“All weather and winds are alike / Skies may be smiling or frowning / Earth’s a forgotten dream to one / Who opens a volume of Browning.” These lines by Bowling Green author Eliza Calvert Hall reflected the joy with which Americans in the late nineteenth century embraced the poetry of Robert Browning. Beginning in the 1880s, Browning Clubs sprang up across the country, providing women in particular with the opportunity for intellectual and cultural stimulation as well as fellowship.
Bowling Green’s Browning Club was founded in 1895. Although its main purpose was to read and study the poet’s work, discussions soon extended to history, politics and music as well as authors and literature in general. A year’s worth of club programs usually explored different aspects of a general topic: for example, Thomas Hardy (1928-29), the seventeenth century (1933-34), Russia (1937-38), Latin America (1940-41), and Shakespeare (1950-51).
The Browning Club has recently donated a collection of its club materials to WKU’s Special Collections Library. Included are minute books, membership information, clippings, photos, and program lists. Most of the material dates from 1950-1997, but the programs date as early as 1913.
These materials expand the Kentucky Library & Museum’s collections documenting the history of many local men’s and women’s clubs, including the XV Club, Twentieth Century Club, Ladies’ Literary Club, Current Events Club, Mothers Club, Fortnightly Club, Warren County Garden Club, and others. For further information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.