Thursday Club seeks memorabilia for gathering

Posted Feb. 18, 2011, at 8:55 p.m.

Plans are under way for the annual gathering of the Thursday Club, a University of Maine organization founded in 1911 in Orono to enable “faculty wives, women faculty members and other campus women to share common interests, to interact both intellectually and socially and to support each other and women students,” according to its latest newsletter.

The event will celebrate the fact that it was organized in 1911, according to longtime member and past president Phyllis Borns, because although the club voted to dissolve in 2001, it also voted to gather once a year and to establish an endowment for the Thursday Club Scholarship Fund through the University of Maine Foundation.

This year’s meeting will be noon Thursday, May 5, at the Buchanan Alumni House, 160 College Ave. in Orono, and reservations and ticket information can be obtained by calling Sally Irons at 866-3501.

Phyllis, Sally, Mary Jo Sanger, Mary Anne Eason and other members are working to make this celebration special, and they need the help of all current and former members as well as relatives and friends of members who may have information to share.

Mary Anne first e-mailed me, and we later talked, about the need to reach as many people as possible, with connections to Thursday Club, because planners are preparing a substantial visual presentation of the club’s history for this gathering.

The presentation will take a long look back at the 100 years of Thursday Club, Mary Anne reported but added, “there are many gaps to fill.

“We have very few pre-1970 pictures and none, or very few, of some of the events that, at one time, were so popular.”

Among those events were husband and guest night dances, fashion shows, its annual craft sale known as Faulcraft, meetings featuring lecturers or demonstrations, Hostesses at Home coffees and some of the interest groups such as Bridge, the Gourmet Dinner Group, the Furniture Refinishing Group, the Academic Gown Group and the Travel Group, Mary Anne said.

Mary Anne wants everyone who can contribute something to know you can e-mail your photos or lend them to her and she will scan them. You can reach her at maeason@gmail.com or call 941-9727.

Phyllis and Mary Anne have provided me with copies and scads of information about Thursday Club that I have enjoyed reading, but I’ve appreciated, equally, listening to their personal recollections.

Phyllis, for example, joined in 1955 when she and her then-husband arrived on campus.

At that time, the club met monthly. Previously, she said, it met weekly and later twice a month.

“We were all invited to join when our husbands joined the faculty,” Phyllis recalled of the days when women were more often at home than out in the work force.

“The membership requirements fluctuated over the years, and we eventually added graduate assistant wives and had openings for mothers and sisters of faculty.”

Phyllis recalled the club sometimes met at individuals’ homes and sometimes at the President’s House, and she even had the responsibility once of going there to invite the new president’s wife to join.

Newcomers had their own group, Phyllis said, where they remained for three years before “moving up” to become regular members.

By the time Mary Anne arrived on campus in the ’80s, the club met only four times a year.

“We had a fall tea to welcome newcomers, then a winter brunch and spring luncheon” and perhaps a holiday gathering, she said.

The purpose of the club, both women said, was never to raise money. It was purely social and, out of that sociability, came “interest groups,” which continue today.

“Even though we disbanded, we didn’t see why we should disband the interest groups, so we still have a book group, a knitting group and an international dinner group, for couples, that still meets.” Anyone can now join any of the interest groups, Mary Anne added.

As with so many women’s organizations with a long history, the legacy of Thursday Club is strong, and it continues to financially support female students.

Its current members hope for an exceptional turnout in recognition of the club’s founding 100 years ago, and are looking forward to sharing any contributions you can make.

Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; javerill@bangordailynews.com; 990-8288.

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