Lockport Mothers’ Club was first
With women representing approximately half of Niagara County’s population, it stands to reason that the county also has a goodly number of mothers. Over the years, many of these matrons have enjoyed a fellowship of cindered spirits and have banded together to form mothers’ clubs. But did you realize that some say Lockport has the rightful claim to founding the first Mother’s Club in the country?
In 1898, three young Lockport mothers felt it would be helpful to establish a group to exchange advice on the rearing of children, as well as building upon their knowledge of almost any subject. Those ladies were Mrs. Montford C. Holley, Mrs. Louis G. Merritt and Mrs. Arthur T. Poole. At the first meeting of The Lockport Mothers’ Club, eight mothers attended and the membership soon grew to about thirty. The groups claim as the first in the nation was established by Mrs. Herbert Hoover who invited the members to be her guests for a presidential tea in their honor at the White House.
The mothers met every two weeks and would send out printed programs of their annual events. Each year, they also prepared “whitepapers,” some with a childcare theme and others on a general topic of interest. Some subjects contained in these editions included, “Women Militant from Joan of Arc to Mrs. Pankhurst; Has Our Public School System Failed; Efficiency in the Home; Chaffing Dish and Casserole Suppers; Grandmothers’ Ways and Ours and The Women of the Caesers.”
The women also had annual picnics, usually in Olcott. Not wanting to be left out of all this fun, the fathers organized their own “auxiliary” group. Their purpose was to have a good time while entertaining the mothers. In June, 1905, they sent out invitations to be at the Erie Trolley Station at 1:20 PM sharp. Once folks arrived at the Olcott Beach Hotel, the group dined on little neck clams, mock turtle soup, boiled sea bass with lobster sauce, sweetbreads with truffle sauce, roast stuffed turkey, Oyster Bay asparagus, Nesserole pudding, cheeses, triscuit and coffee. Three years later, the men entertained their wives again with a trip on the Steamer Moon which traveled through the Lockport Locks with the fathers serving as a pirate crew onboard the ship. Attendees included Judge Cuthbert Pound, Commodore; Raphel Beck, captain and Daniel Sillesky, executive officer.
The women entertained the fathers, too, but usually at meetings held in the homes. The children, the prerequisite for the whole thing, were conspicuous in their absence. The first sign that there would be a Mother’s Club meeting in someone’s home would be the arrival of the funeral chairs, which were neatly stacked early in the morning on the hostess’ porch. The chairs would later be arranged in a circle in the living room. By the time the children started to arrive home from school, the “Mother’s Club buzz” had started with all of the women gathering in little “mini-clubs,” each person talking at the same time, louder and louder, until the din eventually rose to a fevered crescendo.
From the humble beginnings of the first mother’s club, Lockport Mothers’ Club went on to spur over 20 other neighborhood clubs around the county. Many of the clubs carried on the traditions of the original flag bearers and some adopted the mother’s club plan established by Cornell University who sought to help women on their way to becoming modern mothers.
Douglas Farley, Director
Ann Marie Linnabery
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094