November 18, 1805 — Today, 30 women met at the home of Mrs. Silas Lee’s in Wiscasset, Maine, and organized the first woman’s club in America, the Female Charitable Society.
The women were said to be of modest amount of wealth, and together pledged a combined $76 (about $1200 today) for the purpose of helping other women in the community. Their first deed was loaning a dress to a woman who had nothing to wear to church.
Operating without publicity or fanfare, the women invested a portion of the money, and soon had a base of funds from which to support widows and female orphans and those not living or dependent on a man.
The group has helped countless women and children in the 200+ years since its founding. “We’re not a secret group, but we’re low key,” explains historian Marie Reinhardt, a current member of the group that is now named The Wiscasset Female Charitable Society. “We don’t like to say who we helped and what we did.”
Until 1973, the Treasurer could not be a married woman. According to Society Presidentess Gail Swanton, that was to prevent a man from inheriting the Society’s valuables.
Words of Wisdom
Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation.