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By Jan Siegel
On Tuesday, March 8, 1921, a group of 16 women met with their “handy work” at the home of Mrs. Guy Williams and formed the Capistrano Social Club. According to the minutes of that first meeting, it was decided that the group would meet every other Tuesday afternoon at the homes of the members. Mrs. Williams had called the young and newly married women of San Juan Capistrano, all of whom were wives of the early farmers and ranchers, to a social get-together to get acquainted. Mrs. Williams was the club’s first president. The club lasted for 97 years, closing its doors this past December.
The history of the club reads like a Who’s Who of San Juan Capistrano, and their accomplishments were remarkable. The club history also reflects the history of the life of women over the last 100 years. In 1924, Mrs. Edna Malcolm became president, but she had to resign because she was expecting. Adele Hankey, who was vice president, took over and finished out the term. It turned out that she also was expecting before the end of the term, but said, “Someone had to finish out the term, and I knew it wasn’t catching. It wasn’t caused by any germ.”
On January 10, 1922, the club decided to present a flag to the new high school. Each member threw in 50 cents for the flag, which was to be 5 feet by 13 feet. Whatever money was left over would be used by the club. They had collected $12, and the flag cost $5.70.
In 1933, the Club purchased three lots for $175 on which to build a clubhouse. The club initiated life membership at $25 in order to pay for the lots. The depression and World War II got in the way of building, so it was not until 1960 that ground was broken for the new clubhouse. By then, the club had $20,000. The total cost was going to be $34,000, so some members were afraid of getting into debt. They were ranchers’ wives and what they made in one year they lived on until the next. But the Club did vote to take out a $14,000 loan.
In 1956, the club was issued Articles of Incorporation and changed its name to The Woman’s Club of San Juan Capistrano, with the specific and primary purpose to promote social and civic affairs in and about the San Juan Capistrano area.
The San Juan Capistrano Historical Society is fortunate to have all of the minutes, press coverage, and records of the Woman’s Club in its files. You can spend a “Moment in Time” checking out this time capsule of life in San Juan Capistrano in the last century. Check the Society website for more history on the Woman’s Club.
Jan Siegel is a 28-year resident of San Juan Capistrano. She served on the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission for 13 years and has been a volunteer guide for the San Juan Capistrano Friends of the Library’s architectural walking tour for 18 years. She was named Woman of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce in 2005, Volunteer of the Year in 2011 and was inducted into the city’s Wall of Recognition in 2007.