Current Events Club Is Oldest In Jefferson County
Writer: Beth Wilder
Director Jeffersontown Historical Museum
In this day and age of social media and busy schedules, most people do not seem to feel the need or have the time to actually gather together – in person – to discuss what is going on in the world around them. It appears to be far easier to either sit back and ignore everything, or to anonymously offer criticisms on every aspect of society. Things were not always like that, however, and there was a time when it was considered a luxury to gather together socially to not only discuss things of a topical nature, but to actually try to contribute to society in a beneficial way in the process.
In the early 1900s, when women did not have much to keep themselves occupied outside of home and raising a family, Mrs. Henry N. Reubelt of Jeffersontown conceived the idea of forming a literary club, which, while having all the elements of a social gathering, would also be instructive and improve the minds of its members. To accomplish this, she invited a number of ladies to her home on January 11, 1906.
Snow covered the ground that day, yet Mrs. Reubelt’s seven friends braved the cold and made their way to her home for a spot of tea and to chat about the content of certain books or what they had read in one of the few newspapers available to them – that was about the only means of knowing what was going on in the world at the time. While sitting in front of the blazing hearth, “shivering on one side and toasting on the other,” the “Current Events Club” was formed when the ladies decided to make the event a regular affair to discuss subjects such as literature, art, science and the vital interests of the day.
The club started with eight charter members – Miss Ann Bryan, Mrs. Clarence F. Bryan, Mrs. Ethel Sprowl Bryan, Mrs. Clarence W. Erdman, Mrs. Viola Buchanan Howell, Mrs. William F. Hunsinger, Mrs. H.N. Reubelt and Mrs. R.H. Snively. Officers were elected, and the club members agreed to meet semi-monthly at one another’s homes from 1:30-4:00 p.m. Meetings would be hosted from the beginning of Autumn until the end of Spring by the various club members in turn, and delightful refreshments would be served.
In addition to discussing events of the time that were mentioned in periodicals and newspapers, the ladies also tended to read and study the works of great literary masters. By November of 1907, the ladies had decided to write a novel themselves, with each member contributing a chapter. In February of 1909, The Jeffersonian newspaper decided to include the story, titled “Mystery of the Manor,” as a serial in its weekly newspaper. Subscribers to the paper thoroughly enjoyed the tale, and the editor of the newspaper noted how nice it was to have such “high-class literary talent” in Jeffersontown, and that the men in town seemed rather jealous that the club was for women only – especially when sumptuous dinners were served.
In 1910, the ladies of the Current Events Club decided that Jeffersontown needed a library. In April of that year, a committee was appointed to solicit subscriptions to raise funds for one, with help from the Jeffersontown Commercial Club. The town contributed liberally to the project, and on May 19, 1911, a formal opening was held for the new – free – public library in Jeffersontown, on the second floor of the Bruce building on the town square. The library was open from 2:00-9:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays, staffed by volunteers. Raising funds for the library was an ongoing project of the club, and it eventually became a branch of the Louisville Free Public Library.
Over the years, club membership grew, although it was limited by invitation to 20 members at a time (plus five “honorary members,” who had belonged to the club for many years, but no longer felt able to host or actively contribute research to the club). Meetings eventually were held on a monthly basis from September through June, rather than every two weeks, with a hostess and co-hostess for each event. Ladies of the Current Events Club continued throughout the decades to contribute both time and money to various civic and philanthropic organizations – in fact, it has been said that this club was the first organization to do such work in the county outside Louisville. Of special note is the fact that the Current Events Club is considered the oldest continually active club in Jefferson County.
In 2012, the ladies of the Current Events Club created a quilt in tribute to the history of the City of Jeffersontown, which they presented to Mayor Bill Dieruf and donated to the Jeffersontown Historical Museum. Club members typically have very prominent roots in Jeffersontown, many of them descended from its founding families. Tyler Taylor, a member of the club for more than 50 years, remarked in a Courier-Journal article about the ladies of the Current Events Club that, “It’s the camaraderie and the fact that you have so much shared history that makes it interesting.” Barbara Hunsinger Stephens noted at the same time that, “These early ladies were not fading flowers. They were well-educated. They were up on things and interested in things.”
The intellect and curiosity of the ladies of the Current Events Club, past and present, has sustained it for more than 110 years – not a feat to be taken lightly in this day and age, when it seems hard to keep anyone’s attention for more than a few moments at a time. Jeffersontown is very fortunate and proud to be able to boast about having the county’s oldest club, which has provided a great deal of character and service to our community.