Our Library was Founded by Women!
The Woman’s Club of Media
How did the foundation of Women’s Clubs begin?
Founded in 1890, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs can be traced back to 1868 when Jane Cunningham Croly, a professional journalist, attempted to attend a dinner at an all-male press club honoring British novelist Charles Dickens. Croly was denied admittance based upon her gender, and in response, formed a woman’s club and invited women’s clubs throughout the United States to pursue the cause of federation.
Meet the Women Who Founded Our Library:
The Woman’s Club of Media started as a literary society called “The Wheel” with 13 women in 1894. The President was the Hub, the members were the Spokes, and the Rim was the editor and outreach to the community. The women of The Wheel, after writing a constitution and bylaws, officially became The Woman’s Club of Media, and joined the PA State Federation of the GFWC. The Club quickly outgrew meeting at the home of the first President, Rebecca L. Smith, and within a short time, there were 175 members.
What of the Men in Media?
Ironically, after meeting in many varied places, the Woman’s Club of Media was given space in the Media Men’s Club. Men were admitted to the Woman’s Club as Associate Members on the payment of an annual fee and were entitled to the same privileges except voting and holding office.
The Wheel, as a the Symbol for the Rotary Clubs was established in 1905, and is said to illustrate “Civilization, Movement and Service work in action.” In Media, the symbol of the Wheel was used by the Woman’s Club over a decade earlier, and the Rotary Club of Media has always been a friend and sponsor of the Library.
How did these women use their collective voices?
The women sponsored classes in Literature and American History, with lectures and musical performances. During Clara B. Miller’s tenure as President (1897-1900), topics on current events were added, along with a commitment to open a Media Library.
In 1901, during Susanna M. Gaskill’s tenure as the President, the Woman’s Club of Media opened The Media Free Library, in a room on the second floor of the combined Borough Hall and Firehouse building, with 700 books.
The Media Free Library room became overcrowded spreading into the Council Chambers. In response, the Woman’s Club of Media adopted the Motto “Labor Omnia Vincet” (Work Conquers All), and set about the task of building a library.
In 1907, under President Alice H. Janeway, the Club held fundraising events, community soliciting campaigns, and land was provided by the Media Borough.
In 1908, they raised enough money to open The Media Free Library Association on the corner of Jackson and Jasper Streets (adjacent to what was the old Post Office and previous Borough Hall, now Spasso Italian Grill).
In 1966, The Woman’s Club of Media proclaimed:
Realizing that good free library service is a vital part of life in any community, the Woman’s Club of Media voted to make support of the proposed library addition its Capitol Improvement Project. This library was started by the Club in 1901, and a sense of responsibility towards it, and interest in its growth has prevailed through the years. It was an obvious and popular choice.
Club President Elizabeth Strine and Jr. President Drusilla Barmby break ground on the 1966 renovation.