When the Woman's Club of Westminster recently unveiled its 2011 holiday ornament, I pondered that this creative fundraising idea is just one more example of the ways the club has supported our community over the years.
For the past eight years, the Woman's Club's annual Christmas ornament has featured an historic building in Westminster.
That's fitting, because for the past 100 years, the club has been a formidable force in the community, advocating for issues such as — but not limited to — a cannon, typhoid fever, consumption, the minimum wage, cholera, women's suffrage, the League of Nations, raising chickens, drug dealing in American prisons, a new high school, trees, parks and flies. And also fly swatters.
It was Jan. 18, 1911, that Mrs. Pearre Wantz used the telephone to call the first meeting of the "Woman's Literary Club." (Telephone service had come to Westminster July 12, 1884. The first office was in the Wantz Building on East Main Street.) Club dues were 25 cents.
A year later, in 1912, the club became active in civic affairs with the "Fly Crusade." Members had studied the negative health affect of flies, including typhoid fever, consumption and cholera infantum. They first enlisted the support of the Westminster mayor and Common Council to stem this tide in Westminster.
In the club's first 10 years, its concerns continued to matters still important today, such as local artistic development, preserving history, education, recreation, voter registration, mothers with dependent children, compulsory education, tree planting, preservation of roadside trees (made into state law in 1918) and help for the Instructive Visiting Nurses Association.
The club has stayed one step ahead in what matters to the community. For example, to quote from a 1915 writing from the club, "In our ideal Westminster, the telephone and the telegraph wires will be buried underground; likewise the sewers. … We are a city set upon a hill, which cannot be hid, and many pass this way." The wastewater system finally came to Westminster in the mid-1930s.
In 1928, a committee from the Woman's Club asked the Mayor and Common Council to remove the cannon in the center of town at the forks of the road — Pennsylvania Avenue and West Main Street — and plant a Community Christmas tree. The tree was dedicated on Dec. 20, 1928.
In 1931, the Woman's Club asked for a new Westminster High School. Progress was made in 1932 when the land was purchased. That school is what we now know as East Middle School.
Today, the Woman's Club is still involved in community dream keeping; taking books to school children on Dr. Seuss Day, maintaining the gardens in Belle Grove Square, helping with the tot lot on Center Street and countless other projects.
The annual ornament sale fuels those dreams, and reminds us that the club itself is a shining ornament on our tree of history.
When he is not re-reading Dr. Seuss, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.