Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Zetamatheans are back!

The Zetamatheans have returned in all their glory to the wall of the historical society's Irene Garton Memorial Library after an absence of several months during renovations. It's a small but wonderful photograph of an interesting group, among my favorites of the hundreds (or more) archived there.

The Zetamatheans, organized during October 1892, became Chariton’s first federated women’s club when it was admitted to the Iowa Federation of Women’s Clubs on Feb. 23, 1895. According to its constitution, the object of the club “shall be mutual improvement of its members in history, literature, art, science and the important events of the day.”

Membership was limited to 15 “ladies,” and when a vacancy occurred new members could be added only by a unanimous vote. The club was to hold its annual meeting on the second Wednesday in May and an afternoon meeting every Wednesday from September to June inclusive. Surviving secretary’s minutes (also in the Lucas County Historical Society collection) show that after 1907 meetings averaged two a month.

No list of charter members survives, but a membership directory for the year 1898-99 does. A majority of these women, excluding perhaps Ida Hultz and Jennie Busselle, probably were charter members:

1. Mary S. Bartholomew (wife of Orion A. Bartholomew, a Chariton attorney and mayor);

2. Emma W. Larimer (wife of George W. Larimer. real estate speculator and banker);

3. Bella Wright Brown (wife of Joseph A. Brown, also involved in real estate);

4. Margaret Reed Lewis (wife of William E. Lewis, grocery dealer and Chariton postmaster);

5. Orilla Anna Waynick Dent (wife of Albert E. Dent, merchant);

6. Nina C. Larimer (wife of Harry H. Larimer, hardware merchant);

7. Almira “Mira” O. McFarland, (wife of James H. McFarland, a salesman and businessman);

8. Cora L. Beem (wife of Willard P. Beem, First National Bank teller and later officer);

9. Ella G. VanDyke (wife of Byron R. VanDyke, hotel keeper);

10. Mina J. Hanlin (wife of John M. Hanlin, deputy district clerk);

11. Ruth A. Boyles (wife of James R. Boyles, railroad brakeman);

12. Ida L. Hultz (wife of Webb Hultz, a traveling salesman);

13. Jennie B. Busselle (wife of Oscar Busselle, a business agent).

Two “honorary members,” usually named such when they moved from Chariton, most likely were charter members, too. They were Allie Stanton Lockwood, who later returned to full membership, and Ruth H. Stuart, wife of the Rev. Thomas McKendree Stuart, presiding elder of the Chariton District, Iowa Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church, until the late 1890s, who had moved to Des Moines. An “In Memoriam” page in two surviving membership directories honors Minnie Stanton Guylee, who died Dec. 18, 1896, and who most likely was a charter member, too. Ruth A. Boyles, Allie Stanton Lockwood and Minnie Stanton Guylee were sisters.

The Zetamathians continued in Chariton until 1929 when resident membership had declined due to death, moves and failure to recruit new members to four: Mrs. McFarland, Mrs. VanDyke, Mrs. Beem and Emma Larimer. In that year, the club ceased to pay Iowa Federation dues and effectively went out of business.

In this photo, donated during 1973 by Marie VanDyke and taken on April 20, 1898, in the studio of an unidentified photographer in Chariton, the woman seated at extreme left is Ruth Huff Stuart. Other seated women are (from left) Jennie B. Busselle, Almira (Mira) O. McFarland, Bella Wright Brown, Margaret Reed Lewis, Mina J. Hanlin and Emma W. Larimer.

Standing (from left) are Orilla Anna Waynick Dent, Ruth A. Stanton Boyles, Ella G. Van Dyke, Ida L. Hultz, Mary S. Bartholomew, Nina M. Larimer and Cora Beem.

As sometimes happens, this photograph was reunited at the historical society during the 1980s with a Zetamathean secretary's book begun in 1907 and continued until the club was disbanded. The record book was donated by Harriett Copeland Holman, granddaughter of Zetamathean Emma W. Larimer.

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