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The Cantabrigia Club.

Grace S. Rice, Secretary.
The Cantabrigia Club entered the domain of clubs in March, 1892, its natal hour being auspiciously struck at the home of Mrs. Estelle M. H. Merrill, in the presence of a group of interested women who for the previous winter had been members of classes in current events under the leadership of their hostess.

Its origin was altruistic and its reason for being was a quickened impulse of charity and love for suffering. In discussing the evils of the sweating-system which was then being considered in a bill before Congress, and commenting on the sad social conditions revealed by official investigations, Mrs. Merrill spoke feelingly of the good a live woman's club might do in helping to create and hold a righteous public opinion that would wipe out these ills. The instant response was, “Let us have such a club,” and it was done.

The kindly thought, generous sympathy and a desire to “lend( a hand” were therefore the motives that sent the club forth among many kindred organizations, and made for its career not only a promising augury. but a noble birthright as well. It made, indeed, a responsibility, too; for the club which is brought together by an inspiration, has a standard to live up to that others may not claim, and to which it may not be recreant save at its own loss. [260]

The object of the Cantabrigia Club as set forth in the constitution, is threefold “social, literary and humanitarian. In its work it shall endeavor, not only among its members, but in the community, to promote good-fellowship and the highest form of social life: to encourage mental and moral development, and to aid by its organized effort such worthy causes as may secure its sympathy.”

Three years have passed since the “christening-party,” with its delightful ceremonies and free masonry of good wishes started the infant club on its way. On this occasion, which was one long to be remembered, friends from far and near were present. with gifts of sympathetic words and kindly wishes for the future of the new organization. Wise women stood as its godmothers and offered counsel and congratulation, and, as it had no prejudice in the matter of sex, fair godfathers were present as well, so that like the princess in the olden tale, its christening was full of happiest omens for the future.

Its work during the three years has been along various lines, each of its eight departments being presided over by a chairman and two assistants, who provide the programs for the open meetings as well as plan for class work or lectures.

In literature, classes in Dante were continued through two seasons, and the Divine Comedy was completed. Current literature classes, too, were made very profitable, and books about which everyone was talking, were reviewed by different members. The history, art and literature of France were the topics for the last season's work in this department, with the happiest results.

In art, the Italian Renaissance, that blossoming time in the garden of art, has been the theme for [261] enthusiastic research for two seasons past, and the leader of this department, herself an artist and fresh from studs abroad, directed by text and photographs the study of famous masters and their works. From these photographs it was interesting to trace the change and progress of church doctrine, to become acquainted with local life in different cities, and to read the prevailing estimate of men and things as seen through the eye and brush of the artist. But more than all, the aim of the leader was to point out that which goes to make up the true pictures of tile world, both past and present. where shines from the canvas and the frescoed wall. the spark of genius and the light of beauty, whether of thought or interpretation.

In the department of science, lectures by teachers of botany were successfully given, the climax of which was one by the artist-botanist William Hamilton Gibson, whose eloquent lecture and artistic charts illustrating his topic, delighted his audience. A series of lectures on psychology was listened to with great interest. These were attended by many of the teachers of Cambridge schools. The importance of this subject to-day, to those who have the training of youth in charge, is recognized as never before, and prepares for more fitting service those engaged in this high calling, whether as mother or teacher.

The section of music has from the outset achieved marked results, a large choral class being organized at once and later on, a quartette, both of which have sung often before the club, and on public occasions. Classes for practice rehearse weekly, during the club year. The open meetings have provided entertainments of high order and contributed pleasure to large audiences outside club limits. [262]

The department of civics has studied the city charter and city ordinances, and furnished classes in the study of parliamentary law with instruction by Mrs. Harriette R. Shattuck. The aim of the leader has been to interest women in the science of government and good citizenship, and to raise the standard of public opinion for the coming generation. The benefit of parliamentary law is to make better club women of its members and fit them for greater participation in discussion and the giving of counsel.

In the home department the club achieved a well-earned and wide renown by its notable domestic science exhibit, given in the second year. The week which was taken up by this educative exhibit was fully occupied in interesting talks by experts on household topics, and the display of high-class food products, improved methods of work and the latest appliances in domestic utensils. The interest which was created by this exhibition and the influences set in motion by it will be widening for profit continually.

The Current Events section of the Club has been one of the most popular. Led the first two seasons by the club's beloved president, Mrs. Merrill, the success and interest developed were noteworthy. The inspiration imparted by such a leader, thoroughly conversant with current topics, anxious to make of her class intelligent and thoughtful readers, and animated by a never-failing enthusiasm in the work, cannot be estimated, and as a result the model class was very nearly attained. A class for mutual study conducted this department with good results, during the third season, and profited greatly by the zeal and interest developed among themselves. [263]

The Philanthropy section was the helping hand for several noble causes. The Cantabrigia Free Bed in the Cambridge Hospital, gifts to the Avon Home, the Relief Fund for Unemployed Women, and the East End Mission were among the benefactions of the club. Individual members also arranged pleasant outings for the children and mothers connected with the college settlement in Boston, and many another similar work has had its origin in the Cantabrigia Club.

In the three years the membership of the club has steadily increased, and at the close of its third year it numbers more than six hundred. Its activities have not only concerned themselves with class work and open meetings, but have provided also delightful social occasions at which friends have been invited to share its hospitalities. “Over the teacups,” or the lemonade glasses, its members become acquainted, and the outer circumference of the social circle comes to know its sisters near the centre, while the latter realize how helpful for both is the interchange of varied ideas and experiences.

Though the large and increasing membership of the club has its disadvantages, making it difficult to have that sociability possible among smaller numbers, it is hoped that this may be remedied soon by better clubhouse accommodations, and that a freer intermingling of those who only need to know in order to esteem one another may make of even large numbers a compact social unit. Certainly no other means has ever succeeded in bringing closely together so many of our Cambridge women and in breaking down the imaginary and yet very real barriers of locality and convention which had before separated them. Already its influence is felt in the community, and it is safe to predict that for the [264] future the Cantabrigia Club is a force to be reckoned with in our city.

Its members should recall often the consecration which was laid upon them in the words of Dr. Peabody at the christening ceremonies in which he said, “To christen is to make Christian; but in all the plans outlined of what the club proposes to do it seems to me that it has enrolled itself already as preeminently Christian.”

May the Cantabrigia never prove recreant to the benediction words of the loved pastor, whose voice was so soon after to be hushed in death. [265] [266] [267]

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