A Woman Presides in 1911

Rotary 25 Duluth
Here are two articles written by our club historian (Rotary 25 Duluth),
which show more information about Women and Rotary at the very beginning.
Peter Bagley, Webmaster Club 25

Looking Back in History
Women Formed a Rotary Club in 1911
by Rachael E. Martin, Club #25 Historian

Did you know that Duluth women had a real Rotary Club in 1911? Here’s an article from the 1912 Duluth News Tribune:

"A woman’s Rotary club, not the auxiliary society formed of the wives of Rotarians, but a real Rotary club of women in business or professions, and a thriving club, too, exists in Duluth. There is only one other woman’s Rotary club in America and that is in Minneapolis."

"Mrs. Irene Buell is president of the Duluth club; Dr. Sarah L. McClaran, Vice President; Dr. Mary Conrad, Secretary and Treasurer; and Mrs. Jane Everington Scully, Chairman of the Membership Committee."

"The club was established about a year ago and it is said that others, modeled after it, are about to be formed in other cities."

Who was Mrs. Irene Buell, president of this first Duluth women’s Rotary club? A Duluth Herald article from 1910 states that she was the first woman attorney in Duluth. The door of office 419 in the Lonsdale building read "I. C. Buell, Attorney at Law".

Mrs. Buell came to Duluth in 1910 from the Twin Cities, where she graduated from the Minnesota school of law and from the St. Paul law school. She was admitted to the Minnesota bar and practiced law in the Twin Cities for four years. She was the only full time woman attorney in the Twin Cities at that time. Three other women had passed the Minnesota bar, but combined their profession with other work.

The reporter quoted Mrs. Buell in the 1910 article. "There is a prejudice, of course, against women in the profession. And in St. Paul it is very marked, in fact sometimes they’re not quite courteous. I haven’t found it so thus far in my week long residence in Duluth. Everyone has been quite delightful. And by the way I never saw, any place, so many men remove their hats in elevators in which there are women nor so many who hold the doors open for women. It’s unusual, I think. I thought at first it must be some mistake, but it doesn’t seem to be."

Mrs. Buell’s father and brother were lawyers, and she wanted to be a lawyer, too, ever since she was a child. She told the reporter, "But I shouldn’t want my son to become one. The law is too jealous a mistress. Graduation from a law school is the most positive commencement in the real sense of the word that I know. Study is everlasting and in the law you must not only know one thing but everything, if you would represent your client well. It is a never ending grind. I think there is easier work to be done."

With the talented Mrs. Buell as president of Duluth’s first woman’s Rotary club, surely their future was promising. What became of Mrs. Buell and the woman’s Rotary club of Duluth? Hopefully, further research will give us the answers.

Looking Back in History
The Women Form Their Own Rotary Club 1911-1917
by Rachael E. Martin, Club #25 Historian

The Duluth Woman’s Rotary Club of 1911 left a faint trail that vanished completely in 1917.

We have already heard about the President, Irene C. Buell, who practiced law in Duluth from 1911 to 1915. Her offices moved from the Palladio Building to the Christie Building, then to the Providence Building. By 1915 she left Duluth and moved back to Minneapolis.

Another officer of the woman’s club was Dr. Sarah McClaran, an osteopath with her husband, Dr. William A. McClaran. Their office was at 124 W. Superior St., and they lived at 1101 E. 3rd St. By 1914, Sarah moved away, and only her husband and son, Melville, a student at the Duluth Business University, continued to live in Duluth at 601 Woodland Ave. In 1918, William McClaran changed professions and became Vice President of the Omaha Iron Co. with Melville as Secretary Treasurer. William McClaran moved to Minneapolis in 1920, the same year his son moved to 1405 London Road. By 1921, Melville also moved to Minneapolis.

A third officer, Dr. Mary N. Conrad, was a chiropractor with an office in the Columbia Building at 7 West Superior St. As a single woman, she lived in apartments on 3rd Street through the 1920's. Then Dr. Conrad combined her office and her residence in the Columbia Building until she left Duluth in 1924.

The fourth of the early officers was Mrs. Jane Everington Scully, a widow whose husband, George H. Scully, died in 1910. Mrs. Scully worked as a clerk at J.M. Gidding & Co., a woman’s apparel shop specializing in dry goods and cloaks located at the corner of 1st Ave. West and Superior Street. She lived in an apartment at Munger Terrace with her widowed mother and her brother James R. Everington. In 1914, her mother died and Jane moved to the Wahldorf Apartments at 218-220 1st Ave. W. Interestingly, in 1918 Jane Scully changed her name back to Jane Everington. She continued to live in Duluth until 1921 at 1215 E. 2nd St.

The Duluth Woman’s Rotary Club continued meeting the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month at the Spalding Hotel. Meanwhile, the Duluth Rotary Club #25 (the men’s club) met the 1st Thursday of each month at noon and the last Thursday at 6:15 pm at various locations.

By 1914, Dr. Stella L. Wilkinson was elected as the new secretary of the Duluth Woman’s Rotary Club. She was a physician and surgeon with offices in the New Jersey Building at 106-112 W. Superior St. with office hours of 10:00-12:00 am and 2:00-5:00 pm.

In 1915 the women changed their meeting place to the Club Room of the Duluth Public Library, located then at the NW corner of 1st Ave. W & 2nd St. Secretary Wilkinson used her office address at the New Jersey Building as the Woman’s Rotary Club mailing address. Dr. Wilkinson was not married and lived in apartments near her office until 1924 when she moved to 4321 Luverne St. In 1925 she left Duluth.

By 1917 the US entered the "Great War", as WWI was called, and club listings in the Duluth City Directory were replaced by long lists of "Soldier Boys". The Duluth Women’s Rotary Club was not listed even after the war, although the Duluth Rotary Club #25 was listed.

It appears that the woman’s club dissolved during or shortly after WWI. None of the women officers remained in the Duluth area, and President Irene Buell died in St. Paul in 1956.

This article, below, is from The Rotarian Reader, A 75-Year Anthology, which celebrates 75 years of The Rotarian. Provided by Dr. Wolfgang Ziegler, RGHF Senior Historian, Germany 9 September 2007

Provided by PDG Geri Appel

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