Sorosis Book Club Collection
Abstract: Minutes of a Salisbury, North Carolina women's book club spanning the years 1930-1944
Online catalog terms:
Book clubs--North Carolina--Salisbury
Sorosis Book Club
Women--North Carolina--Salisbury--Societies and clubs
Size: Approx. 1 linear foot.
Gift of Mrs. Wilburn Taylor
#2 Pine Tree Road
Salisbury, NC 28144
Access: No restriction.
Copyright: Retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law. Introduction
The Sorosis Book Club was founded in March, 1922. Its first president was Mrs. Ross Sigmon. Other charter members included Mrs. Clarence Bernhardt, Mrs. James Davis, Miss Helen Sumner (Mrs. Edwin Hobson), Mrs. Joe (?) Robertson, Mrs. Haynie Blackner, Mrs. Bate Toms, Mrs. Charles Woodson, Mrs. Haden Holmes, Mrs. Charles McCanless, Mrs. James Pfaff, and Mrs. Em Deaton.
The club met every other Tuesday afternoon in the winter and sometimes during the summer in members' homes and occasionally at a local tea room. (The hostess's flower arrangements are often noted in the minutes.) Gathered together, members of the club shared refreshments, discussed the books then being read, and often held some additional program.
Refreshments are referred to in the minutes as "dainty," or "tempting," and were usually composed of salad courses, nuts and cakes, and sandwiches, although every once in a while, a full dinner seems to have been served such as the chicken a la King, congealed salad, potatoes, tea and crackers, and hot rolls provided at one meeting in 1930. However, not too long after this meal, the club voted unanimously to do away with serving refreshments (except for tea and wafers). In place of the more elaborate meals, the club decided to donate a dollar per member to charity work for each meeting. This noble sentiment never seems to have been acted upon. At least the "tempting" and "dainty" refreshments continued to be noted in the club minutes after this vote.
The Sorosis Book Club read a number of books by female writers and seems to have had great interest in other parts of the world. The books chosen for the winter series in the 1930s included Francis Griswold's Tides of Malvern, Ibanez's At the Feet of Venus, Marquis James's The Raven, Paul Morand's New York, Charles Norris's Seed, Michael Pym's The Power of India, Barnes's Years of Grace, Priestley's Angel Pavements, Lady Hosie's Portrait of a Chinese Lady, and Gibbs's Chance. Two years later the club read Ellen Glasgow's The Sheltered Life, Priestly's Faraway, Phyllis Bentlley's Inheritance, Willa Cather's Obscure Destinies, Jean Schlumberger's Saint Saturnin, R. Lockridge's Darling of Misfortune, Mayo De La Roche's Lark Ascending, Charles Morgan's The Fountain, Paul Green's Laughing Pioneer, Ann Bridge's Peking Picnic, Andre Maurois's The Family Circle, and Hugh Walpole's The Waverly Pageant. In 1940, the reading list included Inglis Fletcher's Raleigh's Eden, Bertitia Harding's Hungarian Rhapsody, Richard Llewellyn's How Green Was My Valley, Sigrid Undset's Madame Dorothea, Lilla Warren's Foundation Stone, Thomas Wolfe's You Can't Go Home Again, Clara Boothe's Europe in Spring, R.C. Hutchinson's The Fore and the Wood, Elizabeth Goudge's The Bird in the Tree, Clark McMeekin's Show Me a Land, Daphne Du Maurier's Weep No More and Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls. The minutes seldom note member's critiques of the works being read, although the women gathered in a Salisbury parlor on October 18, 1932 "were unanimous in their dislike of Forever and Ever."
Programs for the meetings ranged from biographical information on an author then being read to some social or political situation and on to "lighter" topics such as "an article on what people talk about." Conversational topics being noted in this program included the weather, health, amusement, other people, and clothes. At one meeting the members read an article that centered about the problem confronting broadcasters in the United States during the visit of King George and Queen Elizabeth of England. "What to wear, how to address the Royal pair, and how to announce their appearances were some of their problems." Following this article, the club listened to a speech from Canada by the King.
