they cover everything from local to global interest,” Leathers said.
These programs are always intellectually stimulating and offer something to think about, she said.
Topics can come from members or guest speakers, and they focus on local issues.
Recent discussions have involved a presentation about the Brazosport College Foundation, another by Sandra Shaw from the Brazosport Area Chamber of Commerce about Lake Jackson’s recent growth and an upcoming discussion covers the Food Basket’s efforts to address food challenges the Brazosport area.
Some presentations turn attention to international affairs, including Uganda and the Batwa, and the Acropolis in Athens, Leathers said.
The group occasionally takes field trips — usually in the general area but sometimes as far away as Houston, Leathers said. In April, they will go to Galveston to sightsee and learn more about the 1900 hurricane that devastated the island, she said.
The Wednesday Review Club, which still honors the constitution and bylaws that were drawn up by the inaugural members, usually holds meetings at one of the members’ homes. Refreshments are served, a program is presented and then that is followed by a business meeting.
While membership is only allowed by invitation and limited to 35 women, living in Freeport is no longer a requirement. The club now includes women from all over the general Brazosport area, Leathers said.
In the early days, meetings were a social affair, Leathers said. Members would wear hats and gloves, and they entertained with silver service, seasonal decor and hors d’oeuvres.
Today, things are more laid back. Members might dress up a little or occasionally pull out the silver trays, but they “tend to relax and enjoy brilliant conversations over coffee,” she said.
It is a social group, Parliamentarian and past president Sharon Suggs-White said. Members are involved in the community, but the group exists primarily to engage in the intellectual conversations and then to enjoy the company of other members, she said.
Because the group started as a book review club, members donate money to local libraries, Leathers said.
“We don’t raise money for charity, but we make those donations and they come from our dues that we pay each year,” she said.
Leathers said she doesn’t know of many social organizations that have lasted as long as the Wednesday Review Club.
“I think the women of 1945 would be proud of us today,” she said. “We want to honor them this year since it’s our 75th year.”
To do that, a celebration larger than just the kickoff dinner is in the works, Suggs-White said. It will be held in February at the Center for the Arts and Sciences in Lake Jackson, and invitations will be sent to former members.
One of the beautiful things about the group is the friendships members have developed with each other, Leathers said. They take pride in those friendships, and in their organization as a whole.
“We are, all of us, very proud of this organization and very proud to be a member of it,” she said.