The ISU Women's Club History
The ISU Women's Club has the distinction of being the oldest campus organization. The Club, as well as the University, has undergone name changes since its inception in 1923. At that time, the wife of the president of Idaho Technical Institute, Mrs. Charles R. Frazier (Alice), believed there was a need for the wives of faculty men to become better acquainted and function as a group to assist the administration with social events. To this end, she invited the wives to her campus home. After the first meeting, they met once a month in the lounge of Turner Hall, the first girls' dormitory. Alice wanted the Club to be informal; so meetings consisted of conversation while working on individual handiwork and sharing simple refreshments.
Alice Frazier was the sole officer for the first two years of the group known as the Faculty Wives Club. Mrs. E.O. Leonard was the first elected president, serving with a treasurer and a secretary. A constitution was designed and dues of one dollar were collected. At this time, the Club welcomed babies born to faculty with a sterling silver spoon. There were notable occasions when the early Club served in a social role; a tea for Mrs. Ethel Redfield, Idaho Commissioner of Education, for wives of legislators who visited campus, and for other prominent community members; picnics, dinners and other social gatherings were a part of the Club's function.
In the late 1920s and 1930s, regular meetings and faculty dinners were held in the basement of Swanson Hall. When this site was needed for academic purposes, the wife of the president of the now Southern Branch of the University of Idaho, Mrs. John Nichols (Shirley), invited the Club to meet in her home. Meetings were held here until the first Student Union (presently the Administration Building) was built. At this time, the late thirties, the Club was known as the Faculty Women's Club and included women faculty members as well as wives of faculty. At about the same time, a small loan fund for female students was established after considerable discussion as to whehter or not this project conflicted with the Club's original function of promoting friendship.
Regular meeting times were changed to evenings. The first small interest group was the sewing group--the first of many interest groups to organize. Later, a Bridge group was formed and still meets on a regular basis. The last 35 to 40 years have seen the Club evolve into a fairly structured organization that continues to promote friendship among its members from the University as well as expand its role to raise funds for scholarships. In the late 1980's, the name of the Club was changed to the ISU Women's Club, thus better representing the makeup of the membership: faculty and staff women, wives/partners of faculty and staff, women retirees and alumni.
In 1998, a governing board was formed to meet the needs of the increasing size of the Club, the commitment to scholarships, and the new scholarship endowment fund. From a small group whose primary function was to promote friendship, the Club has grown and thrived and in 2023 we will celebrate 100 years. The strong bonds of friendship and commitment to the endowment fund have been the guiding force keeping the Club strong and ready to continue its traditions.
100 YEARS LATER - 2023
The ISU Women’s Club today has grown in many ways, and also strives to retain traditions that have evolved through the years. Even the challenge of not having in-person activities during the 2020 pandemic, has only increased the determination of the Board and members to move forward with the club’s mission – to “promote friendship, growth and enrichment to the ISU Community, and to provide scholarships for ISU students…”
The Sewing and Bridge interest groups still meet each month, with their dedicated members being a great example of the strong bonds of friendship that the Club originally espoused. Many other interest groups have been formed, such as the Coffee Group, Book Groups, and Craft Groups. Club members have attended classes on wreath-making, flower arranging, and the making of fused glass decorations.
The Holiday Fair continues as the major scholarship fundraising event, and has become well-known throughout the community as the first opportunity to do holiday shopping for items created by local artisans.
The endowment fund that was created in 1998 is now very strong with a balance of over $200,000. The Club funds three yearly $3,000 scholarships for ISU students with proceeds that are usually gained from the fundraising events. In 2023, a special one-time scholarship was allocated. The amount of the scholarship was $2,023 to commemorate the Club’s 100th anniversary. Of course, this achievement also merited a birthday party! Invitations were sent, not only to Club members, but also extended to ISU faculty and staff members. The event was well attended and seemed to revive Club members and attract new members.
Today, the dedication to the ISU Women’s Club is strong and is on course to remain for the next 100 years.