Earlier this year the Pella Women’s Club celebrated the start of their 100th year as an organization. The group met at the United Methodist Church with a total of 43 women, members and their guests attending.
The program that followed was a very interesting and authentic style show entitled, “Styles from the Past” presented by Valerie Van Kooten. She was assisted by five students from Pella Christian High School, who served as models; Kaaske Miller, Lynae Engbers, Julyn Holmes, Jalayna Morgan, and McKinley Zula.
Clothing modeled ranged from 1900-1975; which mirrored the history of the Women’s Club. HIghlights from the show included:
-In 1900, dress length was at the ankle or below. Women wore hats and may have carried parasols and wore gloves to protect their skin from the sun. In those years, white delicate skin was the desirable look for women.
-Tiny waists were the, “the thing”; so women wore corsets with steel stays in them, to achieve tiny waists. Some tell of 17”-18” waists. Women were not expected to engage in strenuous activities, i.e. basketball, soccer, etc.
-There was a big change after World War I; the war had made corsets a moot point since many were melted down for the steel stays inside to be used for the military. Dresses became looser, with dropped waists, hemlines higher, right at the knee. Women parted with their sometimes waist length hair, as shorter hair worked better with the cloche hats of the day—tight fitting “tskull” caps. They wore lots of long beads, rolled down stockings and rouge on their knees. This was known by many as the. “flapper era”.
-In the 30’s, hemlines drop again. Floral fabrics came in, as well as bias cuts and shoulder pads. Shoulder pads made waists appear smaller.
-In the 40’s, there were war time shortages, therefore, hemlines went up, skirts shorter and tighter, (to conserve fabric.) Hosiery was hard to come by and “leg make up” comes in. Women would draw lines on their legs to resemble seams of hosiery. The 50’s were the opposite extreme; circle skirts and poodle skirts, lots of crinolines, and beaded sweaters.
-In the 60’s we saw the Jackie Kennedy impact on fashions with Empire waists, bows , and pill box hats.
-The 70’s, saw the, “Hippie” influence with culottes, hot pants, short skirts, and lots of crazy colors. Hats and gloves were no longer worn by many women.
Van Kooten, who is a grant proposal writer at Central College and a fashion historian lecturer, pointed out many interesting facts and included the audience’s recollections during her presentation. Van Kooten has an extensive collection of clothing from the 1850s to the 1990s, with 90 percent of them being worn by Iowa women.
History of the Pella Women’s Club
The Pella Women’s Club was originally organized on May 19,1914 as the Pella Women’s Federated Club. At the time there were a total of 10 charter members.
The original goals of the group were to make some improvements in the community environment, parks and other areas. The following is a quote from the Pella Women’s Club Article in the Pella Chronicle in 1995.
“According to some of the first minutes, our first attempt was the improvement of Garden Square (Central Park). We were told we could donate the money and the men would spend it as they saw fit in beautifying the park. However, we were given permission to do what we wanted with South Park, because we ‘couldn’t hurt that unsightly weed patch anyway’. Memorial trees were planted in memory of World War I veterans. The Opera House, at that time, was being used as a rendezvous for gamblers and bootleggers and the Federated Club had it thoroughly renovated inside and out. A restroom was opened and a small fee was charged for the use of it.”
Other projects completed by Pella Women’s Club were:
-In 1915, a Baby Clinic was held and 50 babies were entered. This was the first one of it’s kind in the State. The winning baby was Ray Vander Linden and the second place was Eva Mae Van Houweling.
-In 1928, $400 was raised for playground equipment in West Market Park. In 1929, the club gave windmills to the city of Pella for each entrance and the Sunken Gardens Park.
-In 1930, a drinking fountain was installed in West Market Park.
-In 1937 a wading pool was put in and then later filled with sand. Members felt supervising play activities was important and later hired a supervisor to look after youngsters at play during the day.
-Through out the years Chautauquas were brought to Pella and held on Lincoln School grounds.
-The Club was instrumental in supporting a Camp Fire Girls program in Pella.
-The Club packed boxes of clothing for Russian War relief in the mid 1940s and also held talent and variety shows.
-The club members helped with vaccinations in the community.
-They approached the City Council for city pick-up of garbage and many other civic projects.
-In 1974, The Parade of Provinces Float was initiated. To this day it is an important part of the Tulip Time Parade. Club member, Elinor Bogaard yearly finds women with appropriate Dutch Costumes to ride on the float.
-In 1995, the Club decided to withdraw from the General Federation of Women’s Clubs and is now known as The Pella Women’s Club. Our purpose, as stated in our Constitution, “shall be individual development, united effort toward harmony, charity and that broad culture which comes through education and service to others.
In the past few years, only one fund raiser has been held; that is the Annual Card Party, usually held in November. All profits are dispersed to local charities. Many of the members are very active in other organizations, volunteer work and church groups. Due to this, some of the activities are now being performed by other groups.
Pella Women’s Club meetings are held monthly from September through May. They meet the third Tuesday of each month at the United Methodist Church, 1414 University St. in Pella, unless otherwise designated. Refreshments are served following the meetings which begin promptly at 1:30 p.m., unless otherwise designated. Guests are always welcome at all meetings.
Membership is open to all women. Annual dues are $15, payable in May for the following year. Associate membership dues are $20. Associate members may be asked to co-host with a regular member and maybe asked to serve on some committees.