July 26, 2020

The Women Who Civilized Prescott

Despite being the Territorial Capital at the close of the 19th Century, Prescott still clung to many aspects of a rough mining town and the educated wives of the politicians wanted to make it more civilized.

So in 1895 they formed a group dedicated to making Prescott a city where families could thrive. Originally, it was simply called the Prescott Women’s Club, but since many other groups with that title were solely focussed on women’s suffrage, they soon changed the name to the Monday Club. It still is the oldest women’s organization in Arizona.

It was born from the nucleus of the Prescott History Study Club (1891) and the Prescott Chautauqua Circle (1892). 

Jennie Tritle, the first President, was the wife of the 5th Territorial Governor, Frederick A Tritle and was born into an influential family. Her brother, Frank Hereford, was a Senator from West Virginia. She was know as a charming, gracious woman and so well liked that she was re-elected four times, serving 5 one-year terms from 1895-99 and again in 1901.

Florence Gould, the club’s first Secretary, ran a boarding house in Prescott before she devoted herself to teaching primary grades in public schools.

These first two officers reflected what the initial objectives of the club would be: Jennie Tritle wanted Prescott to have a library, and Florence Gould wanted to improve public education.

All 30 of the original charter members wanted to make Prescott a “civilized” city. One of their first acts was to persuade the city to pass an ordinance that prohibited spitting on the sidewalks to avoid the spread of tuberculosis.

Their attention soon turned to starting a library. First, as membership increased to 79, each member was required to donate one or more books for the cause. The public was also encouraged to donate books. A live entertainment, with the admission price being a donated book, netted 400 volumes in one evening.

That was enough to open a library in the basement of the Bank of Arizona building. "This small library was supported by membership dues, donations, and other contributions." A library board was established to handle logistics.

All went well until the Great Fire of 1900, when the housing bank building was one of the many downtown casualties. Fortunately, the Monday Club was foresighted enough to have fire insurance "and collected $1800 for their lost books.”

The club took the loss as an opportunity to create a new, better, stand-alone facility. "In 1899, Julia Goldwater, wife of Henry, who had a stake in the Goldwater store…wrote to Andrew Carnegie, requesting funds to open a free public library. The Carnegie Foundation pledged $4,000” if a matching amount was raised by the community.

This was no small task. Back then, this was 2000 times higher than an average daily working wage. It took several years of fund-raising, but the money was eventually secured and the first Carnegie library in Arizona was erected just east of the Elks Opera House on Gurley.

Meanwhile, the club was also actively interested in improving public schools. They petitioned the school board to install the first public kindergarten. In 1898, when it was found that the classroom walls were bare, the Monday Club raised the money to purchase prints of classic artworks and famous Americans to adorn them. It was through their work that the first summer school classes were held that same year.

They were also responsible for the first manual arts department. When that instructor reported that two new lathes were needed, the Monday Club dipped into their funds to provide them immediately.

This was just the start of an organization that would often rise up to meet the needs of Prescott. The Monday Club continues today under the motto: “Living the Volunteer Spirit.” 

RELATED: Arizona's First Carnegie Library

The account of the first Carnegie Library in Arizona. It was brought to Prescott, AZ by a group of educated women called The Monday Club.



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“Monday Club History 1895-1996” by Opal Gipson. Self-Published. (Available at the Prescott Public Library)

Weekly Journal-Miner, 2/16/1898; Pg. 3, Col. 2

Weekly Journal-Miner, 2/23/1898; Pg. 3, Col. 4

Weekly Journal-Miner, 3/2/1898; Pg. 1, Col. 6

Weekly Journal-Miner, 5/11/1898; Pg. 3, Col. 5


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