Proteus Club (Des Moines, Iowa)
In October of 1896, seven young women, having graduated from college and finished touring Europe, founded the Proteus Club. In Greek mythology Proteus was a learned sage with knowledge of all things past, present, and future. The object of this newly formed club was intellectual improvement. A letter, written in 1937 by Louise Elbert Everett, founding member, recalls the small group of women who "....met together and unhesitantly decided, (to) have a study club....swathed in many underpinnings, long skirts, high-boned collars, lots of hair, hour-glass figures,...we had a beautiful and sublime trust in God, our country, our state, our city, our families, ourselves." The membership soon grew to 25. In 1922 the first delegates were appointed to the city and State Federation of Women's Clubs.
Members take turns preparing papers to be read at the club's meetings. A wide range of topics has been dealt with over the years, including: "Is co-education desirable?", "Should a married woman hold a job?", the League of Nations, American diplomacy, planning and zoning in Des Moines, Golda Meir, Iowa wetlands, Gorbachev, Native Americans, computers and alcoholism.
One of the remarkable characteristics of Proteus is longevity, both in the members and the club itself. Many members have remained active until their deaths, some for 70 years or more. In 1993 the club had 58 members, the longest active member having joined in 1938.
Noteworthy projects of the club include publishing a cook book to raise funds for an art gallery in 1900, supporting two war orphans in France and Belgium during the first world war, buying and selling towels made by the blind, and donating materials to the Des Moines Art Center.