The Woman's Literary Club of Baltimore Archive documents the words and lives of a fascinating group of women. Determined to make a name for themselves, they have been all but forgotten. This archive is an attempt to remedy that.

The Club was established by two single women, Hester Crawford Dorsey and Louisa Haughton, in 1890. During the fifty years of its existence, it provided a meeting place, support group, and performance space for over 300 women who aspired to become writers, poets, composers, and playwrights. Their motto, "Parole Femine," the second half of the Maryland state motto "Fatti maschii, parole femine" ("Manly deeds, womanly words"), proudly asserted their identity as women, as writers, and as proud Marylanders.

Who were these women?

The Club accommodated members who ranged across the social and political spectrum, including suffragettes and society wives, teachers and journalists, Confederate sympathizers and descendants of abolitionists, Protestants and Catholics. Reflecting the racial divides of the time, however, the Club did not admit black members. Club biographies are available here and continue to be updated.

The membership map provides a geographical snapshot of the Club members' residences at different points during the Club's existence.  

What did they do?

The Women's Literary Club of Baltimore was not a book club. These women were writers, and determined to see their works in print. The Virtual Library contains over 1000 publications we have recovered, including lyric poetry, novels, magazine fiction, plays, history, philosophy, and criticism of literature, art, and music. A selection of these writings are being published in a print anthology, Parole Femine: Words and Lives of the Woman's Literary Club of Baltimore (2019).

Title page, A Reed by the River

Virginia Woodward Cloud
A Reed by the River (Boston: Gorham Press, 1902)
poetry

Cover, A Branch of May

Louise Clarkson Whitelock
Buttercup's Visit to Little Stay-at-Home (E. P. Dutton, 1881)
poetry

Title page, The Royal Pawn of Venice

Francese Litchfield Turnbull
The Royal Pawn of Venice (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1911)
novel

Parting Ode, 1859

Laura DeValin
"Parting Ode, 1859"
song

The Club kept careful records of their activities during the first three decades of their existence. These documents, held at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore,  have been transcribed and are now available and searchable on this site. You can explore thousands of pages of Meeting Minutes and membership lists, the Club constitution, and programs of their meetings. 

Follow and share!

Read about our process and discoveries on our blog! And share your ideas with us. We would especially love to hear about any stories or connections you may have with these historic Baltimore residents.

This project was made possible through the generous support of the Center for the Humanities at Loyola University Maryland, Maryland Historical Society, the Loyola-Notre Dame Library, and Loyola's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.