The scrapbook’s fragile pages are brown with age. Letters, including those from Helen Hunt Jackson and Eleanor Roosevelt, are stuck to the pages, with postmarks dated from 1892 to 1971.
The first page of the minutes reads, “Spokane Falls, Washington. Jan. 24, 1891. Pursuant to a call issued in the daily journals, thirty ladies met in the parlors of the Hotel Spokane for the purpose of organizing a literary club.”
So began the Spokane Sorosis Club, still going strong 105 years later.
For the first few years, the women talked mostly about books at their meetings. “The club essentially started as a study club,” says Dorothy Brown, a member since 1979. Around 1907, however, members began to take on some of the community’s needs by donating money to charities.
Today, the 40 members use their annual dues of $7.50 to help out a different charity each year. This year, they chose the Miryam House, a shelter for battered women. In recent years, they donated to Ogden Hall and Crosswalk. In addition, a $250 scholarship is awarded to an area college student each year.
Sorosis members have always been creative when it comes to raising money for these activities, says Lela Warnick, treasurer. Many years ago, the women sponsored a necktie social, similar to box socials common in the West. Men bought the auctioned neckties, and their dates for the evening would be the women wearing the apron that matched the necktie.
For several years, Sorosis members wrote to famous people and invited them to reply. They received answers from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Susan B. Anthony, whose letters are carefully preserved and kept in a “treasure chest.”
The first letter, postmarked Jan. 30, 1892, was from Anthony, then vice president of the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association in Washington, D.C. The most recent letter, dated May 1971, refers to a message the club members sent to President Richard Nixon regarding proposed legislation.
Sorosis is long on tradition, as any 105 year-old club with a historian would be.
For instance, the group still has its original gavel - in the shape of a pineapple, the club fruit - stored carefully in a box and only occasionally used.
Another tradition is to present a silver spoon engraved with the Sorosis emblem to members’ daughters when they marry, says Adeline Hardin, president.
Anniversary celebrations have always been important to this club. For its 89th anniversary, members dressed in period clothes, says Joan Williams, who was president that year. Another year, the women wore the large, extravagant hats from the turn of the century. This year’s milestone anniversary was marked with a luncheon and a large, decorated cake.