New Century Club of Newark, Delaware, records

Biographical and Historical Notes

The New Century Club of Newark, Delaware, was organized as a reading club by a group of eight Newark women in 1893. The founding members were Mrs. Delaware Clark, Mrs. Alfred A. Curtis, Miss Susan Evans, Mrs L. Irving Handy, Mrs. George A. Harter, Miss Frances Hurd, Mrs. H.G.M. Kollock, and Mrs. T.R. Wolf. A visit by a group of these founding women to a meeting of the Wilmington New Century Club provided the inspiration for the Newark Club.

The "Tuesday Club," as the organization was originally named, met weekly for social time and the presentation of original papers. Mrs. Kollock was the first elected president. The purpose of the club was defined as "Whatever purpose may seem advisable in the opinion of the club."

The early rules of the Club were very strict. Members were required to write and present original papers on assigned topics. This responsibility became codified in 1900 when a rule was adopted assessing a fine of $1.00 for failure to produce the assigned paper. From the beginning, fines of a nickel were also levied for an absence from a meeting; later these fines were eliminated. Club membership was limited to 25, until 1898 when the limit was raised to 35; however, by 1911 the records indicate that the membership was no longer limited.

In 1895, the name of the club was changed to "Newark New Century Club." Upon the incorporation of the Club on April 29, 1902, the official name of the club became "New Century Club of Newark, Delaware," and has since remained so.

Although the Tuesday Club was originally formed as a literary and social organization, as early as 1897 the Club had begun to take on matters of civic responsibility. The adoption of "Non nobis solum" (Not for ourselves alone) as the Club Motto reflected the growing emphasis on community service. Throughout its history the New Century Club has addressed a variety of civic issues including education, medical and dental care, sanitation, environmental conservation and beautification, and improvement in prison conditions.

In 1897, a committee of the New Century Club began working with the original Newark Library Association, established in 1878, to renew interest and to create a workable library in Newark. Members of the Club were an integral part of promoting, financing, and expanding the services of the Newark Library. In fact they served as the librarians until 1903 when a paid librarian was hired. The Club's goal for this subscription library to become a free library was finally realized in 1933 after considerable public education and lobbying by the New Century Club.

Other early community projects organized or assisted by the Club were the purchase and maintenance of a street sprinkler for the town, the placing of trash cans along streets, the founding of the Women's College in 1914, the organization of the Parent Teachers Association in 1915, and the formation of the Welfare Committee in 1920. The Welfare Committee worked with the town council in assisting needy families and was responsible for organizing a free dental clinic for needy children in 1930.

The Club was also attentive to issues of state and global concern. During both World Wars, the Club House was made available to soldiers stationed in Delaware, as well as to the Red Cross. The members of the Club participated in making bandages and clothes for the American soldiers overseas, as well as for the Belgians.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the Club responded to the growing number of juvenile delinquency cases by organizing a community center for young people. Other projects included initiating and implementing a cancer control campaign, endorsing teachers' retirement, developing an employment bureau for women, and participating in state environmental conservation.

From the 1950s through the present, the New Century Club participated annually in "Community Improvement Projects," sponsored by the General Federation of Women's Clubs. Some of these projects have included promoting voter registration, creating a municipal swimming pool, providing for welfare and mental health programs, supporting the Newark Police Department, educating children about environmental conservation, developing the program of volunteer aides for the Newark Emergency Room, supporting the Battered Women's Shelter and Emmaus House, and participating in Read Aloud Delaware.

Through the years, as these records document, the New Century Club has developed its programs and activities to meet the needs of its membership and its community. One of the membership's early needs was for a permanent home for the Club. The building was made possible by a gift of land, as well as a contribution of $6,000 from Mr. and Mrs. Samuel J. Wright. The officers laid the cornerstone for the Club House on September 7, 1916.

In order to build and maintain the facility, the New Century Club was required by Delaware State Law to create a separate corporate entity. "The Newark New Century Club House Company" was incorporated on April 22, 1916. The New Century Club was given controlling interest in the capital stock. The Club House Company, through its Corporate Board (composed of members of the New Century Club), continues to maintain and operate the Club House located on East Delaware Avenue at Haines Street.

