How did this club come to have the name of “Edelweiss”? The women that were members were African American, not of German heritage. World War 1 was ongoing when the club started in January 1918. The song “Edelweiss” from the Sound of Music had not yet been written. The only book I found that may have been around at that time is Edelweiss: A Story By Berthold Auerbach, published in 1861. The edition I found online was published in 1878. There are modern editions so it might have been around in the early 1900s.

I found this synopsis of the story at Edelweiß: “One of the most famous stories about the edelweiss is of a young man risking his life climbing the steep rocky face of a mountain to gather edelweiss flowers for a woman as a demonstration of his love and bravery. In the 1861 novel ‘Edelweiss’, German author Berthold Auerbach exaggerated the difficulty of acquiring the flower, claiming: “The possession of one is proof of unusual daring.” This presentation was a reinterpretation of the story following an invitation to perform at F14 Gallery in Dresden, Germany.”

The Emancipator, Montgomery, Alabama · Saturday, February 09, 1918

“The Edelweiss Club met last Friday evening with Miss Juanita Davis on South Union Street, and was delightfully entertained.”

Juanita Davis was born in 1893.   She was the youngest of the six children Samuel and Mary (Hardaway) Davis. Juanita and her siblings attended school growing up. They all lived to adulthood.

Samuel Davis was a literate carpenter. They lived at 609 Grove Street, on the corner of S. Union. It was down the block from First Congregational Church and about a block south of Madeline Abercrombie and a block north of Fannie and Daisy Turner. Swayne School, Booker T. Washington School and the Montgomery Training School were very nearby. They owned their home free and clear of mortgage.

Her mother, Mary Hardaway, was born free to Josephine Hassell a free woman of color who in 1845 had been granted, the right to remain and live in Montgomery as a free person. The law was free people of color had to leave the state without such an Act by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Alabama.

When Juanita was twelve, her father died of uremic convulsions in 1905. He was 53. Uremia is caused by extreme, irreversible damage to your kidneys. This is usually from chronic kidney disease.

Juanita’s oldest sister, Viola, taught at Cemetery Hill School from 1904 until she married in 1911. After their father died, Viola was the only one working outside of the home. She continued teaching at Cemetery Hill until 1911, when she married.

Juanita started teaching in 1910.  She was 22 when her mother died. Juanita continued teaching up to 1922. She was active socially, attending club meeting and whist parties.  She may have married or died, but I was unable to find her after 1922

22 thoughts on “E – EDELWEISS

  1. I was curious how the Club got its name.

    It’s a shame you haven’t been able to find out – your theory sounds quite feasible.

    1. My grandmother died in 1974 and all the rest of the members are also long dead. Unless some other descendant is out here blogging and they know. That would be amazing and so wonderful!

    1. It’s a mystery. I figured something had to bring it to their attention. Perhaps the book did and they liked the meaning of the flower and the sound of the name. Or maybe something completely different – a lecture by a world traveler who had been to the Alps and talked about the flower.

  2. It is certainly a distinctive name. From Wikipedia “According to folk tradition, giving this flower to a loved one is a promise of dedication“ Perhaps the members were inspired by the suggestion of the promise of dedication?

    1. That could be. I think that was the theme of the book too. I wondered how that particular flower even came into their minds. I’m sure it doesn’t grow in Alabama. so I thought perhaps someone read the book. But maybe someone had a stereograph of the Alps and they saw it and voila – Edelweiss was born!

  3. I was curious about the name, and I’m sorry we don’t really know for sure why they chose it. It must have sounded beautiful and exotic to them, and with the symbolic meanings I can see why it could have been appealing.

  4. I’ve heard that story about the young man gathering edelweiss! For a long time, I also thought the song from Sound of Music was some Austrian folk song and was embarrassingly shocked to find out it was just Rogers & Hammerstein!

  5. This is such an intriguing mystery. Thanks for at least enlightening me about the reasons it could not have been called this name.

  6. What a beautiful name for a club of women. A name reflecting their strength and beauty. Thoughtfully presented as you give these women a moment to live in our minds.
    Thanks for your visit and enjoy yet another A to Z adventure!


    1. They were freed by the slave holder who, as I recall, was the father of Josephine Hassell’s children. Including Mary Hardaway and her sisters.

  7. Perhaps Juanita got married and/or moved away? By 1922 she would have been 29. Both her parents had died and being the youngest, she might not have had anyone else to support. Perhaps the young women saw themselves as that edelweiss flower, beautiful, independent, and not easily possessed.

    1. Yes, she could have gotten married. She could have moved to one of the places her older siblings lived and gotten married there. Or died there. Something happened to her, some where.

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