Elsie Owen Hevelin
From “ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SHAKESPEARE STUDY CLUB” c 2005 by Elsie Owen Hevelin
(Part 1 can be found here)
How One Became a Member
Whenever a vacancy occurred in the group – usually through death of a member, or because one could no longer fulfill one’s duties and had therefore gone on to associate membership – the names of prospective new members were presented at one meeting, and voted on at the next. A majority of votes cast was required in order for someone to be elected, and so the name of the person receiving the fewest votes was dropped each time until someone received a majority. This was a time-consuming process, not noted for its efficiency, bu the ladies of the club considered it “traditional” and felt that efficiency was not what the Shakespeare Study Club was all about. Ties in voting were frequent, and once a persistent three-way tie resulted in the election having to be continued at the following meeting.
One became a member after receiving the required number of votes and a letter of invitation from the club secretary, and then signing the Constitution and paying ones dues.
The Club Constitution has been amended and rewritten half a dozen times through the years, but is actually very little changed from early days. The number of members was increased from twelve to sixteen, then to eighteen, and the frequency of meetings varied from once a month to once a week, but remains, now, just where it started – twice a month.
It is traditional that officers not be asked to serve more than once every three years, and yet, on January 16, 1930, it was moved by Mrs. Weston that “the rules be laid aside” and “present officers be reelected.” The motion carried.
After members voted, in one meeting, to “follow the rules,” those rules were suspended at the following meeting in order to elect Miss Harriott Hardman to membership. So you see, the members may cling to tradition, but they are not bound by it!
In April of 1911, there was only fifty cents in the club treasury.
In 1919, a motion was made and seconded that an annual assessment of one dollar was made. Later in the meeting, the motion was withdrawn and the constitution amended to approve dues of one dollar and a half. But club finances were seldom a problem. Dues remained minimal and covered the customary cards or flowers in case of illness or death. Refreshments were usually donated by the hostesses, though hostesses could be reimbursed from the treasury if they so desired. And if the available funds were too low to provide for a book given to the Yellow Springs Library as memorial to a deceased member, then the ladies assessed themselves one dollar each and collected it on the spot. Inflation now having raised its head, we presently pay the enormous(!) sum of three dollars per year.
For most meetings, parts were assigned in advance and plays performed. Nowadays, plays are read by not acted. Sometimes topics were assigned and two or three members delivered papers. For example: After they read “Anthony and Cleopatra”, a talk was given in October on Egypt’s political relation to Rome, and in November, one on the history of the Ptolemy family, followed in December, by one on the religion of the Egyptians and one on the arts and crafts of Egypt.
Women discussed and women played. They put on a burlesque called “Shakespeare’s Hatch.” They put on a skit about “Lucy Bareback’s column in Mr. Wolford’s Sunday issue.” This, of course, had to do with Lucy Wolford and her father Mr. Wolford’s Yellow Springs News, which never put out a Sunday issue. But they put on a skit and had a good laugh at each member. They had a discussion in which Ella Fogg stated that “the heroines of Shakespeare were motherless.” And when they finished “Mourning Becomes Electra,” they held a discussion on the question of whether the play has any lasting value, or whether O’Neill’s acknowledged ability and technique might not better be turned toward a less sordid concept of human life.
In addition to all this, there were many guest speakers. Antioch’s Lincoln R. Gibbs asked “Was Shakespeare a Democrat?” Nolan Miller, also of Antioch, told of his writing habits of the past and his plans for the future. Arthur Lithgow, from the Antioch Players, asked “Should Shakespeare be produced on the Stage?” Professor of English Albert Walker Liddle spoke on “Fossil Expressions in Everyday Speech.” And Bill Hooper, a student at Antioch, discussed “The Elizabethan Theatre and Problems of the Summer Theatre.”
The club minutes tell us that Miss Bessie Totten read an article from Henry Ford’s “anti-Jewish magazine.” I was not able to find that article “on control of the movies,” but I found a collection of similar articles which appeared in Ford’s Dearborn Independent,” published later under the tittle “The International Jew; The World’s Foremost Problem.” This collection has an introduction by Gerald P. K. Smith and ranks with the trash handed out by Knight of the Ku Klux Klan. It seems Bessie hoped to alert the ladies and make them aware of evils in our world. I also found a volume by Jonathan R. Logsdon called “Power, Ignorance, and Anti-Semitism; Henry Ford and His War on Jews,” in which the author says Ford’s book was translated into sixteen languages and had a “profound influence upon the growing Nazi movement in Germany.” Well, there were discussions, and Bessie Totten introduced a serious one.
It has been interesting to me to note how many of the members, and how many of the guest speakers, were either students or faculty at Antioch College, or were married to a teacher or administrator there, or were children of Antiochians.
When we celebrated our first ninety years, there were many new members, one of whom pointed out at her very first meeting with the club, that we were very inefficient and that our constitution need to be rewritten. (!) Discussion then arose concerning the value of tradition over efficiency. New members felt we needed to examine our traditions carefully and bring the club up to date. The constitution was re-done, resembling in most ways its predecessor, and officers then proceeded to ‘do their own thing’ without any real objection from members. Tradition had not been written into either document, and gradually faded away as older members ceased to attend.