Women’s Organizations at the Turn of the Century: Community and Empowerment

Western mining towns in the late-nineteenth century were generally lonely places to live, especially for women. The many men and few women from diverse backgrounds that traveled to remote mining towns left behind familiarity and family for an extremely risky economy with high turnover. Even in such isolation, Western women still created sorority and a sense of belonging through women’s clubs and organizations. This tour examines several sites which cultivated women’s empowerment and community in mining towns during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Each location offered a space where women could realize self-improvement through education and self-fulfillment through culture. These women’s organizations dedicated themselves to creative expression, critical thinking and writing skills, and affirming personhood. While a few of these groups did engage in civic activity, as did many women’s organizations during this time, this tour is dedicated to women who participated for personal reasons rather than moral obligations. These clubs were for women, by women.

The Ladies Literary Club was a vanguard of women’s organizations in Utah. This clubhouse, nicknamed the Grand Dame of South Temple [Street], provided a space where the club could realize its mission: “education for the many.”
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