In the latter part of the nineteenth century, the first pioneer families began settling what is now Santa Maria. The country was wild and desolate and the women were lonely and homesick. On October 5, 1894, twenty-five women gathered in the home of Mrs. Mollie Smith to organize the Ladies Literary Society. Interest grew rapidly in the club and after three months there were 53 members.
In February, 1896 they adopted a constitution and bylaws. Shortly after, they adopted the motto "Higher Knowledge and Better Morals," the flower Sweet Alyssum, and the colors purple and gold to signify wisdom and love. Later a seal with a lighted torch over an open book was designed and accepted. Although that seal has not survived, we have redesigned what we think it looked like and included it on this site.
During the early years, the Ladies Literary Society held many events open to the community. Professional entertainers presented lectures, music or evenings of recitations. Over time, the membership grew too large to meet in homes of the members. They rented the Masonic Hall, defraying the expense by asking each lady to donate five cents each month. This soon changed when they voted to charge each member $.25 a year, payable semiannually.
The name originally chosen by the first twenty-five women was The Ladies Literary Society of Santa Maria. By 1898, they called themselves the Women's Literary Club of Santa Maria. In 1906, the name was changed again to honor one of its own members, Minerva Thornburg. The club became the Minerva Library Club of Santa Maria. The last name change occurred in 1954 when the word Library was dropped.
A public library was one of the founding women's greatest dreams. A Library Fund was started that first year and books were purchased with monies raised. In July 1896, a bookcase was purchased and Mr. T. A. Jones allowed the ladies to put it in his store to hold the ninety books they had collected. Library cards were sold to the community and the revenue was used to buy more books. In April of 1899, the women hired a librarian and paid her $1 a month to oversee their collection of 268 books. This first lending library moved to the Post Office in 1900 and then moved several times more - to Mr. Mann's Hardware Store, a dentist's office, and the upper floor of the Heller Building. Over the years, the ladies wrote several times to Andrew Carnegie for help in establishing a public Library. The Carnegie Library was built in 1909 and the Club donated their collection of 600 books.
The Carnegie Library was built in 1909 through the efforts of the Ladies Literary Club.
As was stated, as the membership grew, it became increasingly difficult to find a suitable location for their programs. In October of 1904, a clubhouse building fund began. It would be two decades before serious plans could be made.
In March of 1925, Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Goodwin offered their lot at the corner of Boone and Lincoln to the Club as a possible site for a clubhouse. They stipulated that it would be given to the Club without charge if they had on hand $12,000 in cash or Liberty Bonds before January 1927. The Club had some Bonds and some money in the Building Fund and members began aggressively raising more. Nine months before the deadline they met the requirements and the deed for the property was out of escrow in January, 1927.
Mrs. Robert Easton, a member, was a friend of the prominent architect Julia Morgan. She was asked to design a clubhouse and she submitted two plans. One plan was larger and more elaborate, but based on the monies available, the second was chosen. Ms Morgan was paid $630 for her work. She would, of course, become world famous for her work on Hearst Castle.
A contract was signed on June 9, 1928 with the O. C. Marriott & Company Construction Firm to begin construction of the clubhouse. The total bill was $12,959.00. More fund raising was conducted so that the club could buy furniture and a lovely grand piano (which is still used today).
Opening Day in the new clubhouse was held on October 26, 1928. All city clubs were invited to attend an afternoon reception and tea. Then a dance was held for members and their husbands and sweethearts in the evening.
In September, 1952, O.J. Reiner Co. was contracted to put a roof over the front porch and to remove the doors and walls between the Fireside Room and the auditorium. Santa Maria became a boom town after the World War II and Club membership exploded. More space was needed and the Tea Room was added, as well as a storage room and additional space in the kitchen. Several remodels have occurred over the years.
At the beginning of World War I - before the United States became involved - a committee was formed and sent to the Chamber of Commerce to see if they could give some help to Belgium, which was suffering from the effects of the war. Boxes of clothing were gathered and shipped to Belgium.
