It’s like something you’d see in a museum. In long, fancy dresses, original members of the Woman’s Book Club of Everett pose properly on the steps of the Hotel Monte Cristo.
The picture was taken in 1895, a year after the club got its start at the Everett home of Mary Lincoln Brown. She’s identified in the photo as Mrs. C.C. Brown, as wives of the era often used their husbands’ names.
These daintily dressed women were an influential lot. At a get-together June 10, 1894, they did more than admire the tasty jelly Mary Brown had made. They talked about the need for a public reading room in town.
Their first official meeting, July 2, 1894, included 23 charter members who adopted the name Woman’s Columbian Book Club of Everett — they later dropped “Columbian,” according to a 2005 HistoryLink essay. That meeting was in the home of Alice Baird, the club’s first president.
By the end of 1894, they had petitioned Everett’s mayor and City Council to open a free public library. The first library, in a few rooms at City Hall, opened in 1898. The club paid the librarian’s $15-a-month salary. By 1905, the substantial brick Everett Public Library opened on Oakes Avenue. Built with $25,000 from Andrew Carnegie, it was filled with some 2,000 books collected by the club women.
Today, as the club marks its 125th anniversary, it has more than 300 members in 20 smaller groups, or “departments,” with names that include Adventure, Classics, Diversity, Renaissance and Sisters. I belong to the Harmony group.
The club’s past and current contributions will be honored April 25 at the Everett Museum of History’s annual dinner. Scheduled for 6-8:30 p.m. at the Delta Hotel by Marriott in Everett, the event is a fundraiser for the museum.
Without a permanent home for years, the Everett Museum of History is now renovating a downtown building — long ago, the home of The Everett Daily Herald — that will house its vast collection and welcome the public. The museum acquired the building at 2939 Colby Ave. in 2017, thanks to a $3 million donation from the Elizabeth Ruth Wallace Living Trust.
Wallace, a Snohomish County native who lived in California, died in 2016.
“We call her ‘Aunt Bette,’” said Barbara George, the Everett Museum of History’s executive director. On Thursday, George walked visitors through the museum’s construction areas.
“Welcome to our future home,” George said as she took visitors through the large main-floor gallery space, and a smaller gallery where old Herald printing equipment will be. Downstairs, she pointed out a glassed-in area where curators will work. Si Newland, president of Newland Construction Co., Inc., is heading up the project.
The collection is packed away at several sites — Everett’s Culmback Building, upstairs at the Everett Mall, and at a storage facility. Money raised at the dinner will go toward the purchase of high-density storage units. Already in the building are fireproof file cabinets that will hold more than 10,000 photos, some on glass negatives.
George said the museum is glad to honor the book club, which played a big role in early Everett. In 1894, the club gave major support to the newly opened Everett Hospital, the city’s first, which was on Broadway.
The library’s old bookmobile, a modified Model T nicknamed Pegasus, will have an honored parking space in the museum’s basement, which has a ramp to the alley.
Noting the club’s push for a library 125 years ago, George said, “that intellectual level of living didn’t exist in the Everett area back then.”
Club members today are proud of its history. The book club recently created an endowment to continue its support of the library. Friendships and time spent sharing opinions about books keep women coming back to meetings, year after year.
“I’ve read books I would never have picked up. It’s also the camaraderie,” said Roberta Young Jonnet, the club’s historian. Asked about a favorite book she has read with her group, she named “The Girl Who Wrote in Silk,” by Kelli Estes, a story set in the San Juan Islands.
“The book club has been something very close to my heart,” said India Civey, president of the Woman’s Book Club. Honored to have her club recognized by the Everett Museum of History, she hopes that group will soon be able to welcome the community to its new home.
A museum, Civey said, “is not about the artifacts.”
“It is about the story of human beings, and their connection to that history,” Civey said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Everett Museum to honor book club
The Everett Museum of History will honor the Woman’s Book Club, which marks its 125th anniversary this year, at its annual recognition dinner 6-8:30 p.m. April 25 at the Delta Hotel by Marriott, 3105 Pine St., Everett. It’s a fundraiser for the Everett Museum of History. Tickets, $100 per person or $900 for a table of 10, available online at https://everett-museum.org/ or by calling 425-256-2520. RSVP by Friday.