Women's Literary Club Building
By Erika Schlenker
The Woman’s Literary Club began as the Bay View Reading Circle in 1894 and changed its name to the Woman’s Literary Club of Holland in 1898. The club’s original goal was “to further intellectual improvement, and to diffuse useful information.” In 1912, members purchased property at 10th Street and Central Avenue to build their own clubhouse. In addition to studying the history, art, and literature of many different countries, the women are active in the community and help the less fortunate. The building was sold to Eagle Cos. in 1997, but the club still holds meetings in local churches and at the Holland Country Club.
The Woman’s Literary Club dates back to November 1894 when the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) invited 15 women to form a reading group. The group began as the Bay View Reading Circle and was led by Mrs. Anna Coatsworth Post. Meetings were held regularly on Monday afternoons at the members’ homes starting on December 15 of the same year. On the first Friday of every month, they hosted special programs in conjunction with the WCTU. In their first year, they studied French history and literature.
In the following years, the group became more formalized as they introduced leadership roles and assigned a critic for each meeting who was to give input on the pronunciation of words. The critic role was axed in 1911 when it proved to be straining and insensitive to the group. Mrs. Edward Leedom was the first president and an active member until she left Holland in early 1896.
Mission and Purpose
More changes came in May 1898 when a constitution and bylaws were adopted and the name changed to the Woman’s Literary Club of Holland. According to the club’s yearbook from 1899, their goal is to “further intellectual improvement, and to diffuse useful information.” Over the years, they studied the history, art, literature, science, and education of many different countries such as Italy, Russia, the United States, Spain, Portugal, and Greece.
Because meetings were held in members’ homes, the club wished to purchase a lot to build a clubhouse. In 1912, members sought a central location and voted to purchase property at the corner of Tenth Street and Central Avenue. In addition to pledges from members, the club borrowed $5,000 from Hope College and $1,000 from Dr. Albert Knooihuizen in order to make the purchase.
The first meeting held in the new clubhouse took place on February 3, 1914. Three days later, the dedication ceremony commenced. Many Hollanders and the State Federation of Woman’s Clubs congratulated the women on the fine 6,500 square feet building.
The club organized an array of events that promoted community involvement and helping the less fortunate. With young women in Holland, classes in needlework, basketball, and millinery were taught. In the summer of 1916, the clubhouse was open every afternoon for Red Cross work. Three new committees were formed in 1922 to benefit the girls of Holland, foreigners, and the club property respectively.
Clubhouse For Sale
In 1997, members voted to sell the building by a margin of 150 to 10. The club and its building were beginning to be too hard to maintain due to a decrease in membership and costly renovations. In the same year, Craig and Emilie Wierda purchased the building for their business group, Eagle Cos.
After the remodeling, old members of the literary club visited the building and were delighted to see it had retained much of the original room placement and all of the historic features. A statue of a girl sitting on a bench reading to a younger girl resides on the corner of the property. Wierda felt it paid homage to the literary heritage of the building.
The Club Today
The Woman’s Literary Club still exists today and holds meetings at local churches and the Holland Country Club. The membership rules have changed numerous times over the decades, but today, any woman in the community can apply for membership. If a woman has been a member continually for 50 years, she is considered an honorary member and will be included for life.