Earlier in January this year, I met some of the members of the Douglass Club of Austin, Texas – Mary Church Terrell District, at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Festival at Huston Tillotson University. I was excited and wanted to know more about their presence in history. I went back to the Austin History Center and started searching for the history of the club in our Austin Biographical File. I found a small collection, and then used the online resource, the Texas Portal to History. After doing so, I felt like I had found a special group of women that I wanted to document.
I decided to contact the club to see what the requirements were to join. I was sent an email from the membership coordinator and she got me in touch with the current president of the organization, Ms. Betsy Evans. We scheduled to have coffee in East Austin. Once we met, we immediately hit it off! She provided the information that I needed to join and a brief about the organization. I was all in within an hour and wanted to get started with the process quickly.
I learned through my research that Mrs. Laura Pierce organized the Douglass Club in 1906, a wise woman indeed. It is the oldest African American women’s club in the southwest. In like manner, it is embedded under the fabric of the National Association of Colored Women Clubs. The 1912 Douglass Club of Austin joined the National Federation in 1914. As the founder and leading force behind the national organization Mary Church Terrell’s , I knew the organization was the real deal and their mission: Intellectual Attainment, Civic Improvement, and Charity.
Throughout my research and fascination about African American women’s social clubs when I started to find more out about the Douglass Club on a local, regional, and national level. It was astounding to learn about a group of women small in number by design , are some of the most powerful, successful, elegant, and regal (too many adjectives – it’s spiritual on so many levels too) women that I will ever know in my lifetime. I cannot even explain how it feels to have a Black Woman to put [the legacy] around my neck. Yeah, I wrote that sentence; it’s called the pinnacle of Blackness!
I was inducted on Sunday, October 20, 2019, into the organization and it was one of the best feelings that I have ever had in my life: My name is now included in the minutes of the Douglass Club of Austin, Texas – Mary Church Terrell District. I was among Black Royalty in every age group deemed: Grown Woman & Cultural Philanthropy – Blackness! I have the pleasure of saying that I came into the 113th year of service with this chapter. My name was spelled correctly on my medallion (The audacity!).
I love a woman who pays attention to detail. When you think about it, she looks at the meaning behind what is happening and either ask a question about it or exits the situation without regret, because she is an observer that does not indulge . The energy was spiritual and awakening; the decor to die for; all of the inductees were given engraved medallions and yellow roses. Again, I felt like I was indeed Black Royalty.
I am a Douglass Woman (Lady):
“Lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go, struggling and striving and hoping that the buds and blossoms of our desires will burst into glorious fruition ere long … Seeking no favors because of our color nor patronage because of our needs, we knock at the bar of justice and ask for an equal chance.” – Mary Church Terrell
Douglass Club Image: Douglass Club Members, photograph, Date Unknown; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth17399/: accessed October 21, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Jacob Fontaine Religious Museum.
Mary Church Terrell Quote: Mary Church Terrell, “What Role Is the Educated Negro Woman to Play in the Uplifting of Her Race?” (1902), in Beverly Washington Jones, Quest for Equality: The Life and Writings of Mary Church Terrell (1990) https://quotationsbywomen.com/authorq/52547/