The New Century Club has also addressed the social, cultural, and intellectual needs of its members. The Fine Arts and Program Committees, as well as other committees provide a variety of educational and social opportunities. Luncheons with guest speakers, arts and crafts shows, trips, art classes, and bridge mixers are but a few of the activities that have been and are still available.

Other activities result as a part of the New Century Club's membership and active participation in both the Delaware State Federation of Women's Clubs (formed in 1899) and the General Federation of Women's Club (formed April 24, 1890).

Even today, the New Century Club of Newark, Delaware, continues to be a vital social and service organization in the Newark community.

Sources

"Library Acquires Records of New Century Club of Newark." Update. January 24, 1991, p. 8.

"History of the Newark New Century Club" written in 1933. See F137.

Cobb, Alma W. "History of The Newark New Century Club 1893 1968." See F1.

Additional information compiled from the minutes, reports and scrapbooks of the New Century Club as found in Series II. of this collection.

Scope and Content Note

The New Century Club of Newark, Delaware, records document the history, organization, and activities of this women's club, which began in 1893 as a reading club, but quickly developed into an organization dedicated to promoting civic responsibility and social service in the Newark community.

The records consist of 14.6 linear feet of material, spanning the dates 1893-2002. Comprised of correspondence, financial records, annual programs, scrapbooks, minutes, committee reports, photographs, clippings, membership lists, constitution and bylaws, as well as other legal documents, this archive details the social, intellectual, and civic life of this women's club.

Series I. consists of material that documents the history and organization the New Century Club. Series II. is composed of material which details the programs and activities of Club. The archive also records the impact of this organization on the lives of its members and on the Newark community. Though begun in 1893 as a women's reading club, the New Century Club quickly developed into an organization that took an active role in improving the community in which it was formed. By 1898 the Club had adopted the motto, "Non nobis solum" (Not for ourselves alone), which then and now accurately describes the service orientation of the Club.

As early as 1897, the Club became involved in educational questions and civic affairs; first, by supporting legislation to start a "Normal School" in Delaware, and then, by organizing the Newark Library and by supporting and facilitating measures related to public sanitation and cleanliness.

With each decade the New Century Club became further involved in the Newark community, through projects which mirrored the changes in society and its needs. As Club President Alice Miller suggested, "We must make sure that we keep our eyes and ears alerted to the needs of others and to the changing tempo of our times" (see "President's Annual Report 1968 69" F109). The Club did just that; it organized the first Parent Teachers Association in local schools, appointed a Welfare Committee to work with the town council in supporting needy families, developed free health and dental clinics for needy children, and entertained soldiers and assisted the Red Cross during both World Wars. Later, the Club worked with recovering mental hospital patients, developed environmental conservation projects, and organized aides for the Newark Emergency Room. These are only a few examples of the community improvement activities in which the club engaged.

The records also document the contributions that this women's club in particular, and women's clubs in general, have made in fostering civic responsibility. The New Century Club has worked effectively to motivate and involve other organizations, local government, and other citizens in addressing the needs of the community.

Civic responsibility and service to the Newark community has been balanced in the New Century Club with attention to the intellectual and cultural needs of the women involved in the Club. The programs and activities which the club has provided are varied, educational, and reflective of the issues facing women at any given time.

Consequently, the programs and activities provide information about the cultural and social history of 1890s and most of the twentieth century, particularly in Newark, Delaware. For example, the scrapbooks contain glimpses of cultural history through photographs of arts and crafts women working at their trade, photographs of the annual fashion shows documenting period clothing, as well as programs for musical presentations and dramatic presentations illustrating the popular performing arts forms.

These records also offer evidence of the substantial change and improvement to social institutions which women have fostered in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through women's clubs. Finally, the archive encompasses issues ranging from decorative arts to education to the history of volunteer groups.

Material will continue to be added to this archive as it becomes available from the New Century Club of Newark.