The Brentwood Women’s Club, founded in 1901, first met at the John Marsh House, where club founder Sara Ivory and her husband, Sheriff M.B. Ivory, resided. The club’s first mission was to establish a makeshift library. Club members collected books, newspapers and magazines and opened the Brentwood Reading Room in 1902.
The club was instrumental in the establishment of the city’s first public library in 1915, raising $400 for construction costs. The women’s club even changed its name to the Brentwood Literacy Association in 1910, but the club reverted to its original name in the 1930s as its scope reached beyond books.
While literacy remained one of the main causes championed by the women’s club, the members also supported many city efforts at the turn of the 20th century, purchasing the city’s first street signs in 1904. Their fundraisers also helped pay for Brentwood’s first streetlights, which were installed on Oak Street. The club also helped establish Brentwood’s first high school, and members worked diligently with city officials on the creation of City Park, taking time to maintain a community garden once the park opened.
“The Brentwood Women’s Club played a big part in the early history of the city,” said local historian Kathy Leighton. “Women were key players in bringing a lot of modern elements to town. For instance, their fundraisers helped purchase the first fire engine. A lot of people don’t realize how much the women of this area did for the welfare of the city.”
The club supported local schools and youth organizations, but its mission to help those in need was also a global effort. During World War I and II, the Brentwood Women’s Club teamed with the Red Cross to prepare care packages for soldiers overseas. In later years, the club avidly supported the March of Dimes, which promotes health for pregnant women and newborns.
The women’s club often held socials, fashion shows and bake sales to raise money, but over the years, participation in the club waned, and the organization dissolved in 2009.
“The women’s club was started by stay-at-home moms,” Leighton said. “It was the highlight of their month to take a night off and visit with the other women in the community. But now, women go to work, so they value their time at home more. The networking aspect of the club also changed. Today, women can swap homemaking and parenting tips on the Internet without ever leaving the house. I guess it’s just a sign of the times.”
Leighton, who served as club president in the 1970s, hopes the club will be revived in the future as the club’s mission to support the community is always a worthy cause.