‘Seeking the light of wisdom’: Edwardsburg’s Monday Evening Club celebrates 130 years

Published 10:43 am Saturday, May 18, 2024

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EDWARDSBURG — A group of women gathered in the Edwardsburg History Museum Monday evening to chat and enjoy their monthly meeting. It was something the group had done many times before, but Monday night was different as the group will soon be celebrating 130 years of friendship and community service.

This year, Edwardsburg’s Monday Evening Club will be celebrating its 130th anniversary.

 “What I love about this is the history of it and the fact that it’s lasted that long and all of us Are participating in something historical,” said MEC President Laura Jamrog. “We are creating our own history so that 50, 100 years from now, ladies will look back on what we did.”

The club was initially organized to improve literacy and engage in charitable and civic affairs. The Monday Evening Club’s first meeting was hosted Nov. 19, 1894, inside of Mary Latson’s millinery store. The eight founders of the club include P.D. May, Frances Sweetland, Mary Schock, Mary Carlisle, Mary Latson, Kitty Reed, and Belle and Lydia Blaire. They decided their first study should be “Hard Times”, by Charles Dickens.

At the first meeting, the women decided the club would be limited to 20 members, would meet at 7 p.m. every Monday evening and have a program aligned with the motto, “We seek the light of wisdom.” 

“When you think back, a lot of the women were farmers or their husbands had a business here,” Jamrog said. “It was probably one of the only ways that they really got a chance to catch up with each other and catch up with what was going on in the world in society.”

The club no longer meets every Monday, but instead meets the second Monday of September, October, November, December, February, March, April, May and June. Despite some changes, members said the goal of serving the community and seeking wisdom remains the same.

While club members have benefited from modern technology in recent years, Jamrog remains impressed by the dedication of members who crafted programs before computers and the internet were available.

“When you think about that, we’re lucky,” she said. “We have Google and everything. Those ladies had to go to the library and find what they could. It’s just fun being part of history and creating our own.”

Making an impact

Over the years, the club has worked on a number of projects. In 1910, the club appointed a committee to establish the steps to be taken toward Edwardsburg becoming a village, and after working for 17 months, the village was formally incorporated on March 18, 1912. In 1914, the club collected money and planted 28 maple trees in the village park. In 1923, the club placed a boulder opposite the school to mark the “Old Chicago Trail.”

In the 1930s, the club secured books from the state for a “traveling library” for community use. During the 1940 war years, the club supported troops by sending cards, letters and packages to servicemen and women, helped with salvage collections, victory gardens and collecting money for the Red Cross and the Percy Jones Army Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Today, the club looks a little different. For example, it The group is also still active in the community, donating to the schools, food banks, the Edwardsburg Sports Complex and collecting toys for children during the holidays.

This year, the club donated funds, food and cleaning supplies to the Cass County Animal Shelter.

“Wherever there’s a need, we try to give back,” Jamrog said.

For longtime members Sally Dalrymple and Shirley Andrews, the Monday Evening Club represents a space to learn and grow. Andrews joined the club in 1989 four years after moving to Edwardsburg and Dalrymple since 2005. 

“It’s an honor,” Dalrymple said.

Dalrymple’s mother was a longtime member of the club and was still a member when Dalrymple joined in 2005.

“It just seemed natural to be with all of these ladies,” she said. “I knew most of them because they were all Edwardsburg people and I had been in the community for a long time.”

Few know the ins and outs of the Monday Evening Club more than Virginia Kraft. Kraft, 98, who joined the club in 1972, is its current longest-serving member and has served every role in the group several times over. 

“When I was voted in, I had heard about (Monday Evening Club) from so many people,” she said. “I heard it was an invitation-only club and I didn’t know anything about it.”

Her favorite club program was a trip to the beach to explore lighthouses.

“The last time I was on the program committee, lighthouses were the theme so we went to St. Joseph and we walked on the pier out to the lighthouse,” she said. “Some of us went up into the lighthouse.”

A 52-year member of the club, Kemp has watched more programs than anyone. 

“It’s getting kind of hard to think of a theme that you haven’t already done,” she said.

For Andrews, being able to be a part of the MEC and carry on its rich tradition is very important.

“It is an honor,” Andrews added. “You feel like a part of the community even though there were people who were born here and lived their whole lives here. Sometimes you hear about that history and I always find that interesting.”

While much has changed in and around Edwardsburg over the years, the Monday Evening Club’s mission remains the same as it did when eight women metinside of Mary Latson’s millinery store 130 years ago. The MEC continues to take detailed minutes of each meeting and produce scrapbooks featuring each year’s programs in hopes of preserving the knowledge for future generations.

“This club has been the same except for subject matters for 130 years,” Jamrog said. “I really don’t know what would change it because you’re gonna always have people that have been in the club for quite a while and then you bring in new members, so the old traditions seem to carry on with the new members.”