In honor of Women’s History Month we’re featuring the oldest organized women’s club in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Hancock Home Study Club.
Established in 1883, the club held its initial meeting on May 16 to form a club for the study of art in connection with the Society for the Encouragement of Study at Home, a national organization based in Boston. The Society was initially founded in 1873 by Anna Eliot Ticknor as a means of encouraging women to pursue study and enlightenment beyond their traditional domestic duties.
The Hancock Home Study Club (HHSC) held its first official meeting in September 1883 as the Home Study Club with six founding members, all women from the Hancock community. Membership in the Club grew to fifteen by 1886 and extended to thirty members. While most early members lived in Hancock, the group eventually opened membership to those living in Ripley, Houghton, and other areas. It wasn’t until March 12, 1935 that the Club constitutionally changed the name to the Hancock Home Study Club.
The Club’s studies were carried out as correspondent courses on topics ranging from art and literature, to economics and world studies. While early coursework focused on international topics and regions, more recent studies have been geared towards topics relevant to Michigan and Copper Country history. Because reference material was hard to come by in this remote region in the late 1800’s, the bulk of the group’s study material were purchased outside of the region. As a result the group amassed a considerable reference library that was later donated to various public libraries and schools.
The Club met in homes until January 1898 when it rented a room in the Y.M.C.A. building for meetings. Poor heating at the Y.M.C.A. forced the group to relocate to City shortly thereafter, but they found the new location noisy and resorted to moving their meetings to various locations until 1959 when they returned to the home-based meetings.
While not a service club, the club has been active in many forms of social support over its long history, assisting with Red Cross Relief in 1914, as well as state scholarship funds, various wartime commissions, and local social agencies including the YMCA, Elks, Goodwill, Salvation Army and the Houghton Club.
Today, the Hancock Home Study Club continues to be an active organization in the community, meeting at least semi-regularly as it has since its founding in 1883. The Club has celebrated major milestones, like its centennial celebration in 1983, complete with a historical pageant that the ladies put on for the occasion.
The Hancock Home Study Club Records are a fascinating look into women’s social organizations in the late 19th Century, particularly in the early decades of an isolated, rural area. The records serve as evidence of the importance of social bonds between women in a growing community and interest in academic pursuits beyond the home. The records of the Hancock Home Study Club (MS-056) can be viewed onsite at the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections and include the club’s constitution and bylaws, meeting minutes, financial records and annual reports, as well as photographs, programs, and anniversary celebration memorabilia. You can also view the finding aid for this collection online by visiting the Archive’s collections page.