Newton Ladies Literary Club still
puts on a 'delightful program enjoyed by all'
By Molly Farmer
April 24, 2006 | NEWTON -- No one's really sure when
the Newton Ladies Literary Club began meeting in the
cozy homes of this small farming community. But since
1928 or 1939 -- take your pick -- the club has continued
to share a love of literature and camaraderie.
At a recent club meeting, member Sharron Maughan brought
a picture taken of a group of women in 1928 who called
themselves by the group's name. The picture was taken
11 years before the literary club's official organization
According to minutes kept by the group's secretary,
the first meeting was held in February 1939 in Hazel
Rigby's home. Club member Phyllis Hunter reviewed the
book "My Son, My Son" for the 23 members present.
Heidi Hodgson, a literary club member for the last
eight years, said she joined because she thinks it's
really important to promote literacy. She said women
need to continue to educate themselves even after they
complete formal schooling.
The typed 1958 bylaws taped to the inside cover of
the 1954-1967 minute book state a meeting was to be
held once a month, usually in a member's home though
records show they occasionally met elsewhere like scout
rooms and banquet halls. Each meeting was to have one
or two musical numbers and members absent "without excuse
for six months will be considered withdrawn."
Though today's club no longer requires the secretary
to notify members of meetings via post card, its purpose
is still about appreciating literature. At each meeting
one member of the club reviews a book or spotlights
an author. The April 10 meeting focused on the book
"Ben Franklin" by Walter Issacson. Hodgson, who gave
the presentation, focused on Franklin's life and accomplishments.
Some members read books about Franklin prior to meeting,
while others just came to listen.
Hodgson's mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother
all belonged to the club, an unbroken line of membership
dating back to the club's founding. She said the time
the early members took to meet together, even without
the modern conveniences members have today, shows they
considered it a priority.
The club isn't limited to literary works only. Hodgson
said one woman who loved gardening had a Utah State
University professor teach the group how to prune trees,
and another member shared Celtic music.
"It's really so varied," she said, as the meetings
reflect the diverse interests of the members.
Hodgson said she has been exposed to many things she
would never have tried before. Things like horse poetry
and interacting with women of the community many years
her senior. At one meeting a woman shared a book about
World War II, Hodgson said, an era which many of the
members had lived through. The women discussed their
experiences of rationing and what life was like at war,
which was a learning experience for Hodgson.
"It is just so fun," she said.
The format of today's meetings is similar to those
of the early gatherings as authors are profiled, books
reviewed, and refreshments are a must. Fruit salad and
ham roll-ups were served at the April 10 meeting. One
1958 bylaw stated snacks should consist of "light refreshments,
two or three things including drink."
On Feb. 22., 1940, the 208th anniversary of George
Washington's birth, the minute book states, "Cherry
tarts and punch were served to all present with a favor
which was in keeping with Washington's birthday." There
were "over sixty ladies present and one gentleman."
As evidenced by over 67 years of continued attendance,
members of the Newton Ladies Literary Club have loved
experiencing literature with one another. In the beautifully
penned, cursive writing of Secretary Opal Clarke from
the 1939-1953 minute book, "It was a delightful program
enjoyed by all."