Standing in front of the quilt crafted in 2017 to commemorate the club’s 100th anniversary are the remaining members of the Patagonia Woman’s Club. From left: Fran Russell; Connie Alford, President; Sara Cobb, Secretary; Anne Townsend, Treasurer; and Betty Johnson. Photo by Aisha Sander

After more than a century of operations, the Patagonia Woman’s Club is about to write the final chapter of its proud history of dedicated service to the community. Facing a steadily declining membership resulting from a dearth of younger women recruits, the remaining handful of members, all seniors with personal challenges and caregiving responsibilities, recently voted to disband the club.

Although the club’s actual start date is in question, longtime member Fran Russell recalls hearing that a group of local ranching women were responsible for laying the groundwork for the club’s birth when they got together in 1917 to plan social events for themselves and their families. After a period of getting together on a regular basis, the ladies decided that they should undertake activities that would improve life in the community, a decision that has paid, and will continue to pay, huge dividends to the community long after the club disbands.

Chief among the club’s many civic achievements are the acquisition, renovation and subsequent (1978) donation of Cady Hall to the Town of Patagonia, starting the Patagonia Public Library and providing college scholarships to dozens of local high school graduates. Other notable activities include paying for the addition to Cady Hall to house the library, publication of several editions of the Country Connection telephone directory and sponsoring Mata Ortiz fundraising trips. 

The club received approval to operate as a 501 (c) 3 in 1937 and in the same year became an affiliate of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, an international network of clubs whose own history dates back to 1890 when professional journalist Jane Cunningham Croly formed a women’s club after being denied admission to a dinner at an all-male press club. 

The Patagonia club had little to no financial resources in its early years but later instituted several types of fundraising efforts to secure funds with which to carry out various civic projects. Its most successful, and enduring, fundraising project was its Magic of Christmas event held in Cady Hall each year from 2000 through 2017. The annual event raised several thousand dollars by selling specially decorated Christmas trees and bazaar items donated by members of the community and club members. The funds were used primarily to provide scholarships to local high school graduates through four years of undergraduate college education. The club will pay its Spring 2020 scholarship obligations and then will dissolve. 

Among the club’s standing rules, the following appears: “Upon the dissolution of the…Club, …all debts and obligations…shall be paid or adequately provided for and the remaining assets shall be distributed to a nonprofit…which is organized for charitable, educational, religious, and/or scientific purposes.” The recipients of the club’s financial resources upon dissolution will be determined by remaining members Connie Alford, President; Sara Cobb, Secretary; Anne Townsend, Treasurer; Betty Johnson, Past President; and Fran Russell. Funds will be distributed to local nonprofits only.