The Woman's Club of Spokane

The Woman's Club of Spokane is a beautiful and enduring fixture of the South Hill neighborhood. The brick building standing now remains largely as it was when it was dedicated on November 5, 1928, but it was not the first structure. The first iteration of the Woman's Club was a smaller clubhouse built on the current site in 1910. In late 1920s, the members hired renowned Spokane architect Gustav Perhrson (who also designed many other notable Spokane sites) to design the new building, which "literally enveloped (the original clubhouse) in a new exterior," adding a new brick facade.

The women's club movement arose after the Civil War and gained momentum into the early 20th century. As a growing middle class enjoyed increased leisure time, women organized for self-improvement and sometimes to become involved in politics--even before women could vote. Women created study plans, formed reading circles, and became involved in "women's issues" such as temperance, child labor, and public safety.

The history of this building really began when members of all of the Spokane women's organizations met in 1905 in the Women's Hotel specifically to discuss the building of a clubhouse. Shortly thereafter, the Club organized itself under the General Federation of Women's Clubs (GFWC), and formed a corporation with $30,000 in stock issued at $10 per share. Members continued to meet in the public library until the clubhouse was finished in 1910. It seems that the Club members had substantial clout with the community, too. Membership rolls from as far back as 1905 suggest that the Club had a consistent and vibrant enrollment from its inception, including prominent residents of the affluent Browne's Addition neighborhood. Indeed, the Woman's Club and others like it likely played a significant role in securing Women's Suffrage in the State of Washington in 1910, a full decade ahead of the nineteenth Amendment.

Women's organizations were a product of the late nineteenth century Progressive Era in which women, unable to vote until 1920, instead exerted influence through a variety of associations on a wide range of causes such as temperance, children's education, better sanitation, and better working environments. Woman's Club scrapbooks going back to 1910 (currently archived at the Spokane Museum of Art and Culture) indicate that its members were involved in all of these causes and many others. Women also used the Club for more recreational pursuits, such as china painting, water color design and other things classified as "women's education" in the early twentieth century. The Club was an important center for Red Cross activity during WWI and in the mid-1930s, and hosted a wide variety of programs under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration, which the Roosevelt administration created in the midst of the Great Depression to get people back to work.

The Woman's Club has been carefully preserved over the years and still retains its original charm. All of the architectural features are in near-perfect condition, including a beautiful terra cotta rosette over the entrance way inscribed with the Club's motto, "The Club that Bids You Welcome," beneath which is a rectangular panel bearing the Club's name. The Club is used by a number of groups for a wide variety of community events, and is rented out for the occasional wedding reception or family reunion. It is, however, first and foremost still the meeting place for the modern GFWC whose "members [are] dedicated to strengthening their communities and enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service." The Spokane Woman's Club, which stands today a striking example of early twentieth century commercial-style architecture, is testament to this dedication.