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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Oconto Falls Women's Club Disbands After 115 Years

Issue Date: October 24, 2019

After much consideration and regret, members of the Oconto Falls Women's Club at their Sept. 23 meeting voted to disband after 115 years of service to the community, due to declining membership.

In 1904, a group of 12 women met to organize a club, purpose of which was to promote the use of good English and the art of expressing oneself in ready speech. The Society was was named FOS Club, meaning Freedom of Speech, and the meaning of the letters was a secret for a period of time. Members presented educational programs on such topics as American Literature and American History, speaking without the aid of notes. Planning menus and serving the food received as much attention as the programs.

During the second year, a public library for Oconto Falls was the focus, resulting in the rental of a room in the bank building and a collection of books. Club members acted as librarians, and in 1907, the library was turned over to the Village of Oconto Falls.

When World War I broke out, the F.O.S. Club took on helping with the war effort, such as rolling bandages and knitting for the soldiers, while studying the service organizations such as the Salvation Army, Knights of Columbus, Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. while continuing to support the library.

In 1921, membership was opened to all the women in the community, and the group joined the State and National Federation, with focus on the library and building project for which they donated and raised funds for the library building which was started in 1925. A $10,000 from the estates of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Cook was given toward the library building on the corner of Washington and Manufacturer's Streets. On Oct. 19, 1926, a meeting of the FOS was held in the new Charles Cook Library.

In 1927, the FOS name was changed to the Oconto Falls Women's Club and the Club voted to sponsor the Helen Farnsworth Mears Art Contest in the City Schools. During the depression, members served as board members for associated charities and helped to provide funds for band uniforms for the newly organized high school band, as well as supporting the Dramatic Club. As time went on, other projects for the good of the community included funds towards the purchase of a bed for the hospital, a resuscitator, a baby clinic, and serving lunch for an immunization clinic.

During the years of World War II, members sponsored the War Fund Campaign, made 10 scrapbooks for hospitalized servicemen, worked on the Rationing Board, made dressings, collected clothing, etc. Because of gas, coffee, and sugar rationing, meetings were changed to once a month and lunch menus were simplified. When the war ended, a new hospital became the project of the community as a War Memorial, and Women's Club pledged $1000, with $651 being raised toward that goal from an auction.

The Korean Conflict started in 1950 and the new hospital opened. Members collected clothing to ship overseas and helped with sewing and other duties for the hospital. In 1952, a Swap Shop was opened, first upstairs at City Hall, and later to rooms below the bank. Money received from donated clothing and other items were sold to aid in the purchase of hospital equipment. A committee was formed to look into the organization of a Hospital Auxiliary.

Over the years, many programs/trips were presented to provide information, education, enrichment and entertainment to area residents. Fundraisers included style shows, Parade of Homes, bake sales, cookbook sales with recipes from members, Stanley products, Christmas ornaments, rummage sales, and sales at Funfest of lemonade, cinnamon rolls, cookies, and milk.

Library and reading support has always been a priority, with donations toward signs, bike rack, books, summer reading program, planting of flower barrels, and the Oconto/Marinette County Literacy Council. Members did story hours for children at the library. From 1994 to 2019, 42 scholarships were provided to Oconto Falls students. Members also participated in or contributed to The Avenue of Lights, Mitten Tree/other clothing for needy children, Home Respite Care, seat sponsorship for the OFHS PAC, Oconto County Teen Court, Police Department Crimes Against Children, Girl Scouts, bike rodeo, Helen Mears Art Contest, Trees for Tomorrow, and annual Senior Teas honor ing female graduates and their guests. The first Senior Tea was held in the Cook Memorial Library in 1951 and then in member homes until 1961 until it was moved to to the Grace Lutheran Church hall where it continued through 2019.

Officers at the time of disbanding are Romelle Delzer, President, Carol Marquardt, Treasurer, Verna Peterson, Secretary, Ruth Trudell, Parliamentarian.


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