The Woman’s Club of Ouray County (WCOC) had their first meeting on March 13, 1897 when a small group of women met in the jury room of the Ouray Court House. The women met to organize a club for friendship, inspiration and cultural growth. Its designated purpose would be self-improvement and community service. As noted in the Ouray Herald “its object is not alone the advancement and benefit of its members, but it proposes to lend active encouragement to the establishment of a public library and work for that end.”
Almost as soon as the Woman’s Club was founded, the club became a member of the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs, one of sixteen clubs that joined the state and national federation at that time. This makes the WCOC one of the oldest clubs in the United States.
The first president was Frances Kimbell. She organized the club into five departments; Art, Current Events, Home, Music and Literature. Each department group had their own regular monthly meetings with assigned topics for discussion. Mrs. Kimball served as the president for nine consecutive years.
The new library was housed in a Court House jury room, and it had about 300 volumes. It was originally called the Lincoln Memorial Library. In 1901, the library was renamed the Walsh Library and was moved into the new Ouray City Hall. Wealthy Camp Bird Mine owner Thomas Walsh contributed the funding to have a second floor built on city hall for the purpose of a public library, gymnasium and free hall for the benefit of all City of Ouray citizens. It was decided that a representative from the Woman’s Club would serve on the board of the new Walsh Library, and this individual would make regular reports to the Woman’s Club. Many of the books for the original Walsh library were donated.
There were also extra books that the library couldn’t use that were donated to local schools in the county. At two different occasions, the Woman’s Club also created boxes of around 50 library books that were donated to a traveling library committee of the Colorado Federation of Woman’s Clubs. The first box was called the Ouray Box and the second donated box was called the Francis Kimball box.
The second president of the Woman’s Club was Grace Rice. She was the sister of Frances Kimbell. While she was president, her focus of concern was the condition of Cedar Hill Cemetery. Her 15-year-old daughter, Bessie, died suddenly from scarlet fever. Mrs. Rice was distraught over the condition of the cemetery, and in 1908 organized the Cemetery Association. Mrs. Rice urged the Ouray City Council to hire a man for five months a year to take care of the cemetery, with the Woman’s Club covering half of the expenses. Intermittent neglect occurred, and Mrs. Rice published a letter in the Ouray Plaindealer on July 14, 1911 that stated, “When I turned to the little burial spot where our citizens have been laying their loved ones for more than a quarter of a century, and contemplated the weeds, and the neglect evidenced on every hand, I began to seriously ponder on what was wrong—for there is certainly something wrong when a community as old as ours has such a desolate burial place”.
There was a name change from the Woman’s Club of Ouray to the Woman’s Club of Ouray County to include all women in Ouray County. The club throughout the years has been involved in numerous philanthropic causes to benefit county citizens.
There will be a historical talk presenting the history of the Woman’s Club of Ouray County during the Ouray County Historical Society evenings of history. This presentation is scheduled for Tuesday, July 26 at 7:00 p.m. at the Wright Opera House in Ouray. Please plan to attend to hear more about the Woman’s Club of Ouray County!
Link to Ouray County Historical Society – Evenings of History Information:
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Click HERE to visit the Ouray County Historical Society website for the 2022 Evenings of History information
Click HERE to visit the Wright Opera House website for the Wednesday movie information and to purchase tickets