In 1892 a group of women with interests in reading and other intellectual pursuits formed what they called "The Reading Circle." The 45 charter members were educated, and in many cases, wealthy women, who gathered several times a month in one anotherís homes to discuss literature and art, gardening, music and drama. Their interests eventually expanded to include such topics as public health and industrial and social conditions.
Clubs such as this were common in towns across America in the post-Civil War era. To be asked to join was an honor and women dressed for meetings in hats and gloves.
A year after organizing, The Reading Club changed its name to The Kalmia Club, after the mountain laurel, kalmia latifolia, which according to Club lore grew in each of the 43 states in the Union. Its founders envisioned the Club's expansion throughout the country.
Five years later, in 1897, the Club became part of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, an international women's organization dedicated to community improvement by enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service. So in a sense, the founders' original vision of expansion was realized.
On February 1, 1910 the clubhouse was "given and bequeathed" to The Kalmia Club by the Society of Friends, or Quakers, who had used the building as a meeting house for almost 20 years. The Club has met there ever since, except during the Second World War, when it was used by the Red Cross as a surgical dressing station.
The Kalmia Club is one of the oldest continuously running womenís clubs in the state of New Jersey. Gone is the old-fashioned custom of restricting membership to a particular social class. Today, all women are welcome to join Kalmia. Its members include professional women, stay-at-home moms, artists, writers and retired women.
The Club is an active civic force in the community providing scholarships to local high school girls and supporting local charities. It contributes to various international, national and statewide activities through its membership in the NJ State Federation of Women's Clubs as well as the international Federation.
Meetings are held the second Monday of each month, September through June.
ó Kate Breuning, 2010