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The Ladies' Sewing Circle

Mrs. S. W. Fuller
This society was organized March 15, 1854. The following is a copy of the preamble to the constitution:—
It is the design of this society to strengthen and increase a social feeling among the members, and to assist by its funds any good and commendable enterprise of the religious society with which it is connected, or to contribute to any good object that a majority of the members may designate; and we as members agree to abide by the following constitution.

The names of the original members cannot be obtained; two years later, however, in 1856, we find a list in which are the following names:—

Mrs. N. T. Munroe, Mrs. Daniel Pratt. Mrs. Sewall Dodge, Mrs. Nathaniel Daniels, Mrs. John Mandell, Mrs. George Rogers, Mrs. E. Harmon, Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. James Runey, Miss Georgiana Williams, Miss Harriet Fitz, Mrs. W. Gage, Mrs. Giles, Mrs. H. Bradshaw, Mrs. H. Cutter, Mrs. Seth Stevens, Mrs. Childs, Mrs. George S. Fogg, Miss Martha Hadley, Mrs. George W. Ireland, Mrs. George H. Emerson. Miss A. Horton, Mrs. E. E. Cole, Mrs. Fitch Cutter. Mrs. Charles Munroe, Mrs. Charles Williams, Mrs. Abel Fitz, Mrs. Aaron Sargent, Mrs. Charles Tufts, Miss Mary Giles, Mrs. Edwin Daniels, Mrs. E. A. Bacon, Mrs. A. Waters, Mrs. Frank Russell.

The society started with forty-one members. The first president was Mrs. Nancy T. Munroe, for many years the editor, in connection with Mrs. E. A. Bacon, of the Ladies' Repository, since merged into the Christian [67] Leader. The first treasurer was Mrs. Charles Tufts, wife of the founder of Tufts College.

We have not been able to ascertain the name of the first vice-president, or that of the first secretary.

The following have been the successors of Mrs. Munroe in office: Mrs. Bradshaw, Mrs. Fuller, Mrs. Skinner, Mrs. Haven, Mrs. Carvill, Mrs. G. W. Ireland, Mrs. Ralph, Mrs. James Lombard, Miss Fannie Glines, Mrs. Eccles, Mrs. F. B. Burrows, Mrs. F. E. Borroughs, Mrs. E. C. Hall, Mrs. C. H. Pratt, and Mrs. L. H. Brown.

In the early days of the society the meetings were held at the homes of the members. This was in the days of the chapel, and the basket of work was carried from place to place. After the building of the first church, which was afterwards destroyed by fire, the meetings were held in the vestry, and supper was partaken of by the ladies present, the gentlemen not putting in an appearance until evening. At the first supper which the writer remembers, which was subsequent to 1858, all were seated at an ordinary sized extension table, such as could be found in any dining-room. There were twelve or fourteen in all, our pastor, Rev. B. K. Russ, being of the number. Each one carried her own napkin, knife, fork, and spoon, and somebody was sure to have an extra one for the minister. The crockery was owned by the Sewing Circle. It all went up in smoke with the rest of the belongings of the church.

The meetings of the society have been held once in two weeks, except during July and August. In the report of the secretary of some years since, we find that ‘the afternoon was spent mostly in conversation and sewing.’ This same report will apply to all regular meetings.

In the days of the Rebellion the society made many articles for the soldiers, articles sewed and articles knitted. At that time meetings were held every afternoon. At the time of the Chicago fire a number of articles [68] of clothing were made and word being received that there was a full supply in that desolate city, the articles were sold, and the money sent to Chicago. Twice the society has met at the Little Wanderers' Home and sewed for the inmates of that institution.

The Sewing Circle paid for the carpets, upholstering, organ, and pulpit furnishings of the first church, and when the present building was finished, the same thing was repeated.

The minister's room was furnished, or, perhaps better, the articles in that room were furnished by the Ladies' Circle. It worked for a fair at the North End Mission, helped carpet the vestry, paid part of the quotas to the state convention, newly carpeted the pulpit, contributed towards paying the choir one or more years, made a donation to the sanitary commission in the dark days of the Rebellion, paid for improvements in the janitor's rooms, and for sanitary arrangements, bought a pew in the church and paid $500 for the same, furnished a scholarship at Tufts College for four years (it was helped in this by the Sabbath School), made a donation to the Bethany Home, paid $150 toward the expense of the lawsuit in which damages were claimed of the Lowell railroad, occasioned by change of grade in the street, paid for swing doors in the vestibule, paid a small sum towards the church debt. and has contributed a neat little sum towards the new Social Hall. In all, the Sewing Circle has raised about $15,000, the most of which has been paid back into the parish. The bread cast upon the waters returned after many days.

A ‘recital’ of the work in which the Circle has been engaged would hardly be complete without mention of the ‘suppers’ which have been served from time to time. Some seasons it might be said they were served all the time. The evenings have been spent in sociability and the enjoyment of entertainments of various kinds. The similarity of these gatherings has been covered up by [69] the application of different names, sometimes to designate a special food which would be served, and sometimes to distinguish the character of the entertainment. When the society bought its tables, the report says, ‘Fifty sat at the first table, and forty-eight at the second.’ At the present time it has tables, crockery, and silver for a vestry-full. When the first silver was bought, at a cost of $79.23, a ‘silver supper’ was given, to which no admission was charged, but a ‘silver collection’ was taken at the table. These knives, forks, and spoons were all carried away by burglars, and no trace of them has ever been found.

It therefore became necessary to purchase more, and the society has now more than made up its loss.

A spelling match was held in the vestry, under the auspices of the Sewing Circle. This was between members of the Sabbath School on one side, and any who chose to take part on the other side. The first prize was taken by a member of the Ladies' Sewing Circle. The May-day parties have become a regular feature of the enterprises of this society, and a few years since a very enjoyable entertainment was given of ‘Living Whist.’ At one of the sociables held at a private house, Rev. B. K. Russ christened the infant daughter of one of the families of the parish.

Thus, in a very fragmentary way, has the writer of this article endeavored to give a condensed account of the work of the Ladies' Sewing Circle. It has been attended with many tribulations, as there are no records of the secretary further back than 1871.

The society to-day is, as it has always been, one of the strongest and most efficient organizations in the church. Its monthly suppers and socials are now attended by hundreds, many coming from other churches. On an average, $500 or $600 is raised annually from this source alone. In recent years the men have had charge of one [70] supper each fall. The annual supper brings out from three to four hundred guests. Tables, chairs, and dishes for the entertainment of 300 people have been recently purchased, the parlors have been re-decorated and refurnished, so that now the ladies have facilities for their work second to none in the city.

The annual meeting has been changed from January to May. The following officers have been elected for the coming year: President, Mrs. Lyman Brown; vice-president, Mrs. Ida Smith; secretary, Mrs. J. F. Mills; treasurer, Miss H. Whipple.

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