The organization was founded in 1902 as a nonprofit dedicated to the protection and beautification of outdoor spaces, wildlife conservation, and other civic, literary, and charitable work.
Before women won the right to vote in 1920, women’s clubs like the Outdoor Art Club were one of the only avenues by which women could wield political influence in their communities. In 1890, there were more than 3,000 women’s clubs in the United States, several hundred of which were in California, and by 1910 an estimated 85% of nonworking women were members of at least one women’s club. These clubs lobbied legislators and fundraised in support of a range of progressive causes, including abolition, conservation, educational reform, and labor rights.
Laura Lyon White, one of The Outdoor Art Club’s founders and a leading figure in women’s clubs across California, said in 1914 that “clubs in their infinite variety have done more for the advancement of women intellectually, morally and physically than any other agency known to civilization.” This was not hyperbole.
Meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated, Ladies to the Rescue delves into the private and public lives of the 35 women who founded the OAC, and how they used what their husbands often dismissed as a “social” club as a platform for environmental, civic, educational, and cultural activism. The book shines a light on an often-forgotten chapter of the early history of Marin County, when the boundaries between rapidly growing urban areas and natural spaces were the subject of fierce debate between land developers (all of whom were men) and environmental conservationists like the women of The Outdoor Art Club. Much of the open space in Southern Marin that we enjoy today survives because of the early efforts of these women.
Ladies to the Rescue was written by Lynda Chittenden, with research by Melissa Kurtz. Copies are available for preorder HERE.