In March 1776, Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her husband John urging the Massachusetts representative to “remember the ladies” while serving and making decisions on behalf of American citizens in the Continental Congress at Philadelphia. To borrow from Abigail Adams, the Frankfort Public Library dedicates this page to remember the ladies of Frankfort, in this case, past members of the still-active Women’s Club organization. These unsung “sheroes” were leaders in the area, giving sacrificially to promote interest in civic and cultural affairs and the general welfare of the community. The Women’s Club is held in affectionate esteem at Frankfort Public Library as they were responsible for dreaming up the library and providing needed financial support. They paid the rent ($540 annually) and heating bills at the Library’s first location on 9 W. Nebraska Street in downtown Frankfort from 1961-1966 through the first year of the Library becoming a tax-supported village library. The Women’s Club also held an annual Library Benefit Dance to help further fund library operating costs.
The founding mothers of the Frankfort Public Library Association were Pearl Cheney, Maybelle Eastman, Joan Keener, Marian E.(Meyers) Kohlbacher, Victoria (Gerodimos) Lambrecht, Doris Olsen, Joyce Petnuch – all members of the Frankfort Parent Teacher Association (PTA). These visionary, caring women recognized a need for library services. Their initial goal was to provide a place for school children to do research. This purpose was expanded to include the whole community. This is reflected in their vision statement:
“To establish and maintain in the Village of Frankfort, Will County, Illinois a circulating library and also reading and writing rooms and a reference library and to furnish the same respectively with books, reviews, magazines, newspapers and other publications, including instrument and vocal music.”
The early founders succeed in establishing a volunteer library on August 29, 1961 with doors opening to the public in March of 1962. The new library was staffed by 32 regular volunteers, serving once a month, and 10 substitutes. The building housed community donations, new books from the PTA, chairs and books from the Women’s Club, and State Library extended loans.
Because of this special relationship between the Women’s Club and Frankfort Public Library, the Women’s Club members decided to donate the organization’s scrapbooks and minutes to the Library in September of 1986. The multimedia scrapbooks are true treasures and works of art, providing information beyond the written word about social history, gender roles, fashion, and more. These early scrapbooks can be viewed as historical signposts. Additional materials were donated at a later date and include membership and installation information, notes, event records, reports, booklets, correspondence, financial records, the club’s constitution, and by-laws. These records date back to 1917 and include some material through the 1990s. The Club was organized April 28, 1917 under the name of the Frankfort Home Improvement Club and experienced other name changes across time.
Due to the sensitive nature and dates of some of the content, access to most of the Women’s Club items are restricted at this time. The library remains committed to preserving these materials as one small gesture of gratitude for the remarkable library legacy made possible by the Women’s Club.
Abigail Adams’ “Remember the Ladies Letter” (1776). Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), Aug. 2005. Web. 18 Aug. 2014.
Frankfort: the Town, the Events, the People: The Centennial Year. Frankfort: Book Committee of Frankfort, 1979. Print.
Unknown Author. Speech on index cards indicating Women’s Club Gift of scrapbooks to the LIbrary. (1986). FRANKFORT SECTION 1R Box 1, Folder 1. Frankfort Women’s Club Membership and Miscellaneous Information. Frankfort Public Library Archives, Frankfort, IL. 18 Aug. 2014
Unknown Author. ‘History of the Frankfort Public Library District: The Rest of the Story….’ n.d. FRANKFORT SECTION 1R Box 1, Folder 18. Frankfort Women’s Club Membership and Miscellaneous Information. Frankfort Public Library Archives, Frankfort, IL. 18 Aug. 2014