So what was happening in Meridian in the year 1913? The short answer: a lot!
Meridian was experiencing growth in many areas, which included education, public transportation, manufacturing, the arts, and medicine. Union Station, Highland Park, and The Grand Opera House represented some of the new prosperity.
There was a dynamic growth in downtown hotels -- Hotel Meridian, Grand Avenue Hotel, Terminal Hotel, and Union Hotel offered accommodations for the rail travelers. Mr. Weidmann introduced tasty meals for the entire family. Jobs were plentiful. Families once again enjoyed the stability of a community that held a bright and progressive future. This period in Meridian’s history is known as The Golden Age.
Also, in 1913, a courageous group of ladies formed a literary club – Round Table Club of Meridian. It is interesting that in the same year, two Carnegie Libraries were built. One was used by whites and the other one for African Americans. Amazingly, Meridian was the one location in the state, which was chosen to build a Carnegie Library, exclusively for African Americans – the only one, until after World War I.
Round Table Club of Meridian took note. Because of their support of the written word, the members volunteered many hours supporting the acquisition of books for the libraries. Their work promoting books and reading continues even today.
From 1964 forward, Round Table Club of Meridian has supported Merrehope and the F. W. Williams homes in addition to Mississippi Federation of Women’s Clubs (MFWC) franchised projects. MFWC, who organized in 1895, has worked untiringly for 100 years plus to improve and enrich the quality of life for all the citizens of the state, with an emphasis on education and women’s issues. Round Table Club joined MFWC in 1914.
Today, MFWC offers much more than literary opportunities. Some of the flagship projects include: Arts, Conservation, Education, Home Life, International Outreach, Public Issues, Advocates for Children, Domestic Violence Awareness, plus a wide aspect of the arts: Photography, Crafts, Writing Competitions, and Youth Art.
But in 1913, the club ladies were busy with books-in-hand, as they encouraged the great love of reading. Can you imagine the muddy and/or dusty roads the ladies traversed in order to deliver books, present book reviews, and accommodate the thirsty minds who wanted more – more poetry, essays, novels, and magazines?
I can see in my mind’s eye, the Meridian ladies, with gloved hands, coaxing a trotting pony that pulled a surrey carriage filled with books – how their little hats sat cocked to one side, with perhaps the hat’s decorations of feathers or flowers slightly askew, all because of their determination to deliver books.
Because Round Table Club of Meridian affiliated with the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1914, they were supported by clubs across America. Clubs who shared ideas, assisted with like projects, brainstormed (even though this term was unknown in 1914) with ladies from across the state and the nation. Strength in numbers was the mantel shared by all as the clubs steadily moved forward to accomplish more than any woman could have ever dreamed.
It was in 1890 that one woman took action. She was Jane Croly (pen name, Jennie June), a journalist, who lived and worked in New York City. She was restricted, only allowed to contribute her written work in the fields of homemaking, fashions for women, or child-rearing. While these areas were important to Jane, she longed for more. She wanted the freedom to write about all things, but because she was a woman, it was not allowed.
No doubt, there was a great need – Jane knew women must be included in the national scope of journalism. The catalyst to form a club for only women was an event which took place 1868, when Jane attempted to attend an all-male press club dinner, where Charles Dickens was the speaker. She was denied, only because she was a woman.
Oh, how the male journalists of the day must have clucked their tongues, as they downed brandy-toddies, and puffed cigars in their private clubs. Little did they know what one denied invitation would mean.
Congratulations to the Round Table Club of Meridian for 100 years of volunteer community service.
Anne McKee is a writer and storyteller. See her web site: www.annemckee.net