This column visits the faces of those who have benefited from the generous and tireless work of the nonprofits on the Mid Shore. Perhaps unknown to many of us, these individuals have had their lives transformed by the missions of these organizations and are giving back in unique ways to better our world. Amelia Blades Steward has been a freelance writer in our community for 20 years and offers a glimpse into the lives of residents on the Mid Shore whom she has met along the way.
Over the years, many women from Talbot County have committed their lives to the charitable work of the Talbot County Women’s Club. The club was established in 1930 by a small group of women with the desire to serve the community while also building lifelong friendships. Four key principles have guided the work of the club over the 90 years it has been operating and include: to support service projects; to build deep friendships; to create lifelong learning experiences; and to maintain a center for the club to meet.
Nancy Lutes, interim president and past president of the club, comments, “As we celebrate our 90th year, the club is reaching out to new and existing residents in our community who may want a civic outlet and an organization where they can meet new women while also giving back to our community. We have something for everyone – a historical house and garden, social events, and charitable activities. And most importantly, we have fun.”
On February 7, 1930, women gathered to discuss the possibility of “organizing the women of the community into a club to safeguard the historical and promote the civic interests of the town and county.” Mrs. Hallie Jackson was the first president of the organization that had its first meeting in the local elementary school on March 22, 1930, with 199 members enrolled. The first service project of the club grew out of the need for clothing for children during the Depression. Club members made hundreds of garments that were distributed to those in need, plus they provided food and a glass of milk to undernourished school children. This included support for Easton’s Children’s Home for orphans. These activities were funded by luncheons, card parties, rummage sales, swap shops, antique sales, fashion shows, and other projects – not unlike the fundraising that goes on today.
The club continues to sponsor informational programs on pertinent topics and local important issues to help members become better-educated voters. Today, this includes speakers who present a broad range of topics to club members, including current news and events, culture, literature, and the arts.
In 1945, the club began to search for a building that would serve as its permanent home under the guidance of new club president Mrs. Elizabeth Dixon. Previously, the club had rented the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Club, the Masonic Temple, West Street Studio, the County Building, and during the war years, met in private homes. One building, which shared the historic prestige of the Talbot County Court House and Easton’s Stewart Building, caught the eye of members. The James Price House on Talbot Lane had an original frame portion dating back to 1790. The property included two structures, including a second house built adjacent to the 1790 structure in 1803.
With the help of local philanthropist Mrs. Alton Jones, the financing was secured and the property was purchased in 1946 with renovations planned for 1947, which joined the two houses. Renovations continued over the years and, today, the club still has several important capital projects, including the cleaning and restoration of six fireplaces and 13 chimneys, repairs to the foundation and brick exterior, and landscaping of the property’s grounds. In 2013, the property was the site of an archeological dig conducted by the University of Maryland and is currently part of an archeology walking tour that presents the newly uncovered history of The Hill Community.
Shirley Brodhead, who has been a member of the club since 1992 and has served as the club’s president, comments, “As members, we have a passion for the house and its importance in the community. We are working hard to maintain the buildings which serve as the home for the organization.”
Over the years, each president brought her passion to the club’s service activities. Club activities over the years included supporting a family in England during World War II; supporting children affected by an earthquake in Greece; corresponding with Easton’s sister city, Kempsey, Australia; supporting Care and UNICEF projects; participating in a “Clean Up Easton” Campaign; visiting patients and supporting their needs at the Eastern Shore Hospital Center in Cambridge; providing non-perishable food items to the Neighborhood Service Center, Talbot Senior Center, and Department of Aging; promoting road safety, sewing sweaters and providing school supplies for foster children in Peru; providing backpacks for Easton Middle School students; knitting and crocheting hats for the Little Hats, Big Hearts campaign for the American Heart Association; and sponsoring scholarships to women returning to Chesapeake College for their degrees.
“I joined to get involved with the club’s activities, to network, and to meet people in Easton,” says Dena Cameron of Easton, who is a new member of the organization and a new resident to the area.
Nancy adds, “Our club offers an excellent opportunity for new residents to meet other women, as well as get to know the community.”
The Talbot County Women’s Club offers monthly daytime meetings on the second Tuesday of the month (June through September). Meetings are currently being conducted on Zoom. Interested persons are encouraged to call Nancy Lutes at 410-310-8919 for information about becoming a member. For further information, visit talbotcountywomensclub.org.