The Ladies Improvement Association of Delray
The Woman’s Club of Delray Beach 1902-1924
By McCall Credle-Rosenthal
In December 1915, a report was given regarding the progressive movements of the Woman’s Clubs of Fort Lauderdale and Cocoa, to give women a voice in citizen's rights, especially in municipal affairs. A program on Woman's Suffrage was presented shortly after.
In April 1919, the officers of the Woman's Club signed a petition urging the legislators to consider equal suffrage for women. In 1920 elections, eighty-one women in Delray casted their ballots for the very first time. The census for the town at that time was 1,051. It is believed that Delray was the second city in the state to grant votes to women in local elections.
Accomplishments of the Ladies Improvement Association (Woman's Club of Delray)
Here are some of the accomplishments of the Ladies Improvement Association of Delray Beach (aka Woman's Club of Delray) 1902-1924. The name was changed to the Woman’s Club in 1924:
• In 1902 a group of women walked through deep sand and fought mosquitos so spend the day at the home of Gertrude Zeder to discuss improvements on Main Street (now known as Atlantic Avenue).
• On February 28, 1902 a meeting was held to vote on the name “The Ladies Improvement Association of Delray”. Meetings were held regularly and dues were five cents per meeting. The Ladies would meet at a member’s home and once in a while on the beach. Among their fundraising projects were the making of canvas mittens and leggings for the pineapple workers (to protect them from the mosquitos). They also made shirts, slacks, dresses, sheets and linens as part of their fundraising efforts.
• Their first project was paving the sidewalk on Atlantic Avenue. The road was still a dirt road and an agreement could not be reached as to which side of Atlantic the walk should be paved, so a compromised was reached by placing a two-board sidewalk down the center of Atlantic Avenue. Initially, the Ladies filled in the ruts with rock, but after two or three blocks were done, they were able to bring in enough rock to fill in between the ruts.
• The canal or waterway, now known as the Intracoastal, was crossed by lighters. The lighters were two flat boats, one for pedestrians, one for horses and wagons. A chain was secured to a post on either side. The residents pulled themselves from one side to the other. In 1903 one of the lighters fell apart and was replaced by the Ladies. In 1911 the first bridge was installed.
• In January 1903, two and one half acres were purchased by the Ladies adjacent to the five acres of land donated in November, 1902 to be used as a cemetery. A family Lot was Five Dollars and a Single Lot was One Dollar.
• In 1904 the Ladies decided to purchase Lot 4, Block 100 for Seventy-five dollars. Later that address would be known as 419 East Atlantic Avenue. Their plan was to spend $1000 and build a Town Hall. In July, 1904, the Ladies had their first meeting in the “club room”, that was the only part of the Town Hall that was completed. It measured 28x28 feet.
• The women continued their fundraising efforts through suppers, raffles, bazaars, cake sales and ice cream socials (the ice was brought down from West Palm Beach since Delray did not have an ice plant). Subsequently, they were able to continue their charities, pay for the lots purchased and finish the Town Hall building.
• In August 1906, the Ladies borrowed $850 from Dade County State Bank to complete the Town Hall (Delray was still a part of Dade County until 1909). Palm Beach County was created in 1909 and Delray was closer to that county seat and became a part of it.
• Thanksgiving, 1906 the Town Hall was opened with a dinner and bazaar and the women raised $172.62 from the bazaar. With the money raised, the Ladies purchased a sewing machine and were also able to pay three years insurance on their Town Hall building.
• The Ladies quickly outgrew their building and added a two-story extension and rented the upstairs to the Masons, Odd Fellows, Woodmen of the World and other groups. The Ladies had a stage installed and home talent plays were given, travelling troupes stopped over, sometimes changing the play every night. Thus began today’s Delray Beach Playhouse.
• A general store was built in 1911 on the corner of Atlantic and what is now Northeast 4th Avenue. That was the center of town with the Town Hall, the post office and the telephone office nearby.
• On Sept 11, 1911 a public meeting was held at the Ladies Hall to discuss the incorporating of the town. The 1910 census showed 250 residents in Delray. The Town of Delray was incorporated but only that part of the old town of Linton on the west side of the canal. In 1923 the east side of the canal incorporated under the name of Town of Delray Beach and in 1927 the Towns of Delray and Delray Beach united under the name of the City of Delray Beach.
• In 1913 the Ladies, using the $10 that Mr. Flagler had donated, purchased books for their new library. By June of that year, there were 75 books and on January 31, 1914 the library was opened with a total of 263 books. By November the library was moved to the Town Hall and the books were kept in a small dark room between the Ladies meeting room and the kitchen.
• January 3, 1924, the Ladies Improvement Association changed their name to the Woman’s Club of Delray. Their contributions were countless throughout the years which included helping to have a Community Christmas Tree; a New Year’s Day reception for the public; helped to pay the salary of the public school house janitor; took charge of the bath houses and pavilion; and sponsored the Baby Welfare Examinations are just a few examples of their gracious contributions to Delray Beach.
About The Author
McCall Credle Rosenthal, author of the Best Selling, “Images of America- Delray Beach” - Arcadia Publishing, searched and selected this information from The Minutes of the Woman’s Club of Delray from 1902 – 1982.
She is very active in the Delray Beach community and serves on the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative Tourism Advisory Committee.
You can purchase a copy of Images of America: Delray Beach at Hands Stationary Store on Atlantic Avenue in downtown Delray Beach, Sandoway House, Spotted On Second at 200 N E 2nd Ave, the Marriott Hotel gift shop, Barnes & Noble in Boca Raton, Costco stores in Boca Raton and Lantana and on Amazon.com.
More Articles by McCall Credle-Rosenthal...
Comment by Danika Dahl: I am always honored when McCall contributes to I-Love-Delray-Beach.com because she is passionately in love with Delray Beach just like I am! And she always provides my readers with insightful information delivered first-hand, directly from her heart! Thank you McCall for another exceptional contribution to I-Love-Delray-Beach.com.
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