Mary Wood McKenzie, a Salisbury native and missionary, spoke to the club on at least two occasions and special holiday meetings were always observed: a 1934 Valentine meeting where the club listened to a radio concert by the Marine Band, a George Washington Party "minus the tree and hatchet," and always some special Christmas program, usually a portrayal or discussion of the celebration of Christ's birth as it differed from land to land. (As added entertainment at one of these Christmas meetings, young Marshall Woodson joined his mother's friends "clad in a Bethlehem shepherd's costume which his father had brought from the Holy Land.")
In 1930, the women discussed civic welfare, deciding to join the American Red Cross's Roll Call campaign, and on November 10, 1936, the club listened as a professor from Catawba College told them that the Japanese didn't want war with the United States but peace. Two years later on November 1, 1938, Father William of the local Catholic Church met with the Club at the Yadkin Hotel and there "spoke forcefully and interestingly of affairs relative to Adolph Hitler's government. He emphasized that the fear of the people, Hitler's domineering personality, and his organizationa all contributed to the man's great hold on the country." Two weeks later, the club reviewed Phillis Bottom's The Mortal Storm which had as its backsground "present-day Germany." At this same meeting, Mrs. Bernhardt also "read an article written forty one years ago by Gov. Vance on the Jew." The article was noted by the minutes to be "a beautiful tribute to the Jewish Race which has been so patient and long-suffering through many persecutions." A year later the Club held a program on the Jews return to Palestine "and other kindred subjects." And on May 27, 1941 Mrs. Graf, a guest, "won the love and admiration of the group with her recital of her experiences in France during and after the German invasion. Her courage, in spite of her sorrow," the secretary recorded, "was wonderful to witness." In related war news, less than a month after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the members of Sorosis found themselves reading letters and cards that Mrs. Knight had recently received from her son "somewhere in the Pacific Region."
On occasion, the Club would take a field trip. In 1939, the members visited the new Carnegie Art Library at Catawba College, "a new addition to the college," which, the minute taker noted, "is a completely equipped library with books on art and paintings in authenic colorings." The next year, the club met at a local school to watch slides of the Hawaiian Islands brought back by Ralph Shaver, a teacher, who had been stationed in the Pacific.
Program topics for some series were coordinated into different aspects of a larger topic. In 1930, the club studied India. Two years later it examined Sir Walter Scott, and, in 1941, the Sorosis investigated the countries of South America. (One meeting during this series found a hostess entertaining her guests with a discussion of the Monroe Doctrine.) The following year, (beginning in December 1942) the Club had for its series of programs "Durable Peace" with topics such as an article from Harpers on "Hunger, Hate and Post War Europe," "Problems of Post War Aviation," and the "Economic Aspects of a Just and Durable Peace." At one of these meetings, the Club read the Alantic Charter. In 1944, Sorosis returned to a more literary program, deciding to learn more about English female novelists. Individual members presented authors Mary Wollenstonecraft, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot, "Victoria" Sackville-West, Edith Wharton--and Ellen Glasgow.
In October of 1932, the book clubs in Salisbury joined together to present a program of literary skits. Those joining in the skits included The Reviewers Club, The Round Table, The Christian Reid Book Club, The Salisbury Book Club, The Twice Seven Club, The Old Hickory Club, The Fiction Club, The Travelers, The Oasis Club, The Mentor Club, as well as Sorosis. This series of skits which was organized by the literary department of the local women's club seems to have been an annual event for several years.
It is not known when the Sorsosis Book Club ceased to exist. It is thought that Mrs. Sam Harry and Mrs. Doris Pfaff were members of both the Sorosis Club and the Friday Book Club. The minute books in this collection were maintained by the Friday Book Club until their donation to Rowan Public Library's Edith M. Clark History Room by Friday Book Club member Mrs. Wilburn Taylor.
Series I. Minute Books
Minutes noting refreshments served, members present, books assigned and program topics chosen by the Sorosis Book Club, a women's book club located in Salisbury North Carolina. Minutes are located in two bound volumes and one set of loose-leaf papers tied together with yarn.
Folder 1. Minutes Sept., 1930-Sept., 1934
Folder 2. Minutes Sept., 1934-Feb., 1936
Folder 3. Minutes Aug., 1936-May, 1944