Recognizing National Women's History Month
The Woods Hole Woman's Club
by Charlotte Emans Moore
In honor of National Women’s History Month, this week’s Dispatch celebrates the Woods Hole Woman’s Club and its contributions to our community. It draws upon over a century of the organization’s papers, which are carefully preserved in the Historical Collection’s archives.

We thank Charlotte Emans Moore, member of the WHHM steering committee and author the history of the Woods Hole Woman's Club, "The Ladies of Woods Hole Never Do Things By Halves," for writing this week's edition of the Dispatch

Before passage in 1920 of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution granting women the right to vote, American women had few means to affect change whether outside the home or in the nation. As a result, Progressive Era women across the country founded volunteer associations dedicated to, among other topics, education, self-improvement, women’s rights, temperance, child labor reform, and public health. The Woods Hole Woman’s Club, established in the village during the winter months of 1914, empowered the community’s wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters to extend their influence toward concerns with lasting impact on the region.
“Woods Hole,” Announcement of Patriotic Meeting, Falmouth Enterprise, 26 May 1917
Inspired by the success of an informal domestic science class held in the Parish House at the Church of the Messiah, Woods Hole resident Lena Slawson Drew called a meeting of women to her house on North Street (across from present-day Swope) where they established a committee to draft the Club’s constitution and elected officers
 Lena Slawson Drew (1865-1946), the Club’s initiator, charter member, and first president
Residence of Lena Slawson Drew, corner of North Street and what is now MBL Street
 These motivated women gathered in each other’s homes to initiate audacious objectives for personal growth and civic improvement, principles which inform the Club’s activities to this day at its monthly meetings, held in the same building at Church of the Messiah (and by Zoom during Covid!).
 Parish House, Church of the Messiah, Church Street
Literature, art, theater, musical performance, and guest lectures by scientists, social reformers and politicians, among others, provide the means by which Club women into the twenty-first century have taught each other to think critically about the world as informed participants of a modern nation
Josephine W. Fish (1863-1952), charter member and first treasurer

Sarah Fisher (1871-1963), charter member and second president
Jennie G. Vedeler (ca. 1864-1937), charter member and first secretary
Addie M. Hatch Gifford (1859-1953),
 charter member
Lunette Luscombe (1860-1947),
charter member
Working to improve the quality of life in the village, members have advocated for and initiated a variety of measures that present-day residents may take for granted. Among these highlights include organizing village-wide trash pick-up before municipal management took over in later years, securing a District nurse to help implement local public health measures that ultimately became the acclaimed Visiting Nurse Association of Cape Cod, and initiating coordinated home front relief work for World War I and II, subsequently under the auspices of the American Red Cross.
“Woods Hole, Annual Clean Up Day,” Falmouth Enterprise, 8 May 1920
District Nurse,”
Falmouth Enterprise, 13 May 1916
Elizabeth A. Eliot-Smith (later Gifford) (ca. 1875-1961),
hired by the Falmouth Nursing Association as its first District nurse
In 1933, the Club urged the Town of Falmouth’s Parks Department to build a tennis court at the ball park in Woods Hole, and in 1959 the Club again worked with the Town to assign numbers to all homes, thus establishing house-to-house mail delivery in the village. In each instance, the Club’s membership perceived a need in the community, identified a solution, and filled the void with practical contributions that have created beauty, necessary resources, and an improved quality of life.
“Play at Woods Hole,”
Falmouth Enterprise, 8 June 1933
“Woods Hole House Numbering is Asked,” Falmouth Enterprise, 13 February 1959
The Woman’s Club has invented and re-invented various components of its identity, emphasizing some aspects of its work over others, depending on members’ requirements and the community’s needs. However, the Club has consistently made education a central priority--a cornerstone of its commitment to empowerment through self-improvement. Since the 1920s, the Club has supported the college aspirations of the community’s youth, recognizing that hard work alone does not ensure access to expensive higher education. Currently, the Club gives annual scholarships to high school students residing in Falmouth’s Precinct One. The Club’s philanthropy also has promoted a wide variety of local educators including the Penikese Island School, the Woods Hole Child Center, Head Start, and the Children’s School of Science
Bookplate, drawn by member Persis Crowell
In appreciation of the Woods Hole Library’s encouragement of life-long learning, the Club has supported many of this institution’s endeavors, from cash for its operations, to outdoor landscaping, the purchase of a stone bench, and bookshelves for its children’s room. Beginning in 1944, the Club established a program to honor its deceased members with the donation of a book in their memory, a tradition that has survived into the twenty-first century. As a repository of tribute books, the Library thus serves as a cultural monument to these women who have served the community and as a gift for future generations who benefit from these commemorative volumes.
Inaugural entry from “Minutes of the First Meeting of the Woman’s Club of Woods Hole,” 2 February 1914
and the cover of the first Club Directory, 1914-1915
Through voluntary association for more than a century, these women have forged a group consciousness empowered through collective education, crusaded as agents of progress for their families and the Woods Hole community, lobbied on behalf of educational objectives, and in the process cultivated life-long friendships. During National Women’s History Month, the Woods Hole Historical Collection & Museum is honored to celebrate this organization’s contributions!
Past Presidents, left to right: Maria Moore, Laura Livingstone, Diane Maranchie, Ellie Prosser Armstrong, Dorothy Aspinwall, Lyn McNaught, Nancy Chute, Julie Child, Nancy McDonald, Mary Walsh, Olive Beverly, 2013-2014
All photographs are from the institution’s archives; all newspaper articles are from the Falmouth Enterprise. To learn more about this organization and its history, see Charlotte Emans Moore, “The Ladies of Woods Hole Never Do Things by Halves”: The Woods Hole Woman’s Club, Self-Improvement, Community Service, and Fellowship, 1914-2014, (2015), available for purchase in our Museum Shop, and through our website here
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Woods Hole Historical Museum
579 Woods Hole Road (P.O. Box 185)
Woods Hole, MA 02543
Phone: 508-548-7270