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Women and Purse Strings: The Perfect Marriage at Eden Church

Women and Purse Strings: The Perfect Marriage at Eden Church

Last month we learned about the men in Eden’s history who saved the church budget by performing volunteer repairs and maintenance. But who paid for the things only money can buy? For the majority of Eden’s 150 years the women members raised, borrowed, budgeted and spent much of the cash needed to run both the most fundamental aspects of our church’s fiscal needs and some of its extravagances. Eden’s archives reveal careful accounting by the various women’s organizations over the years.

On April 27, 1886 the Ladies Union Society was formed at Eden in part to raise money to furnish the new kitchen, Sunday School rooms and social hall of 1887, and to pay for some of its ongoing expenses. Dues for members was 10 cents/month (and remained there until at least 1949!). In the first few years of the Ladies Union they paid for the painting and cleaning of the building, for a kitchen range and table, carpet, curtains, oil lamps, books, printing of written material, repairs and for the janitor’s salary ($10). There were months when a nurse was listed in the expenditures, duties unknown. The Ladies raised money by, among other activities, hosting a musical concert in July 1887, a basket social the next year and numerous bazaars and food sales. Auctioning the basket dinners alone raised more than enough to buy the kitchen range. Starting in 1889, the Ladies regularly paid the electric bill of $4.55/month. Interestingly, the electric bill went down to $4.00/mo in 1897, and down again to $1.00/mo in 1907.

During the 1890s the Ladies Union Society budget was in the hundreds of dollars and in addition to hosting socials to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, strawberries and ice cream, and Japanese Tea, they raised money via “Soap Bubble Socials” where participants bought bowls of soap solution and pipes and made their own fun. Proceeds went toward windows, materials for comforters and aprons, roof repair and the Pastor’s salary for December 1907: $100. Expenses faced by our forbearers during this period: shingles for the horse shed ($5.65), coal and kindling ($11/mo) and a sunbonnet (20 cents). The only reference associated with the April 1906 earthquake was $1.00 paid to “a man to remove a brick from the roof.”

By the 1930s and 40s the name had changed to “Ladies Aid” and, despite the Depression, the women’s group not only continued to raise enough money to pay plumbing bills, outfit the parsonage with a gas range, bathtub, tile, linoleum, lawnmower, water heater and more, but to support the Foreign Mission Board and make sure new brides had wedding gifts. In 1934 the new pastor’s wife, Mrs. Matthews, was surprised with a “jam and jelly shower” while the local Zambusky Furniture Co. was successfully petitioned to lower their bill for the parsonage furnishings. Fundraising activities expanded to include rummage sales, a “Useful Article Booth,” Dime-a-Dip Dinners, the famous “Duck Dinners” (tentatively scheduled each year pending duck availability), entertaining and educational lectures, magazine subscriptions, coupons and Easter egg hunts. On February 3, 1937 Eden’s women modestly noted sending money for flood relief, not needing to name the horrific Ohio River flood of that year. Likewise, they funded British War Relief in 1941, while buying new hymnals at home, supplying hearing aids for Sunday services and sponsoring children’s camperships. The Ladies Aid petitioned the Motion Picture Council to bring a higher quality of children’s matinees to Hayward, and produced a “Procession of Brides and Period Models Pageant” fundraiser.

In the 1950s, 60s and 70s the women’s organization at Eden became “Women’s Fellowship” and included smaller Circles of members of different ages and interests, e.g., the Ruth Circle of young mothers who shared advice, common concerns and good company. Women’s Fellowship continued to collect dues and raise money selling fruitcakes, mincemeat, stationery, international handicrafts, flower bulbs, holding silent auctions and staging wedding receptions. They also continued to fund outside charities, including the International Christian University in Tokyo, the Salvation Army, Church World Service, P.S.R., Fairmont Hospital, and in 1968 sponsored a special project to assemble layettes for South Vietnam (goal: 50/mo). For Eden’s campus, Women’s Fellowship and Circles funded new carpets, trees and shrubs, childcare, books and more. Current members may recall programs held in the church including films, speakers, and discussions of current issues, e.g., a campus ministry, election issues, conditions in Juvenile Hall. The Ruth Circle sponsored the youth group on a trip to work with migrant farm workers in Thornton.

A combination of women’s integration into leadership positions in the church, women’s increased working outside the home and different methods of church funding caused the decline of the specifically women’s church organizations. But throughout Eden’s rich history the women members were vital to our fiscal health and financial outreach through industry, creativity, cooperation, selflessness and a sense of responsibility and fun. Ask our seasoned women members about their memories of the Circles and Women’s Fellowship.

Ready for some fun? Join the 150th Anniversary Committee in a celebration of “100 Years of Fashion,” a vintage fashion show with live models, historical commentary and lunch on April 11. Details are in a separate announcement in this issue.


150th Anniversary Committee