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 Research Papers

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Kearney Women’s Club House

Part 1

Wallace A. (W A) Downing
Came to Kearney from Wisconsin in mid 1870’s
        Brother co-owner of Kearney Flour Mill
        Mother, Jane, lived here also.
            Was still in her own home at age 71

Dec. 9, 1891 – Eyesight May Be Impaired
Mrs. Downing, of 5th ave between 21st & 22nd was injured when a piece of wood flew up and hit her in the eye when she was cutting kindling wood. She is mother of W A & R L Downing.

Harness maker
1882 – Built brick 2-story building on Central for his harness making business (2106 & 2108 Central)

Downing House - located in the Ashland Addition of Kearney Junction at 723 W 22nd St.
1885 – construction began – House built by Charles Hanson
            about year later had financial problems

1887 – Wallace Downing purchased it for $10,000

1912 – W. A. died, widow continued to live in the house

1927 – Susannah Downing died

1930, Nov. 5 – Women’s Club Pres. Beulah Wirsig announced gift of the house
        Given by Maren Downing Morrison as a memorial to her parents
        Named Downing Memorial Club Home

What the original deed said


Deed filed on Dec. 12, 1930 by “Maren D. Morrison, as Trustee under and by virtue of the terms and conditions of the last will and testament of Wallace A Downing”

“At any time the use of said property be discontinued as a women’s club and memorial to my parents, it shall revert to me or my daughter, Georgianna Morrison Ely and Maren Downing Morrison or their children.”

Kearney Women’s Club (Timeline)

1887 – Clio Club organized
        – One project was to study the equal rights of women in public affairs.

1888 – Mrs. Elizabeth Saxon, VP of Nat. Women’s Suffrage Assoc. spoke Clio Club
        Some members formed a new group

        Named 19th Century Club – not because it was started in the 9th century
            Because Victor Hugo said “The Nineteenth century is pre-eminently the age of women.”
                  [Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame).]
        10 Charter members
        Study women’s work with municipal suffrage, culture and education
        Rebecca Hamer first president, wife of first lawyer, Dist. Judge by this time

        Limited membership to 50

1898-99 yearbook – “15 minutes of each meeting to be devoted to current events; general conversation will close each meeting”

1899 – Joined the Nebraska State Federation of Women’s Clubs
        (had been formed at state level in Dec. 1894)

1901 – Lifted membership restriction
        Formed 3 departments – Am. Lit., household economics, Music
        Met once a week, 4th week general meeting

1903 – added History
        Others added since then, esp. Civics & Child Welfare

1911 – Joined the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (national level)

1921 – Changed name from 19th Century Club to Kearney Women’s Club

Met in homes, Midway Hotel, Kearney Opera House top floor, Ft. Kearney Hotel

Meeting in Ft. Kearney Hotel when announcement about house was made

Some remodeling done to open up main floor

1980 – House placed on National Register – Alice Howell wrote application

2004 – Quit Claim deed removed former restrictions
        As owners with complete control they could now proceed with much needed repair and restoration

Community Projects (not a complete list)

Planted trees in 3rd Ward park; carried water to them
Planted a tree on Longfellow school grounds for each Kearney soldier killed in WWI
Maintained a rose garden at the cemetery for many years
transferred to Downing House yard when cemetery needed the space.
Planted trees in Centennial Park
Planted trees and roses in Harvey Park
Installed drinking fountains downtown

Donated to Chautauqua fund 1906 and later
Give music scholarships to high school students

Sponsor Practical Nursing School and have receptions do capping and graduation

Conducted Tuberculosis Christmas Seal campaign for many years
Held first baby clinic, in 1915
During depression bought shoes and clothing for needy children
Led move to get school nurse in public schools

Poor Farm
        [previous information – closing date not given, sometime about 1920]
– “At a meeting in 1921 a report was made on the county poor farm where pasture land was rented at $5.00 an acre, and cultivated land for one-third of the crop. The county poor were cared for at the WCTU Hospital at $6.00 per week for nursing care. The Women’s Club made donations of bedding and food.”

General Federation of Women’s Clubs
        (also from Wikipedia on line)
Organized in 1890 by Jane Cunningham Croly
        Author & journalist
        Used pen name Jennie June
        Wrote for newspapers and magazines

        1868 – Organized “Sorosis”, first professional women’s club
            Because women were not allowed in to a NY Press Club (all-male) banquet honoring Charles Dickens
        1889 – Organized NY Women’s Press Club

Chartered by Congress in 1901

Made headquarters in Washington DC in 1922

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Revised: 02/08/2018