The newest short-term exhibit in the Finney County Historical Museum’s Front Door Gallery has just opened, offering visitors a picture of how local women have founded and developed a wide range of associations, organizations, clubs and societies devoted to improving the quality of life in the community.
The display, entitled “See You at the Club,” is a project of Museum Education Coordinator Johnetta Hebrlee, and it combines text, excerpts and nearly a dozen photographs going back more than a century. It follows an observation made in Volume II of the History of Finney County, Kansas, first published in 1950: “Garden City’s women were not content to forsake the life they had left behind when they came to the small pioneer town on the wind-swept western prairie.”
The earliest apparent mention of a public organization in Garden City came in a local newspaper article of 1882, reporting the attempt to form a musical society or singing club, for which no later references were made, followed a few years later by formation of a men’s literary society and a women’s benevolent society.
The exhibit traces the founding of more than 70 local women’s organizations, beginning with the Ladies Benevolent Society in 1887 and continuing with the formation of seven separate groups as late as 1970. It also shows how, as Finney County grew, women’s organizations began to expand rapidly about 1890 – just 11 years after Garden City was founded.
Among some of the notable developments were the Monday Club, which has operated continuously since 1895 and is now celebrating a 125th anniversary. The display provides special attention to that organization, but also lists the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, formed in 1890 as part of a movement that ultimately resulted in national prohibition of alcoholic beverages in 1920. Among many others were the Cemetery Club and the Equal Suffrage Club, both constituted in 1894.
Plans call for the exhibit to remain in place through about Oct. 25. The Front Door Gallery is a small space just inside the museum’s main entrance, where displays changes repeatedly throughout the year. Admission is free and viewing hours run from 1 to 5 p.m. seven days weekly.
The new exhibit follows 2020 displays of mid-20th Century American bakeware and glassware, and American flags significant in local history. It will precede a traveling display about the 19th Amendment, provided by the League of Women Voters of Kansas.