The Women’s Club

March 14, 2009


Now I ask you.  What has happened to the Women’s Clubs that moms belonged to when I was a kiddo?  There was a Women’s Club in my town and I surely don’t know what they did most of the time but I do remember one thing.  I remember Saturday morning’s dedicated to the kiddos of members and the community at large.  This was when we were “invited” in to be educated in the Women’s Club way.  I wish there was one now that I could send my grandsons to.  Maybe my grown kids as well!  Do you remember the Women’s Club Saturdays?

I remember it vividly.  I remember being about 8 or 10 and having to put on my (stupid) Sunday, holiday or party dress bright and early on a Saturday morning.  Underneath it there was always a white petticoat with plenty of crinoline and under that little white  cotton Carter’s Spanky Pants sprigged with little pink rosebuds and a white cotton undershit.  There were little white socks with lace trim,  patent leather Mary Janes and the requisite white cotton gloves finished off the Women’s Club outfit.   It cost my mom a few bucks to send me and I was going, she said, so I could learn to be a lady.  (Being a lady was really big with my mom who had already inculcated me in the fine art of iced tea, that chicken salad was never made with thighs or legs and tuna salad could only come from chunk, white albacore.)   So off I went with my best girlfriend to 11th and Walnut Streets to a tasteful old Brownstone that housed the Women’s Club Women who would teach me to be a lady.  Or the boys to be Gentlemen. 

The girl’s lessons were longer. The boys didn’t come right away.  They didn’t need the ladies of the Women’s Club quite as much.  (Now I know it’s because their father’s put their foot down as to what they would be doing on Saturday mornings and what they would not be doing!)   First things first.  We learned to sit like a lady, walk like a lady, have the posture of a lady and to conduct introductions like a lady.  For a few weeks we learned how to do things “That would be important to us when we got married and had to entertain our husband’s boss”.  We learned to fold napkins.  (This served me well when I was a waittress at the Country Club during college)  We learned to polish silver.  We learned how to make tea and to set a tea service for a tea party.  We learned what to serve at a ladies tea and how thin the slices of cucumber had to be.  We learned to pour tea from a teapot gracefully.  We learned all the pieces in a place setting of formal china, silver and which glass or stem was for what.  After we could identify all the pieces at random we learned to set a proper table.  We learned for breakfast, for lunch, for a family dinner, for a dinner with multiple courses, and for various appetizers.  The boys weren’t taught to set the table.  It was enough that the budding young ladies were. 

The boys joined us.  They were dressed in their best Sunday suits and ties.  (I don’t believe I want to think about what they had under them because the Women’s Club would be horrified if I was thinking about such things!)  We young ladies had set the tables and we had a tea party.  We were instructed in the fine art of placing the napkin in our laps, how to stir without slopping and banging the spoon around on the cup, how to hold a teacup and to sip not slurp.  The following week we practiced at more formally set tables.  We all learned to eat soup correctly.  How to handle a palate cleanser (no, not like my son did at age 11 when presented with a horizontal Lalique flute filled with Midori and sherbet and he picked it up to drain the Midori into his gaping mouth and his watching mother wanted the floor to open up and swallow him! Or her.  Or both of them!)  Finally we understood how we were to comport ourselves at the table.  We thought we were home free. But not so! We moved on to advanced Finishing School. 

The next week began dance classes.  We learned the fine art of the Waltz, the Fox Trot and I don’t remember what all else.  We learned the steps, we were partnered up with the boys and we danced.  We learned that we must have our gloves on when we danced.  We learned not to bop the boy we were dancing with if he stepped on our patent leather Mary Janes (well I learned that the hard way because I kicked my partner when he stepped on my foot repeatedly  and I had to apologize to his mother when she picked him up.)  The boys learned that they were always to keep their eyes on the pretty faces of their partner and not be looking down. 

Finally the winter was over, Easter was approaching and our torture was winding down.  We were young ladies and gentlemen.  We had only to attend our little dinner and “Cotillion” where we would show off our new found skills to our parents and we were done.  45 years later I can explain to my husband in detail why I need so many dishes and glasses.  We use cloth napkins a lot and I thank my stars for them. 

But let me tell you right now.  Tonight we had soup.  My family needs the Women’s Club.  I have failed them.



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2 Comments on “The Women’s Club”

  1. liajo Says:

    There is nothing in the world wrong with having soup for dinner or any other time as long as it is served with love. Give yourself and your family a break. Nothing wrong with cloth napkins either, better for the environment.


    • rsmallen Says:

      Yep…there is nothing wrong with soup for dinner. We do have it all the time. And we use the cloth all the time. Where I failed (really I was being tongue in cheek using failed) was to convey that I failed to send them to the Women’s Club to learn to eat it properly as I was reminiscing about the Women’s Club and the lessons learned….as I watched them slurp it off the spoon and enjoy it thoroughly. Love, Robin


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