Members of the Edelweiss Club (Part 1)

Madeline Abercrombie and unidentified friend from my grandmother Fannie Turner Graham’s album.

During the time of the Edelweiss Club – 1918 – 1919, a flu pandemic raged. Schools were closed and then opened. Students returned to Montgomery from Fisk and Tuskegee due to the pandemic. People appeared on the sick list in The Emancipator newspaper. Some died.

The United States became involved in the first world war. Times were far from calm and peaceful, but the women met and ate delicious refreshments, played whist, went to work, and lived their lives a hundred years ago.

The Edelweis Club was entertained last Friday evening by Miss Jessie Freeman. After whist the members of the club were served to a delightful luncheon. The guests were Misses Alice Snow, Lucile Caffey and Opheloa (sic) Peterson. The prizes were won by Miss Juanita Davis and Miss Annie Wimbs.

Who were the members of the Edelweiss Club?  Thirty-seven women attended the monthly meetings judging from news items that appeared in The Emancipator, beginning on January 12, 1918 and continuing monthly during the school year, until May 3, 1919. Some were members and some were guests and not all were present at every meeting. Thirty of them were teachers. One was a seamstress. Three worked in family businesses.  The other three were not employed and were relatives of members. Most of the members were single, some married as time went on. Some moved out of town.  A good number never married.

All of them came from literate homes. Most of their parents owned their homes, either free and clear or mortgaged. Their fathers tended to work for themselves as barbers, carpenters and plasterers. Bertha Loveless’ father was an undertaker. Madge Brown’s father was a farmer. Alberta Boykin’s father was a mail carrier. Several lived with their widowed mother or an aunt.  Most had multiple siblings.

Their parents were born in the mid 1850s to 1870 and would have been teenagers when slavery ended or were born during Reconstruction. Several were from families that were free before the Civil war. There were several clusters of cousins descended from unrelated women who were free and living in Montgomery before the Civil War.

There were no more reported meetings after May 3, 1919. The last event was a picnic dance given on June 16, just 3 days before my grandparents, Mershell and Fannie (Turner) Graham married and immediately moved to Detroit.

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