Well over a hundred years ago, a group of women began gathering on the awning-covered porches of one another's summer homes in Glyndon to escape the heat, seek out camaraderie and participate in a reading group. Those summertime porch gatherings served as a precursor to the Woman's Club of Glyndon, which officially formed in 1900.
The informal group that took shape more than a century ago now is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that serves as a hub of community service, a purveyor of historic preservation and a source of friendship and pride for its 70-plus members.
"We share our time, treasures, and talents to benefit our local community, to make positive changes and to help local agencies meet the needs in our community — and we welcome new members," said Sandy Allen, current president of the Woman's Club of Glyndon.
Just as women who "summered" in Glyndon in the late 1800s began to meet on a regular basis, others around the country were doing the same. The Glyndon-based club now is part of a national organization, The General Federation of Women's Clubs, that was formally established in 1890, chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1901, and remains active today.
Lore has it that seeds of the federation were planted in the late 1800s when newspaperwoman Jane Cunningham Croly was denied access to the all-male New York Press Club, then hosting a banquet to honor Charles Dickens. Not to be deterred, Coly organized a female-only club, Sorosis, which, in addition to hosting its own tribute to Charles Dickens, soon joined forces with other women's clubs around the country to form the federation. Today, it is an international organization based in Washington, D.C., and dedicated to community improvement through volunteerism.
The Woman's Club of Glyndon exchanged casual porch-front meetings for its present-day location in 1932, when members purchased a two-room schoolhouse at 4627 Butler Road in the historic section of Glyndon for $1,620. Another $2,700 spent on renovations and additions allowed the group to host not only meetings, but also larger events and celebrations.
Sandy Allen, the group's current president, says that before the club bought the building, it served as a neighborhood school to which children would often ride horses or ponies. During the school day, the animals were kept in the barn that still stands behind the building.
Fast-forward eighty-plus years, and the members of the Woman's Club of Glyndon continue to host their meetings in the handsome building at 4627 Butler Road. It's one of six buildings in Glyndon whose architecture and history qualified the village [of Glyndon] to be included on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Lynne Maher, a member of the group who also serves as its historian. "A lot of funds go to maintaining the historic building. It's important to the community," said Maher.
From civic-mindedness to community service
From its early days, says Allen, the women's group has focused on ways to improve the surrounding community. In its infancy, the club pushed for services such as neighborhood garbage collection and amenities including electric streetlights and cinder sidewalks alongside the former train station — the current post office — so that the many commuters from Baltimore and elsewhere could travel safely by foot to and from their residences.
Fundraising events have long been central to the group's mission. This December, the Woman's Group of Glyndon will hold its 76th Charity Tea, its largest fundraising event of the year. Last year's tea raised more than $3,000. All proceeds go toward community projects. The club's fundraising acumen has enabled it to support key community initiatives throughout the years, including the Community Crisis Center Inc., which serves residents of Glyndon, Owings Mills and Reisterstown, and the formation of Franklin High School's health center.
In addition to annual fundraisers, the women's group regularly contributes to community needs through activities that include, but are not limited to, making and supplying fleece blankets to children housed at the Hannah More shelter; providing school supplies, playground items and snacks for local elementary schools; and donating items to various other local causes.
"We probably don't toot our horn as much as we should," Maher said, pausing to consider the group's extensive community outreach.
But the Woman's Club of Glyndon isn't necessarily looking for accolades. Members join the group primarily for camaraderie.
"We really have a strong sisterhood. Anyone who has an illness or a family difficulty, we're just very supportive," Maher said. "I never realized how important the club was to me until my husband died."
While the group remains strong at 73 members, Allen notes that when she joined in 1998, membership exceeded 100. She and Maher ponder the reasons for the dip, citing that afternoon weekday meetings are not always convenient for area women who work. But, says Allen, she has seen a trend among new members of a particular demographic.
"We do see a fair amount of women join who are just retiring and who want things in their life that are important," she said.