The Woman's Literary Club of Baltimore Archive documents the words and lives of a fascinating group of women. They sought lasting fame in print, but have been all but forgotten. This archive is an attempt to remedy that.



The Women's Literary Club of Baltimore was not a book club. These women were writers, and determined to see their works in print. Established in 1890 by two single women, Hester Crawford Dorsey and Louisa Haughton, throughout the fifty years of its existence, the Club provided a place for over 300 women who aspired to become writers, poets, composers, and playwrights to share their work and their dreams. 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 Marylanders.

Over 1000 published works

The Virtual Library contains hundreds of the 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 also have been published in Parole Femine: Words and Lives of the Woman's Literary Club of Baltimore (2019; purchase on

Title page, A Reed by the River

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

Cover, A Branch of May

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

Title page, The Royal Pawn of Venice

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

Parting Ode, 1859

Laura DeValin
"Parting Ode, 1859"


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.  

The Club kept careful records of their activities during the first three decades of their existence. These documents, held at the Maryland Center for History and Culture 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.