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August 5, 2009 > History: The Country Club of Washington Township

History: The Country Club of Washington Township

Linda Tilden Thane came to Niles in 1883. She visited in the East and observed the work of women's clubs there. Returning to Niles, she organized a club while Mary C. Allen started one in Centerville. The two clubs merged December 10, 1896 to form The Woman's Club of Washington Township, later changed to The Country Club of Washington Township which encouraged a feeling of township unity. The club joined the California Federation of Women's Clubs in 1906.

Mary Allen wrote in 1889 that, "the purposes of the club were to secure the advantages of unity and mutual helpfulness, to gain vigor of reason, to widen intellectual and moral vision and increase the capacity to discern social justice." It was agreed that the highest, holiest and most noble work of women would continue to be done in the home.

The club has continued to support many activities to preserve our heritage and restore local historic landmarks. They sponsored a Historical Day to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Washington Township. Historical papers prepared by members led to the publication of the History of Washington Township in 1904. The book was updated and republished in 1950 and again in 1965.

Efforts in 1909 created interest in restoring Mission San Jose. Club members presented a historical tableau for Mrs. Herbert Hoover when she attended a meeting in 1934. A highlight of 1946 was the club's 50th anniversary. It was active in the celebration at Mission San Jose in 1947 and formed the "Washington Township Historical Society" in 1949.

Meetings were held in homes at first, but members decided in 1904 to build a clubhouse near the center of the township. They raised funds, incorporated and bought a lot on Parish Avenue in 1913. Donations included bricks from the California Brick company and a range from the Graham Manufacturing Company. Cornerstone ceremonies were celebrated April 7, 1914, the first meeting was held there July 6, 1914 and the building was dedicated in August. The loan was paid and mortgage burning ceremonies held in 1919. A dining room was added soon after and a stage was constructed in 1935. Many other organizations have met there through the years. The building was rededicated as part of our nation's bicentennial celebration in 1976.

Country Club records show a continuous concern for the public welfare since members helped form the local Red Cross chapter in 1898. They sponsored the first health clinic, worked to get the first public health center, helped needy families, supported programs for orphans, travelers, the blind, the handicapped, the elderly, the sick and children in general.

Education has been a high priority for the club. They began advocating kindergartens in the schools in 1915 and were the first to push for a Parent Teachers Association, night schools for foreign-born residents and special programs for handicapped children. Members promoted bond elections and a new high school. They began proposing drug education programs in 1924 and have worked continuously since then to combat drug abuse.

The club's support of veterans goes back to the Spanish American War. During World War I members rolled bandages, raised gardens, entertained, boosted bond sales and worked in hospitals. They visited veteran hospitals and performed services for patients through the following years. The service record of the club during World War II was so remarkable that they received a national award in 1945. Members have continued their record of service throughout recent conflicts.

Mary Allen was the first club president and now, the 61st and current president is Mary Wolfe. In between there have been many leaders from our area. Club members sold the clubhouse on Parrish Avenue in 1993 but arranged with the buyers to continue meetings there until their Centennial celebration in December 1996. A big party celebrated 100 years of service. They readied the property, invited the Tri-City mayors, officers of the state and district Federated Women's Club and many others. The lot was tented to provide shade. Opening festivities included a military color guard; welcome speeches and introductions were followed by music and historical reviews by club members.

Members removed their possessions from the building and moved their meeting place to Saint James Episcopal Church where they continue to sponsor programs, provide donations and support worthy causes. They have over 50 members and welcome newcomers. Country Club members deserve credit for the amazing influence they have had on our area and our state.

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