WASHINGTON RURAL HERITAGE PRESENTS THE REVIEW CLUB OF ABERDEEN

WASHINGTON RURAL HERITAGE PRESENTS THE REVIEW CLUB OF ABERDEEN

The Review Club of Aberdeen is the oldest women’s cultural group still in existence in Washington. Founded on March 3, 1891, the Review Club meets twice a month to share and discuss “good books.” Topics have included everything from fiction to politics to spiritualism. The group’s longevity speaks to the ongoing desire for intellectual opportunities for women.

Review Club of Aberdeen members and families gather outside a member's home in 1896.
Review Club of Aberdeen members and families gather outside a member’s home in 1896.

This Washington Rural Heritage collection includes meeting minutes, beginning with the group’s charter meeting in 1891; annual programs from the 1920s to the 1970s; and a scrapbook of the club’s first 50 years. The intervening decades offer a unique portrait and perspective from a group of upper-middle-class women from the pioneering days through the city’s boom years in the ’30s to the present day.

The Washington House of Representatives issued a 1991 resolution honoring the Review Club of Aberdeen on its centennial.
The Washington House of Representatives issued a 1991 resolution honoring the Review Club of Aberdeen on its centennial.

Hosting a Review Club meeting involves providing lunch for the 20-plus attendees, an obligation that falls on each member at least once a year. This is an occasion to polish up the best silver tea service and hunt up enough china to serve the whole group.

In March, the Review Club hosts its annual meeting. Active members invite lifetime members to celebrate, often by wearing hats, eating cake, and sipping tea. Back in the glory days of the Morck Hotel, the Review Club often held this celebration in one of its grand ballrooms. 

Members wore hats to celebrate the 106th anniversary of the Review Club in 1997.

The Aberdeen Timberland Library has benefited over the decades from its close relationship with the Review Club. Many Review Club members have become lifetime Friends of the Aberdeen Library. The library in turn has provided a home for the Review Club’s scrapbooks that commemorate the group’s legacy. However, these scrapbooks — and other items such as meeting minutes, programs, and membership lists — have been inaccessible to the public, tucked away in the staff-only storage area. Only the Review Club’s current secretary had access.  

Club members saw an opportunity via the Washington Digital Heritage grants to preserve these documents digitally and make them available publicly. They approached the library about their idea in spring 2019. The library staff agreed to sponsor the project and applied for a grant.

Review Club volunteers were deep into the project — with a team coming in several times a week to scan the minutes of the club meetings from 1945 onward — when COVID-19 brought the project to a halt. Both the library and the vendor charged with digitizing the early bound volumes, Kirkland-based Perfect Image, shut down from mid-March to mid-June. 

Fortunately, the governor’s Phase 2 reopening in June allowed the library and the vendor to proceed. The vendor completed its part of the project before the Aug. 28 grant deadline. The Aberdeen Timberland Library worked with the Washington State Library to create and upload the metadata on the Rural Heritage website in order to complete the project in October. 

Enjoy the results of this project here: Review Club of Aberdeen Digital Collection.

Written by guest blogger Laura Young, librarian, Aberdeen Timberland Library.

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