The Woman's Club of Bakersfield was incorporated on March 2, 1896 -- two years before the reincorporation of Bakersfield in 1898 -- as a nonprofit organization for the development of women, along the lines of literature, science and the arts. It is celebrating its 117th birthday this March. The organization's motto is "From Possibility to Reality" and is housed in a historical colonia-style building, which was completed in 1921; it is located on the corner of 18th and D streets.
The first president of the club for the first five years of the organization was Lucretia Stevens. Stevens was a distant relative of Dr. Lucinda H. Stone, along with Emma Willard. The first female to register to vote in Bakersfield in 1911, Sibyl Curran Chenoweth (who registered along with Sarah E. Bedinger), was a clubwoman.
The first known club calendar, dated 1897 to 1898, lists more than 100 female members. Membership was exclusive to women, with men and husbands allowed to attend public events, not closed club meetings.
Other early members included Mrs. Alfred Harrell, Mrs. A. T. Lightner, Mrs. Maude, Mrs. Planz and Mrs. Jameson.
The club has been recognized for its contributions to Bakersfield's first public library and educational opportunities for early residents of Bakersfield, along with the preservation efforts for the Chester Bell/Clock tower.
The club's members now work on a variety of projects, including packing boxes for local troops, sewing quilts for wounded warriors, knitting baby caps and booties for local hospitals, and sewing heart-shaped pillows for cancer patients recovering from breast cancer; they also collect hygiene products for different agencies.
But it is not all work and no play for these ladies -- the majority of which enjoy playing bridge twice a month, learning about genealogy, religion, and arts and crafts. The ladies also take road trips and play Bunco and in 2012, started its Junior Section made up of women 18 to 30 years old.
The Woman's Club also supports the community through scholarships awarded to graduating high school seniors and local college students and donations to organizations such as Golden Empire Gleaners, M.A.R.E., Ronald McDonald House, Alliance Against Family Violence and the local Salvation Army.
Woman's Club facts:
* The club currently has 188 members.
* The oldest member is 93.
* The youngest member is 22.
* In the past three years, the club has made 300 Quilts of Valor.
* In the past 16 years, the club has awarded more than $325,000 in scholarships and charity money to local students and organizations.
* To date, more than 950 boxes of goodies have been sent to local troops serving in war zones.
* The building housing The Woman's Club of Bakersfield can be rented for any special occasion and has been used to celebrate events, such as weddings, receptions, anniversaries, class reunions, high school proms, birthdays and quinceaneras for the past 82 years.
* The building can seat up to 325 people.
Source: Darrelyn Kundinger, president of The Woman's Club of Bakersfield; and Melinda Crisler, Cal State Bakersfield History Department graduate student Inside Story: The Woman's Club of Bakersfield