Shakespeare Club news
The photograph of the current membership of Shakespeare Club was taken following its Dec. 12 meeting. This 2019-2020 club year is notable since it marks the 135th consecutive year of the Club’s existence.
The Fredonia chapter was founded in 1885 following the “Grand Tradition” of the latter part of the 19th century when societies initiated a vast network of more than 500 Shakespeare Clubs across America. The Fredonia club had the rare distinction of being open solely to women. Most of the rest of these organizations drew from a cross-section of the population, open to both men and women.
Those that were only open to women drew their membership from a group of women who wanted to educate themselves, work for suffrage, and find an intellectual community of their peers. They found ideas and themes in Shakespeare that resonated beyond the commonplace, giving them a voice – a voice in defiance of the fact that women could not apply to most colleges and were told that their activities should be relegated to the home.
It is of interest to note that there were originally several similar Shakespeare Clubs dating from the same period and the majority of them have ceased to exist. Fredonia’s club holds a unique distinction of longevity.
The Fredonia Shakespeare Club has maintained most of the features and guidelines set forth by the original founders in 1885. The first yearly meeting of the Club is always the first Thursday afternoon of October. This meeting is the “Opening Tea.” Members are encouraged to bring guests. The program includes a speaker who addresses the Club’s chosen area of study for the year followed by a social tea. Following the Opening Tea, the Club meets weekly, Thursday afternoons at 2:30, until each member has presented her research paper based on the year’s chosen general topic. The Club’s by-laws allow for a maximum of 20 members. The final meeting of the Club year is the birthday celebration to honor William Shakespeare. This meeting is held in April. The sole exception to the original guidelines is the broadened scope of topics beyond that of our namesake.