St. Petersburg Woman’s Club began because Mrs. Benjamin A. Greene moved here from Evanston, Illinois, where she served as president of her Federated Woman’s Club. She missed the wide intellectual and cultural interests, its civic participation and charitable concerns, as well as her club’s social events. She was rebuffed in her attempt to start a woman’s club here since most people thought the Women’s Town Improvement Association, engaged in establishing Williams Park and the Audubon Club, were enough for this small city (US Census of 1910 - population 4127). Nancy Greene then gave a series of lectures on Mormonism. At the conclusion she was urged to provide more similar intellectual entertainment. It was then that Mrs. Greene started St. Petersburg Woman’s Club with 14 chartered members. The date was February 7, 1913.
St. Petersburg Woman’s Club was the first club in the State to begin War Work, with their Belgian Relief in 1915 exceeding all clubs. They worked closely with The National Red Cross. Locally they worked for better sanitation for Negroes, child welfare, aided tubercular patients, took care of individual needy families and constantly worked for the Susan B. Anthony Amendment promoting women’s suffrage.
In 1921 Mrs. Esterly became Honorary President of the St. Petersburg Woman’s Club for life. The club Collect was adopted and the club motto, “Each for all and all for humanity. We cannot all serve alike but we can all serve willingly and well”. A building fund was established in 1922 and a limit of $20,000 was set for the purchase of a clubhouse site. Membership was more than 400 in January of 1923. St. Petersburg Woman’s Club officially became a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs November 26,1923. The club was incorporated on October 21, 1924 allowing it to own property.
Most envisioned a clubhouse on the waterfront, near 3rd or 4th Avenue N but several houses and lots were considered and discarded. By April, 1927 there was $11,000 in the building fund. In November of 1928, C. Perry Snell made a gift offer of land on Snell Isle! The land was beyond the streetcar line, in the jungle and reached by a one lane rickety, wooden bridge – an isolated spot. The offer was accepted after much debate. The deed is dated December 24, 1928.
Mrs. Katherine B. Tippetts, a member of St. Petersburg Woman’s Club served as president of Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs 1926-1928. In January, 1929 it was voted to accept a note of $15,000 at 6% from Augusta Bank, Maine, the Winthrop Branch, to be signed by the club president and treasurer and endorsed by Mrs. Murray L. Stanley (newly elected president of the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs). By May, 1929 the building fund had reached $16,428.08. Club membership was limited to 600 regular and 150 life members.
In the early morning of May 24, 1940 the interior of the clubhouse was ravaged by a fire started in the unfinished room over the kitchen which had been planned for a custodian’s apartment. Energetically, members went to work and by fall opening tea in September, the club was repaired. They remodeled with new equipment and furnishings, the apartment was readied, a central heating system installed and the sliding platform put under the stage. Insurance provided them with $1680.00. The oil fired furnace and water heater cost $1445.00. In October, 1940, custodians moved into the free apartment and were paid $50 a month.
During the 1940’s the women again shouldered the varied activities of war work while keeping the club alive and growing with courage and vision. As men went to war, women filled in temporarily - like member Jane Lanier who became a welder.
Later, the clubhouse needed re-decorating and a new roof. The club aided the city project of developing a recreational park for Negroes and provided playground equipment for the new Wildwood Park.
Three days of gala events celebrated our 50th year golden anniversary! Efforts to increase membership paid off by offering bridge & charm lessons, family night programs, drama by a church guild, Know Your America Week and Federation Follies.
Six notes totaling $7000 were paid with sufficient funds in the treasury to pay another note. The club’s folding doors and 70 card tables were re-enameled. A new water fountain was installed. Thousands of garments were delivered to Community Clothes Closet. A defensive driving course at the club was one of the largest in the city. Tuition was donated to two police officers to complete college law enforcement training. Three oriental rugs and new drapes were added to the tearoom. Black out drapes were hung in the auditorium (ballroom) to permit slide presentations and movies. In 1968 membership increased by 110 members!
Clare Brown Williams Shank, club president from 1974-1976 (now deceased) researched, planned and wrote most of the copy for the Heritage section of our webpage. It was excerpted from a club booklet she completed in 1981. She was an active club member for three decades.