Congenial friends, study and discussion: The Denver Fortnightly Club
On April 13, 1881, the first meeting of the Denver Fortnightly Club took place in the Capitol Hill home of Ella and Charles Dennison. The Fortnightly Club is notable as one of Denver's first women's clubs and one of the very few that focused on academics and education over philanthropy (though nearly all of its members belonged to philanthropic organizations of one kind or another). Also remarkable: the Fortnightly Club has been meeting, well, every fortnight (two weeks) since the group's founding.
The original purpose of the club was "the union of congenial friends for study and discussion," and, "for the furtherance of good in such practical ways as may from time to time be presented to the Society." In practice, that has translated into club members writing and presenting papers in subject categories such as Art and History, Science and Philosophy, Literature, and Current Topics.
Each week, a member submits her paper to the club for approval. If the paper is accepted, it is presented at the next meeting where members critique and discuss it.
Over the past 139 years, the Fortnightly Club has been home to a rolling cast of Denver women who value continuing education in a female-friendly environment. Reflecting an egalitarian edge, the club does not elect presidents, but rather assigns members to the presidency in the chronological order of their membership.
DPL and the Fortnightly Club
The Denver Public Library has had a long and happy relationship with the Fortnightly Club. Every year, the club votes on its best paper, which is then preserved in a manuscript collection (C MSS WH741) housed in the Western History and Genealogy Department. The Club has also donated multiple pieces to the Denver Public Library's Art Collection, including the Allen Tupper True painting pictured above.
Current Fortnightly Club member (and WHG volunteer) Deborah Wadsworth commented on the relationship between the two groups saying
The Fortnightly traditionally donates a book to the DPL in remembrance of a past member. The Fortnightly book committee consults with family members and with DPL librarians to choose appropriate books. It is a touching experience to open a beautiful book in Western History/Genealogy and find the dedication to an old Fortnightly friend.
Fortnightly forged another connection with the DPL when the club placed its historic papers in the DPL archives. The Club requires members to regularly write and present literary papers. An ornamental chest housed the papers for many years. The DPL makes “The Chest” and all its contents available to the public. Member’s literary papers and club records from its founding in 1881 to the present reside at the DPL. Topics vary from the watercolor-illustrated scroll of Japan by Helen Henderson Chain in 1892 to history of the art community in Colorado written by artist Elisabeth Spalding in in 1924 to an interview with Dr. Florence Sabin, the first woman elected to the National Academy of Science, to this year’s chosen paper, whatever that may be.
Throughout its history, the Fortnightly Club has been a place where women have been free to learn amongst friends. DPL is proud to be associated with this historic and uplifting group.
I would be honored to become a member of the Denver Fortnightly Club.
Fascinating. Thank you, as always, for a peek into the past that is illuminating and thoughtful.
Thanks Brian for a nice piece. One correction, however; members no longer submit their paper for approval before its presentation, they just choose whatever topic they wish and present it on the date of their choice. I’m currently the longest standing member and this has been the case throughout my 44 years in DFC and I suspect a long time prior.
I am wondering: was Mildred "Tweet" Kimball a member when she was alive? I knew her when I was young.
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