The Rogers Park Woman’s Club (RPWC) was founded in the Fall of 1891 at the home of Mrs. E.D. Coxe with an initial membership of ten. In later years, at its height, there were 900 members.
At its inception, the Club was mainly literary. Later, the concerns of the members were devoted to Civics, Public Welfare, and the Arts.
RPWC had a long record of service to the community beginning with the first project, which was the establishment of a public library and reading room in Rogers Park. It was achieved with considerable effort and a very creditable library resulted with members serving as librarians and even janitors. A traveling library was also provided by members who drove around the community with a horse and buggy bringing books to those who were unable to go to the library.
Many of the members assisted at Northwestern University’s Settlement House, particularly in Americanization courses and in teaching English to immigrants. They also arranged summer outings in Rogers Park for women and children from the tenements.
In the community, the RPWC was instrumental in placing Domestic Science in the schools and cmpaigned vigorously for a kindergarten. The members fought for pure food legislation and insisted that the regional dairy put milk in bottles and that the bakeries sell bread in paper covers.
In 1905, the idea for a club house took form when $300 was set aside for the start of a building fund.
In 1910, the lot on the southeast corner of Estes and Ashland was purchased.
Club members started the first school lunchroom at Nicholas Senn High School in 1913 to raise money and 27 members maintained it for many years to build the clubhouse and to pay off the mortgage.
On June 14, 1916, the cornerstone was laid and on the following January 1 (1917) the RPWC members and friends celebrated the 25th anniversary of the club with a New Year’s Recepteion and Open House in their own clubhouse. On January 1, 1927, at another New Year’s Reception, the mortgage was burned.
During World War I, the RPWC was headquarters for all Rogers Park Red Cross work. Upon our entry into World War II, RPWC Red Cross workers set an excellent record of supplies delivered. All possible help was given to service men and women, to discharged veterans, and to those in hospitals.
A quarter of a million dollars in War Bonds were sold by RPWC members during the years of 1943-1945 and the club was awarded a Citation of Merit.
In addition to all the assistance extended to our country and to our community during the Depression and during the war years, all of the regular services and hilanthropy of the RPWC were still provided.
The 90th birthday of the Rogers Park Woman’s Club was celebrated in the clubhouse in 1981. However, 1983 was a very traumatic time for the members because heavy Cook County real estate taxes, coupled with higher cost in maintenance and a smaller membership, finally necessitated the sale of the beautiful clubhouse.
After investigating several possible quarters for the club, the Board of Directors decided on Banner Hall in the parish house of St. Paul’s Church by the Lake located right across the street at 7100 N. Ashland.
In the Fall of 1996, after 105 years of work by dedicated women in Rogers Park, the club closed forever.
Originally published in the Summer 1986 RPHS Newsletter.
Written by Evelyn Page from a suggestion of Eleanor Mars.