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As part of a nationwide club building movement, North Carolina Sorosis, a women’s club devoted to the members’ personal improvement as well as providing for the “social and domestic betterment” of Wilmington, was established. The group’s beginnings date to 1895 when a group of women formed the club in their homes, met regularly, and planned betterment projects. One of their first steps was to associate themselves with established clubs in other states. The group chose their name, Sorosis, after a New York club since it had an appealing sound and is Greek for “cluster of flowers.” As part of its formal organization, North Carolina Sorosis joined the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1896.
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As Sorosis grew, their programs branched out from presentations on literature and history by their members to topics presented by outside speakers on music, community benevolence, and political topics. One of the club’s first activities was to provide a free library service by circulating books at no charge for the local readership. After the turn of the century, the club also worked with the city on beautification projects and continued work on a free county library system with fundraisers and public discussions. Their work resulted in the donation of 1,700 volumes to the city in 1906 to form the core of a library placed in City Hall. The club continued to grow into the twentieth century by purchasing a clubhouse in 1914. From that building members worked to form cooking clubs, promote the arts, successfully lobby the city to purchase and develop Greenfield Lake for recreation, and assist in the development of the local history museum. The club worked to provide assistance to the troops and homefront during both world wars and helped with the development of the Azalea Festival.
In addition to having the distinction of being the first federated club for women in the state, North Carolina Sorosis provided a model as an active women’s club for those seeking to establish other organizations across the state, including the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs.
Gertrude J. Howell, A History of North Carolina Sorosis, 1895 – 1957 (1957)
North Carolina Clubwoman (September 1971)
Sallie Southall Cotten, History of the North Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs (1925)
Margaret S. Smith and Emily H. Wilson, North Carolina Women Making History (1999)