A Fredericksburg Institution
The Literary Club of Fredericksburg was founded in 1892 and may be the second oldest club of its kind in Virginia. Only Richmond's Every Monday Club, organized in 1889 is known to be older.
The Literary Club of Fredericksburg was formed because women wanted to meet, read, and discuss good books to promote their intellectual lives. Membership was limited to thirty so that the gatherings could be held in private homes. The Club began with Mrs. Tapscott and Caroline Street neighbors Annie, Sallie and Mary Braxton. The three-article constitution describes the name and purpose, the officers and the members. Dues were 20 cents a year, and were eventually raised to 50 cents. The dues remain at 50 cents today.
To commemorate the Club's 90th anniversary in 1982, Dr. Edward Alvey, Jr. was asked to write "The History of the Literary Club of Fredericksburg 1892 - 1982". The book was published in 1984. Dr. Alvey was professor emeritus and former Dean of Mary Washington College. Mrs. Alvey was a long-time Club member and past president.
Men, even though later excluded as members, were invited to address the Club. The first president, Rebecca Smith, operated Smithsonia, a boarding house for elderly women at 307 Amelia Street. At the end of a program year, the theme was set for the next year, beginning in October. A chairman was selected for each meeting, who in turn selected three readers to prepare papers. The 1899 - 1900 theme was nineteenth century English and American literature - authors Thomas Moore, Jane Austen and Charles Lamb. Miss Anna Braxton, Mrs. V.M. Fleming and Mrs. Chewning were selected as readers. Miss Braxton chose "Paradise and Pen" from Thomas Moore, Mrs. Fleming presented a sketch of Jane Austen and Mrs. Schooler, substituting for Mrs. Chewning, read a selection by Charles Lamb.
The Literary Club marked its 125th anniversary last April. To learn more about the Literary Club and other Fredericksburg institutions, please visit the Center.