Woman’s Club passes into history after 94 years

Aging membership,
changes in society
write end to story

By clare MARie celano
Staff Writer

Aging membership,
changes in society
write end to story
By clare MARie celano
Staff Writer


Helen MatthewsHelen Matthews

FREEHOLD — Saying good-bye is never easy, but bidding farewell to something that has been an integral part of you for more than half your life is especially difficult.

At least that’s how Helen Matthews feels about seeing the dissolution of the Woman’s Club of Freehold.

Matthews, serving as president for the third time, said she is saddened by the fact that the club will no longer exist as it has since 1909.

"Our membership is down to 11 members now," Matthews said in a recent conversation, before adding that in its heyday, the club boasted 125 members.


CLARE MARIE CELANO  The Woman’s Club of Freehold called this building on South Street, Freehold Borough, home from 1961 to 2003. The club is closing its doors and has sold the property to an attorney who will make his offices here.CLARE MARIE CELANO The Woman’s Club of Freehold called this building on South Street, Freehold Borough, home from 1961 to 2003. The club is closing its doors and has sold the property to an attorney who will make his offices here.

Actually, the membership was at its capacity for the little red brick building on South Street that served as the clubhouse.

According to Matthews, the club had to turn members away because any more people in the building would have violated the fire code.

Freehold Borough will have to say good-bye to the organization that has made its home in town for almost 100 years.

The building is being sold to Herbert Ellis of Manalapan, who will bring his law practice to the building.

According to Matthews, all the proceeds from the sale of the building will go to various agencies and organizations in the borough.

Matthews explained that the club had its beginning with members gathering at a large home on Broad Street where the Freehold Jewish Center now stands.

The club then moved to the First Presbyterian Church on Main Street before finally settling at the corner of South and Institute streets when the organization purchased the building in 1961.

Matthews attributed the declining membership to "changing times."

She added that at one point, the organization even started a Junior Women’s Club, which lasted for a while before disbanding.

Matthews said many members were getting older and it became difficult for them to remain active members.

In an interview with Matthews, 85, at her Jackson Street home, she graciously shared news clippings, photos and her wonderful memories.

Spread about were tidbits, snippets and photos of the past, and typewritten pages that held written records of the history of the club — pages that de­scribe things such as membership dues priced at $1 a year.

"If you can’t fulfill your duty, you can substitute something or pay a 50-cent fine," a 1922 entry read.

Or this entry from Jan. 26, 1934, by Annie P. Perrine in regard to the original name of the club, the Monmouth Sorosis Club: "I had a vague idea that sorosis was the name of some wonderful philosopher or reformer like Susan B. Anthony or Carrie Nation. All I can find in any avail­able reference book is sorosis: a women’s club, or sorosis: a fleshy fruit."

The name was changed to the Woman’s Club of Freehold in October 1910.

Other entries included donations such as 40 yards of muslin which was given for use in the Monmouth County jail and $10 for a bond for the tuberculosis drive.

Matthews has more than 40 years of memories of her years at the Woman’s Club of Freehold stored up and willingly shared some of them.

She recalled trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Longwood Gardens in Delaware and the DuPont mansions in Maryland.

She remembered fund-raisers such as lovely flower shows and elaborate luncheon fashion shows with delicate sandwiches on elegant silver trays and fancy cakes for dessert.

Christmas parties, school bands and piano players entertained club members.

She also remembers women dressed in hats and globes and being dropped off at the meetings by their husbands.

"It was a very different time then," she said reflectively.

The club has donated money to virtu­ally every agency and organization in the borough over the life of its charter, ac­cording to the president.

Members have held fund-raisers and donated money to efforts that include Lyme disease, Freehold Beautiful, Centra­State Medical Center, the Open Door food pantry and the YMCA.

The club has also given annual scholarships to deserving students.

According to Matthews, the proceeds from the sale of the clubhouse are slated to go to the following agencies: the Freehold Borough Police Department, the Freehold Fire Department, the Freehold First Aid and Emergency Squad and the Freehold Public Library. Also included will be the YMCA Community Center, CentraState Medical Center, Open Door and Freehold Borough High School. In addition, a scholarship spon­sored by the Woman’s Club of Freehold will be awarded annually.