Woman's Club of San Antonio

By: Leta Proctor Baughn

Type: General Entry

Published: September 1, 1995

Updated: April 4, 2022

The Woman's Club of San Antonio was established by Mary Eleanor Brackenridge and Marin B. Fenwick after they attended a National Federation of Women's Clubs meeting in Denver, Colorado. It was organized with eighteen charter members on October 1, 1898, in the San Antonio Express Publishing building. The club was established to provide a nonpolitical, nonsectarian group for women seeking knowledge, culture, and comradeship. Its stated purpose was "mutual improvement and cooperation in all that pertains to the greater good of humanity," its motto, "Not For Self, But for All." The gavel used at the club's first meeting was carved from the branch of a tree that grew by the side of the Alamo. Brackenridge served for seven years as the club's first president. The club was admitted to the state federation in 1899, to the national federation in 1904, incorporated in 1920, and affiliated with clubs in New York, Michigan, England, and France.

Club departments encouraged sewing, manual training, and cooking in the public school curriculum, organized a Mother's Club that became the Parent-Teacher Association, supported the Protestant Orphan's Home, endorsed the Homestead Law, awarded scholarships, and raised funds to save the Spanish governor's palace in Military Plaza. In 1910 the club sponsored an art exhibit at the Carnegie Library that led to the formation of the Art League, and later the club purchased a painting by Julian Onderdonk.

The Woman's Club of San Antonio was first in the state to endorse woman suffrage. It promoted establishing a juvenile court, the use of matrons in city jails, and the hiring of policewomen (see PROGRESSIVE ERA). It succeeded in altering the city charter to allow women on the school board, obtained passage of a health ordinance prohibiting spitting, demanded that stores close at 6 p.m. to preserve family time and that female clerks be allowed to sit when not making sales, and discouraged development of a dance hall at Brackenridge Park (see BRACKENRIDGE, GEORGE WASHINGTON). The first local radio talk show originated from the Women's Club. Members distributed flower seeds and plants, established gardens for the poor, and established a city flower show in 1913. From the first Round Table luncheon organized by Mrs. Fred Maule, more than twelve separate groups developed by the 1980s. The first club publication, the Scribbler, was produced under the auspices of the City Federation of Women's Clubs and was published by the Scribbler's Round Table; Sallie King Hopkins was editor. The first permanent clubhouse was purchased in 1916, and a private home was acquired to serve as a clubhouse in 1926. By 1989 the club had seven departments and a membership of 260.

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Julia Kirk Blackwelder, Women of the Depression: Caste and Culture in San Antonio, 1929–1939 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1984). Files, Woman's Club of San Antonio. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Brackenridge, Eleanor; Women's Clubs)

  • Women
  • Women's Clubs
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Advocates
  • Civic Leaders
  • Politics and Government
  • Civic and Community Leaders
  • Suffragists and Antisuffragists
Time Periods:
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • Central Texas
  • San Antonio

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Leta Proctor Baughn, “Woman's Club of San Antonio,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/womans-club-of-san-antonio.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995
April 4, 2022

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: