Collection Connection – Abilene Shakespeare Club

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Our final Collection Pet Takeover includes all of our remaining staff pets — posing as members of the Abilene Shakespeare Club circa 1900-1910. A sizable collection within the Grace Museum History Collection documents the many and impactful women’s clubs active in Abilene through the years through photographs, programs, and various ephemera. In 1883 The Reading Club (later The Abilene Shakespeare Club) was organized. A few years later, the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs acknowledged this group as the first woman’s study club in Texas. Without a local library, Abilene members were required to study Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets and recite or perform skits designed to educate fellow members. Many members created costumes and sets for their presentations.

Because it was not socially acceptable for women to take leadership roles in the church or community, women-only groups afforded many women their first opportunity to “find my own voice,” as one Shakespeare Club member expressed in a personal note.

Abilene Shakespeare Club,, c. late 1900s-early 1910s, reproduction photograph, Collection of The Grace Museum, from the Estate of Ms. Eleanor Hutchinson