The woman who joins the GFWC Monday Club of Saugerties is a person who is interested in volunteering,” says Audrey Klinkenberg, the club’s co-president. “Our motto is ‘Living the Volunteer Spirit.’ Many of our members are active in other town organizations as well — Friends of the Library, Boys & Girls Club, Kiwanis, League of Women Voters; these are women who are out there in the community doing things.”
Founded Dec. 2, 1896 by native Saugertiesian Mary E. Pidgeon Gillespy, the initial inspiration for the Monday Club came from Gillespy’s desire to give women a place to experience the kind of camaraderie so common in men’s clubs of the day.
“I’ve been reading old newspaper clippings of that time frame,” says Klinkenberg, “and there were so many organizations for men. They had lots of places where they could get away – but women were stuck at home with chores and housework. The Monday Club offered women the chance for enrichment in their lives.”
Gillespy was very active in the town; an educated woman from a well-to-do family, Klinkenberg says, whose father was a contractor and whose husband worked for Sheffield Mills and the Saugerties Manufacturing Company. The couple didn’t have children.
The club that Gillespy founded as the Monday Club of Saugerties became a part of the state federation of women’s clubs in 1902, then joined the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) in 1916.
That organization’s roots trace back to Jane Cunningham Croly, a journalist from New York who was denied admittance to a banquet honoring Charles Dickens at the all-male New York Press Club in 1868. Croly started a club for women a year later, and after two decades of operating at the local community level, she organized delegates from 61 other women’s clubs and they founded the GFWC. Its purpose is to act as a unifying force, bringing together small women’s clubs into a large entity, their strength in their number.
Today there are over one million GFWC members in more than 20 countries. In the U.S., the federation includes approximately 6,500 clubs. The GFWC Monday Club of Saugerties is one of eight clubs in the organization’s Mid-Hudson District, which encompasses Ulster, Schoharie, Albany, Rensselaer, Columbia and Greene counties. Of those eight clubs, one other is also headquartered locally: the GFWC Woman’s Club of Saugerties.
According to Audrey Klinkenberg, however, the two clubs each have a different focus and different activities, despite both being under the umbrella of the larger organization.
Saugerties Times asked Klinkenberg to tell us a little more about the GFWC Monday Club.
Where does the name of the club come from?
We meet every Monday from October through March, except for holiday Mondays and maybe one around the holidays in December.