Viola Case, a pioneer schoolteacher in Victoria, organized the Bronté Club, the oldest women's literary club in Texas, in 1855. The organization, originally named the Victoria Literary Club, was a literary society for the girls of her school, the Victoria Female Academy. The members collected eleven volumes of current literature, which were kept in a dry goods box under Mrs. Case's bed. On a certain day of each week the books were taken out and distributed to the girls. This embryonic lending library was the beginning of the Bronté Library, the predecessor of the Victoria Public Library. Until 1975, when it was placed under the management of the city and county of Victoria, the library was governed by the Library Committee of the Bronté Club.
During the 1860s the Bronté Club is said to have devoted more time to war relief than to literary study. The club was probably generally dormant until 1868, when the Sorosis Club was organized in New York City in protest against the all-male Press Club of New York City, which gave a banquet for the visiting Charles Dickens and invited no women. This event seems to have stirred up women's club spirit across the country. Though started as a school society, the Bronté Club was reorganized as a community club in 1873, became a school society again in 1878, and in 1880 was changed to a community club again. In 1880, because the literary club needed new members and wanted a more distinctive name, it accepted for the first time older girls and young married women and changed its name to Bronté Literary Club, in honor of Charlotte Brontë.
When the national movement for federation of women's clubs began, the Bronté Club sent a delegate, Mrs. A. B. Peticolas, wife of Alfred Brown Peticolas, to the first meeting of the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs, held in Tyler in 1898. The club's calendar for that year shows it as a member of this state organization, which joined the national General Federation of Women's Clubs in 1899. On May 9, 1884, the Bronté Club had authorized the Junior Bronté Literary Club, a new group that was reorganized as the Currer Bell Study Club, named after the pseudonym of Charlotte Brontë, on May 1, 1951.
The Bronté Club dropped "literary" from its title in its Year Book of 1901–02, although it continued to emphasize literature in its programs. The Year Book of 1905–06 stated that the club's objectives were to promote the "mental and social culture of its members," an "altruistic spirit," and philanthropic endeavors, as well as "the interests of State and Fifth District Federation." Due to its broadened purposes, the club offered a wide variety of programs through the years about subjects ranging from civics to philosophy. Among the Bronté Club's civic projects was the sponsorship of a lecture by Eleanor Roosevelt in December 1940, which a crowd of 2,500 attended. Mrs. Roosevelt subsequently wrote in her column "My Day" about her visit to Victoria and "one of the oldest women's clubs in the country." The club continued to contribute both funds and books to its original civic work, the Victoria Public Library. It was made an honorary member of the library, and an appointed club member serves on the library's advisory board. The Bronté Club celebrated its centennial on April 3, 1973.
The Handbook of Texas Women project has its own dedicated website and resources.
Bronté Club Files, Victoria, Texas. Leopold Morris, Pictorial History of Victoria and Victoria County (San Antonio, 1953). Victoria Advocate, April 6, 8, 1923, December 5, 1940. Texas Federation of Women's Clubs Year Book, 1935.
Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
Clubs, Movements, and Associations
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Geraldine F. Talley,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed November 29, 2021,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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