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California Women's Clubs: An agent for progress and community in the 20th century
What started off as social gatherings and book clubs grew during the Progressive Era into a fully grown social movement. Women's clubs, formed by middle-class white women and African Americans, focused on social reform for issues concerning the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries such as child labour, prison reform, suffrage, education, public health, and temperance. The clubs served multiple functions. For some women, the clubs were social gatherings and a way to connect with friends, for other women they served as a way to get involved community engagement and philanthropic endeavours and the clubs also become a way for some women to harness their political and social power and shape public policy in an era when women's roles were restricted to the private sphere of home and children.
Notable Women's Clubs include the League of Women Voters, National Association of Colored Women, Women's Christian Temperance Union, and the General Federation of Women's Clubs.
While the mid-twentieth century saw the decline of women's clubs they still exist as organizations that advocate change and progress for their communities.