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When we see the Victorian home and well kept yard, many think tea parties. While that may have been a function, the Kearney Woman's Club has been on the forefront of social and political thought since its inception. The local organization was formed in 1887 and first titled "The Clio Club," not merging with the larger, national organization and calling themselves the "Kearney Woman's Club" until the mid 1900s. The club's gathering spot, ironically a house, was built in 1886 and remains standing and in use to this day.

Kearney Woman's Club 1886

Architecture, Neighbourhood, Photograph, White

It’s called "the Woman’s Club" as a tribute to the strong-willed women who made a difference in Nebraska’s future from the Bohemian Alps to the windy prairies of Fort Kearny, where pioneers heading to Buffalo County stopped for food, comfort and homesteading information on their way to a new life.

The Kearney Woman's Club (never Kearney Women's Club) was formed in 1887 at the home of Nora Jones, where they would discuss women's suffrage and equal rights in public affairs. During the Women's Suffrage Movement, the club would gain not only local notoriety, but also a national backing, so to speak, when Elizabeth Saxon, Vice President of the National Women's Suffrage Association, toured Nebraska.

The late 1880s and early 1900s were known as the club era, with many social and political clubs forming nation wide. Kearney was no exception. With visits from such famous women's rights leaders as Nellie Bly and Susan B. Anthony, the local suffrage movement gained more and more steam. According to her interview in the Kearney Hub in 2019, Marcia Trimble, honorary club historian, stated "it is reported that Susan B. Anthony stayed in the Kearney area for a few months." Focusing their effort on securing national voting rights for women, the Nebraska clubs missed the opportunity to allow women to vote until the nation voted for the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

Although the nation granted women the right to vote, the work of the club didn't cease. It was at that time that the members recognized the necessity for a centralized permanent location. Their current club house, built in 1882 and still standing to this day (although some modification have been made), was originally built as a private home by C.E. Hanson, who was sparred no expense. It is a classic Victorian home and contains charming details similar to German homes. Mr. Hanson even included a large, church like steeple. Although the home was built for the Hanson family, it was quickly sold to the Downing family, and remained their residence until 1930, when Maren Downing Morrison legally donated the house to the club in honor of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wallace A. Downing. The only condition was that it had to remain the Woman’s Club, and continue its commitment to helping the poor and needy of the community

After establishing a home, the Kearney Woman's Club continued its volunteerism. They have been involved in advocating for many positive changes for the Kearney community. Just some of their civic projects include: the Ronald McDonald House, the Trails and Rails Christmas Walk, Alzheimer’s patient support, benevolence funds, the Family Advocate Network, the S.A.F.E. Center, providing shots, dental care and clothing for needy children, and continuing the never-ending job of restoration for the future.

Willson, Dorthy S. "Kearney Woman's Club," Buffalo Tales. June 1st 1986. Accessed December 9th 2020.

DeWitt, Barbara. "Kearney Woman’s Club house is meant for the everywoman," July 24th 2019. Accessed December 9th 2020.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Buffalo County Historical Society