19 January 2023
GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — As she looks through a metal safety box that holds dozens of programs of a club from the past, Chris Garton says the club has always been a small group.
The title on another box holding the programs, photos and newspaper clippings is labeled “Wednesday Afternoon Book Club“. In it, you’ll find names still familiar in town such as Grimsley and Schenk.
“When I look through the archives and look through the pictures, I see so many family members that I knew and loved,” said Katie Houston whose mother and grandmother were both members.
Greensboro was still a somewhat small town in the last decade of the 19th century. The south was still barely 30 years past a Civil War that left it desolate and desperately poor. But Greensboro got on the move in the 1890s when The Normal College, which is now UNCG, was formed and created a certain vibe in town.
“It was due to some forward-thinking people, the idea of educating women was deemed to be important,” said Garton, who now works at UNCG.
Garton and Houston are both current members of the Wednesday Afternoon Book Club, and they have an admiration for what the women who are almost all from prominent families did to put this group together and make it more than just high tea twice a month.
“In those days, they researched, and it was very intellectual,” Houston said.
“In 1897, there was not a public library in Greensboro,” Garton said. “Members of this club pooled their money and donated more than $100 to library.”
That would be about $3,700, today.
As the club celebrates its 125th anniversary, the current members hope to keep the tradition going for another century and beyond with some adjustments. For example, they now meet once a month for lunch, rather than tea (and perhaps a nip of sherry, back in the day – shhh!), but they’re impressed that it made it this far.
“I don’t’ know what all went on with the Spanish Flu epidemic,” said Garton of the influenza wave that killed millions between February of 1918 through April of 1920. “During COVID, we couldn’t meet. We couldn’t have our lunches. So these old birds got on Zoom, and we had our meetings.”
“We certainly did,” Houston said.
Even in this digital and streaming age, these women are confident that a club like this that reads mostly old-fashioned hardback, printed books will thrive.
“I think there’s a lot of interest in reading,” Houston said. “I think one of the challenges will be how they navigate how a lot of women are now working…going to a luncheon is more of a challenge… in my own case, I couldn’t attend for many years because I was working.”
See more of the Wednesday Afternoon Book Club in this edition of The Buckley Report, including the way they send out every year in a big way.