Stop 50: The 1926 Dade City Woman’s Club
1926 Woman’s Club Building from an organization begun in 1910.
At the opening of the $25,000 Dade City Woman’s Club on what was considered the outskirts of Dade City on Palm Avenue and 7th Street in 1926, news coverage was abundant. “The handsome new home of the Dade City Woman’s Club was thronged with a brilliant assemblage on Monday night, gathered together for the formal opening of the building. Katherine Elizabeth “Dollie” Maynard Hendley, president of the club, welcomed the dignitaries.” She discussed the first club for women in Fort Dade known as a literary club and the 1910 founding of the Woman’s Club in Dade City.
In 1909, a group of 15 women led by the first President, “Sallie” Embry, formed the woman’s auxiliary to the Board of Trade. The following year, the women felt they could do more productive civic work as a separate organization. The Woman’s Civic Club of Dade City was organized on May 10, 1910. The name changed one last time to the Dade City Woman’s Club which enabled them to be associated with the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs and become a federated club in 1913. This allowed them to extend their influence and usefulness to the rest of Pasco County and other areas of Florida.
From there, they were a presence to be dealt with! And should I say remain so in 2023? By the way, a fun historical fact many may now know is that Sallie Embry was fairly closely related to Kentucky pioneer via her husband’s lineage of Daniel Boone so perhaps she exhibited some of his tenacity in her leadership.
Reviewing the history at the dedication of the 1926 building, Hendley talked about the three previous locations that the club occupied in town. The first location of the Woman’s Club was a small frame building which was sold for a small profit; the building was the old sampling room that had been used near the Dade City Hotel which burned in 1909. Sampling rooms were used for vendors and traveling salesmen to display their products. The Sampling room was purchased for $250 and sold for $450. By 1915, the industrious ladies then purchased the residence of O.L. Dayton for $3,000 at the intersection of Church and 7th (It later became the site of South State Bank and was previous to that the site of The Pasco Theatre). They remodeled the two-story house for club purposes, paid off the mortgage by 1925 and sold it for $15,000. Taking a bit of a detour, they had hoped to build their new structure at Meridian and 10th, but Irving M. Austin who was developing the College Park area, offered an exchange, for the property of the current site at 37922 Palm Avenue. Now, she said proudly, we have a “$25,000” fireproof building.
The building was erected by George Gillespie and the interior decorating was completed by G. C. Newsome & Sons. The lovely building still proudly stands and has been the site of community events, weddings, political debates and all nature of community gatherings. It was fully restored in 2003.
The community-spirited group celebrated their 100th anniversary in 2009. Helen Anne Travis of the Times wrote, “You can get a lot done in a century,” as “the Dade City Woman’s Club once persuaded the City Commission to pass an ordinance banning cattle from roaming the street and leaving droppings in the city’s gardens.”
Dade City historian, Bill Dayton explained that there were many working women in the early years of the club as he reflected that their advocacy for women was probably the largest in early Pasco County and perhaps the entire region.
They were very supportive as a group of women’s suffrage but reluctant to speak out until after the passage which they embraced wholeheartedly.
One additional tidbit related to the very first Dade City Flower Show was uncovered. Historians and locals tend to credit the first flower show to the 1947 Dade City Garden Club which you will learn about at Stop 51, but in reality, a garden and beautification club was organized by the Dade City Woman’s Club in 1925 and a flower show was hosted soon after. Ironically Thelma Gilbert who you will read about in Stop 51 also won the sweepstakes prize of the very first flower show in 1930 sponsored by the Woman’s Club. Shh!!! Let’s keep that under wraps!
Read More at: Home – GFWC Dade City Woman’s Club (dcwc.org)