Once the United States entered the war, the ladies bought "Liberty Bonds," donated to the Red Cross War Relief Fund, the Armenian Relief Fund, and the Santa Maria Junior Red Cross. They contributed to the War Victory Commission and to the National Council of Defense. They prepared 253 Christmas packages for servicemen. As the servicemen began to return from the war, the Minerva Club welcomed them back with a dinner dance in their honor.
In October, 1940, the Hancock Flying School increased their number of flights of their Piper Cub trainers around the city. The Minerva Club held dances for the cadets and the "nice young ladies" of the town. In 1941, they purchased the first of many U.S. War Bonds. They sewed a variety of things for the Red Cross, including layettes, baby nightgowns and dresses, women's dresses, blankets and quilts.
When war was declared in 1941, they embarked on a number of activities. Every Tuesday and Thursday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. the Red Cross held sewing and First Aid classes. New committees were formed: USO, Red Cross, and the War Activity Board. An appeal for workers to man the Air Raid Lookout Posts and for helpers at the Red Cross Headquarters was answered by many volunteers. The Club sent a member to serve on the USO Board, helped open the building for them, and served as hostesses. Club members furnished cakes and staffed the snack bar for the duration of the war. A Day Room was established at Camp Cooke, a part of the Army Air Corps (now Vandenberg AFB), for the use of the service men and their families. Money was donated to help furnish a library at the Base Hospital. They donated to the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Cancer Control Fund, Local War Chest, and the Tuberculosis Fund. They collected, sorted, and mailed clothes for the National Clothing Drive for Victims.
Once the war was over, the nation and the Minerva Club slowly returned to normal. The Club began having more social activities, including a formal dance. It was during this time of increased social events that the Club added the Bridge Section. These began with dessert only and then became lovely luncheons before the ladies began their games.
These bridge luncheons began in 1953 and are probably responsible - at least in part - for the tremendous increase in membership. In fact, through much of our history, membership was capped at 450 first and then 500 and there was a waiting list to belong. In addition, a Benefit Bridge section was organized as a way of raising money for local charities.
The Minerva Club is primarily a social club, but it has been very generous to local charities over the years. Besides the Benefit Bridge section, the club has a history of coming together when community needs arise. Some selected examples include: funding hot lunches for underprivileged children in 1950; donating funds and acting as hostesses monthly for a Santa Maria Serviceman's Center from 1966-1973; becoming a charter member of the Friends of the Library in 1980; and providing care packages for deployed servicemen just a few years ago.
The Minerva Club has a very active Scholarship program which has its roots in 1917 when the entire senior class of Santa Maria High School was entertained at the home of Mrs. Goodwin. A few years later the tradition of hosting honor students for a luncheon or other awards celebration began and continues today. The first Minerva Club scholarship was presented in 1952.
By the early 1980's, over $45,000 had been awarded. It was at this time that Scholarship Trust Fund was established. In 1999, the Club received a bequest of $250,000 from the estate of Maxine and Burns Rick. There had been discussions about incorporating the fund and when this large amount was received, it was time to take this step. Hence, the Minerva Club Trust Fund, Inc., was created. And now, $12,000 to $14,000 is given out annually to deserving high school seniors for their college education.
Over the years, there have been many changes both to the Clubhouse and to the Club itself. Several other sections were added, including Book, and Home and Garden. The membership meets on the first and third Tuesday for a short business meeting, a program, and a tea served from the Club's silver service. Bridge and Games meets the second Tuesday and one of the other sections meets the fourth Tuesday. In months that have five Tuesdays, a Benefit Bridge is scheduled. The major fundraiser is the club's Trash and Treasures Sale - a huge rummage sale - that has occurred every year since 1959. The past few years the Club has had a Bingo Luncheon Fundraiser and a Formal English Tea and Fashion Show, both open to the public.