History of the Sippican Woman’s Club

In 1904 the Sippican Woman’s Club was formed by merging two local ladies’ societies. One was a discussion group originally organized by Mrs. John Allen in 1895. The other, begun by Mrs. C. O. Rundell, focused on intellectual and social improvement. The ladies devoted themselves to their personal goals and to  activities that benefited the Town of Marion. Their slogan was

Coming together is a beginning;

Keeping together is progress;

Working together is success.

In its second year, the Club joined the State Federation of Woman’s Clubs. With membership up to 38, meetings were moved from the Elizabeth Taber Library to the Music Hall. In 1914, Member Ida Reed persuaded the Club to sponsor a nursing association. Funds were raised with a summer fair and a fall rummage sale. In 1915, the Club hosted the State Federation’s Annual Meeting at the Marion Congregational Church.  The main topic of the day was Women’s Suffrage, with the meeting voting 203 in favor and 99 against.

Early in 1923, the Sippican Woman’s Club received a Certificate of Organization from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, constituted “… for the purpose of maintaining a club house and grounds for Social Meetings, for promoting Local Benevolent Work for Educational, Musical, Literary and Artistic Purposes, for Letting of Rooms, Furnishing Lunches and Dealing in Articles of Historical, Antiquarian or Artistic value.”

The Certificate of Organization was likely a prerequisite to the purchase of Handy’s Tavern, which occurred in May of that year. The Tavern, originally built by Caleb Handy in 1812 and subsequently known as “The Thompson House,” had been a private dwelling for several decades. Two SWC members, Alice A. Ryder and Clara M. Lewis, purchased the Tavern and sold it to the Woman’s Club. They spent $7800 for the building and grounds and another $4200 on essential repairs. The $12,000 debt was quickly paid by donations from the membership.

Additional funds came from renting two upstairs apartments, one to the Town nurse, the other to local teachers, and a storefront to the clothier Marty Sullivan.

The SWC was recognized by awards for outstanding community service for a great variety of activities. They sponsored ballroom dance lessons for local young people in middle and junior high school, promoted a club for boys ages 16 to 18, served hot cocoa to school children in the winter, sponsored dental clinics and obtained safety vests for local newsboys. During war years, the Club lent the Tavern for the Red Cross to meet and roll bandages.

In 1947, the Club began offering college scholarships to local students. To raise funds, the ladies continued to engage in numerous activities, including food sales, yard sales, Valentine’s Day lunches, children’s movies and fairs. In 1986, Members Jeanne Collison, Judy Harrison, Shirlee Thomas and Betsy Parks organized the first Holiday House Tour, to occur on the Saturday before the Sunday of the Marion Christmas Stroll. Since that time, the House Tour has made possible many scholarships to Marion students.

The Club continues to contribute to many worthy causes in our area, including the Council on Aging, Cape Cod Cares for Our Troops, the Boy Scouts, the Community Resources Network, the Greater New Bedford Women’s Center, the Sippican School, to name but a few.