The College Club of Boston: A rich past, a dynamic present…
One chilly day in December 1890, nineteen women met in Boston’s Back Bay. Their mission was to form a club where they could “enjoy sociability and companionship” with college women “among their kind.”
From its earliest days, the College Club paraded a host of celebrities from literature and the arts. Mark Twain was a guest; so were actress Julia Marlowe, feminist Lucy Stone, poet Oliver Wendell Holmes (who recited “The Chambered Nautilus”), and novelist Marian Crawford, who drew such a crowd in the 1890s that for years the club entertainments were dubbed the “Crawford Crush.” As described by Miss Alice Browne in 1915, “No member confessed to inviting more guests than the number allowed her, but the house was full on every floor. At least twenty guests found their way to the kitchen. Perhaps they were trying to escape. President Walker [of MIT], seeing Professor Niles on the stairs above him on the way to the coat room, is said to have offered him five dollars to throw his hat out of the window and save him the struggle.”
The College Club in 1905 had an Old English drawing room and seven “sleeping rooms” - the delicate term for "bedrooms." These rooms were furnished and decorated in the colors of various women’s colleges: crimson rambler wallpaper for Radcliffe, blue silk curtains for Wellesley, a cherry and white scheme for Boston University, white with brass beds for Smith, dawn pink and gray for Vassar.
In a speech about the first 25 years of the Club given by Miss Alice Browne in 1915, she states “…let me impress upon you the declared purpose of the Club, as expressed by its founder and agreed to by the charter members on the date of the first meeting, December 15, 1890: There were to be no constitution and no aim worthy of the name, no officers, no duties- just a place to loaf and invite our souls and the souls of others we wanted to know.”
A century later, The College Club of Boston, the oldest such club in America, remains a diverse and dynamic women’s membership organization that more than fulfills the mission of its founders. With afternoon tea, fashion shows, concerts and more, our members enjoy the sociability for which the Club was founded. We learn at lectures, engage in discussion at book clubs, stage art exhibits and entertain friends in our Victorian brownstone. We network to further our career goals. We connect with neighbors and make new friends.
Finally, the members of The College Club of Boston are dedicated to educational philanthropy, with a campaign that each year raises scholarship funds for Boston public school seniors.
Did you know?
- The Club’s beautiful Victorian clubhouse at 44 Commonwealth Avenue was built in 1864 and purchased for $50,000 in 1924.
- The cost of tea for members and their guests has actually gone down! Five cents a cup in 1896, afternoon tea is free for members and their guests today.
- Our members range in age from 28 years to 90+ years old. They include lawyers, doctors, homemakers, realtors, scientists and entrepreneurs.
- Many of our lovely antiques and artwork were willed to the Club by loyal members.
- Each year we raise money in college scholarship funds to benefit high school seniors living in Boston neighborhoods. We have also raised money for other charities or causes in the past.