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Chauncey Depew Club (Des Moines, Iowa)



On November 17, 1897, the Chauncey Depew Club held its inaugural meeting under the leadership of Mrs. Fletcher Howard in Des Moines, Iowa. Named after Chauncey M. Depew, the famed "Prince of After Dinner Speakers," a former U.S. Senator from New York, and attorney for the Harlem and New York railroad, the women who formed the Chauncey Depew Club aimed to "promote efficiency in extemporaneous speaking."

At each monthly meeting, one member was responsible for chairing the meeting and another member was responsible for hosting a luncheon. The chair selected topics and called upon members to respond. Members who could not speak were forced to stand for three minutes; this policy was later changed. Membership in the Club was initially limited to fifteen; this was later changed to thirty. Several members belonged to other women's clubs, including the Daughters of the American Revolution and the League of Women Voters.

In his autobiography, published in 1922, Depew wrote affectionately about the members of the Depew Club, with whom he corresponded regularly but never met personally. "Twenty-four years ago a company of public-spirited women in the city of Des Moines ...organized a club. For nearly a quarter of a century it has been an important factor in the civic life of Des Moines. It has with courage, intelligence, and independence done excellent work. At the time of its organization there were few if any such organizations in the country, and it may claim the position of pioneer in women's activity in public affairs." In 1923, the Club celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary. Chauncey Depew was unable to join club members for the celebration, but he hosted a dinner for the club women and their spouses, and insisted that the attendees receive "the very best that could be served in Des Moines."

During World War I, members of the Chauncey Depew Club volunteered with the American Red Cross. Each year, the club sponsored public celebrations of art and music. Beginning in the 1940s, the Club adopted the slogan "Progressive thinking and lasting friendships." The Club had annual speaking themes, which included world peace, women in a changing world, immigration, the League of Nations, "Hawaii calls," and "African safari."

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Chauncey Depew Club records

Identifier: IWA0725

Des Moines women's club formed in 1897 to promote efficiency in extemporaneous speaking.

Dates: 1913-2005