For Jane Cunningham Croly
January 6, 1903 — Memorial for Jane Cunningham Croly, Sorosis and Woman’s Press Club, New York City
I am requested to speak of the excellent work done by its departed president, in and for the Woman’s Press Club of New York City. To others is assigned the testimony in reference to the career and work of our departed president as a press woman, and her place in literature.
We are not here to analyze her character, or to chronicle her work. Nor are we here to dwell on those biographical details which belong to the pen rather than the voice; to the book and the reader rather than the address and the hearer. We are here to testify our regard for one whose busy pen is laid aside, but whose example of industry we may well imitate; though in the journalistic field the women of today will never have opportunity to emulate her perseverance and fearlessness, since her entrance in times long gone by on this untrodden path bore an important part in opening the way and obtaining results for women with whom the pen to-day is a power.
Mrs. Croly was the founder of this club in 1889, and for twelve years and to the day of her death, its only president. It started (as she tells us in the large quarto volume relating to clubs — which was the closing, if not the crowning, effort of her busy pen) with an invitation sent out by herself in November, 1889, to forty women, a number of whom were then engaged upon the press in New York City, to meet at her residents, and consider the advisability of forming a Woman’s Press Club. It was eminently fitting that one who had been stirred in former years by the absence of social recognition in journalism as within woman’s province, on the part of the men of the press, and moved to take a prominent part in the formation of Sorosis, should organize a club of women writers — women journalists especially — which should be known everywhere as distinctly at Woman’s Press Club.
The response to her call was most gratifying. Her ability as an organizer, and her social qualities which could attract and hold women together in strong bonds of mutual esteem and fellowship, were again evident, and on November 19, 1889, the organization was effected and a provisional constitution adopted.
At first the literary features of the new club were considered secondary to the social and beneficiary, but gradually they grew to their present importance.
In its early days, like most clubs this one was migratory, and its work incidental. Gradually it came to have a more permanent home, and its monthly programmes which, as Mrs. Croly herself stated, “are more in the form of a symposium than of a question for debate,” came to be so attractive and varied, and in every way so excellent, that they are often declared to be unsurpassed in interest by any woman’s club. This was a matter of exceeding satisfaction to its founder, who saw the club grow from its membership of fitty-two to two hundred. She was never weary of recounting its successes, literary, musical artistic and social. The Press Club was her joy and pride from its organization to the very day when she last met with its member’s devoting on that day her failing strength to a cause that was beyond expression dear to her heart. I think I shall only be saying very feebly what the members of the club, especially those who have been members from its organization now feel — that they regard her presence with them on the recent day of installation of new officers as a benediction, though they little knew that in her feebleness she was bidding them a loving farewell. When the news of her departure reached them it was received with surprise and deep sorrow. By prompt action the officers at once came together, and immediate measures were taken for appropriate expression of the Press Club’s loyalty and love.
Its members are here to-day not only to express their high regard for their departed founder and president, but also to unite with Sorosis, the London Pioneer Club, and other clubs in the State Federation, who, by their presence ,speech, or song, indicate the sympathy they have with those will hold in fadeless remembrance their ascended president who has learned ere this, that
“Life is ever Lord of Death,
And Love can never lose its own.”
As members of the club she, who has now passed into the eternal light, founded may we seek earnestly to walk in the light of Truth, strenuous for that more than loyalty liberty of conscience, which means liberty under righteous law and seeking for the Unity which obeys the Golden Rule, and thus binds heart to heart. So shall the Woman’s Press Club of New York City truly honor the member of its founder and first president, Jane Cunningham Croly.
Source: Memories of Jane Cunningham Croly, “Jenny June” (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, The Knckerbocker Press), 1904, pp. 23-26.