Progressive Club celebrates centennial anniversary

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 15, 2003

The Selma Advocate edition of Saturday, May 22, 1915, published a feature article, with photographs, on the opening of a public reading room sponsored by the Progressive Culture Club. The president of this civic-minded group was Mrs. L.B. Burwell, secretary Mrs. I.M. Hudson, and treasurer Ms. Ella Gans. A

copy of this newspaper is on display in the Black Heritage Room of Selma’s Old Depot Museum.

(Editor of the Advocate was D.P. Craig and the newspaper’s slogan was &uot;Trade in Selma.&uot;)

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The Progressive Culture Club celebrated its hundredth anniversary during the previous year. Organized in January, 1902 by a group of pioneering women, who felt the need to improve the cultural, educational, civic, political and religious life of Selma, Dallas County and the state of Alabama, the present goals of the Club remain unchanged. And each year, many of these are achieved.

Incorporated in 1995, The Club is also an associate of the Alabama Association of Women’s Clubs. Its motto is the same as the state and national one, &uot;Lifting as We Climb.&uot; The primary interest in its early years was cooperating with the Alabama Association in the development of the boys and later the girls home for juvenile delinquents at Mt. Meigs, in an effort to prevent the placement of these youthful delinquents in prison with hardened criminals.

Later, the Partlow School for the Mentally Deficient was a project of the Alabama Association

and supported by the Progressive Culture Club, which also gives support to the scholarship program of the Association.

Several of Selma’s Club members have held leadership positions within the Association, including the offices of president, secretary, treasurer, historian and the executive board. The most recent officials were Dr. E.W. Lett, treasurer; Dr. Rowena P. Cleveland, who served as vice president, financial secretary and statistician, and Dr. Verdell Lett Dawson, who served as parliamentarian.

On the local level, the Club sponsors cultural programs for Selmians as well as contributing to Selma University, Concordia College, the YMCA and charitable organizations as well as assisting individuals in need.

During its 100-year history, the following women have served the Club as president; Marian R. Brown, Lavinia R. Burwell, Mary L. Carroll, Ethel M. Walker, Kate Foster, Dr. Rowena P. Cleveland, Willa M. Ferguson, Pauline D. Anderson, Dr. Earline Lett and Dr. Verdell L. Dawson.

Traditionally, the Club has been a mother/daughter organization. Today, those women who have the same or similar values of the founders are invited to become members to perpetuate the ideals of the Club for another century. Membership cuts across educational, economic, religious, political and cultural lives, as intended by its founders.

Addendum: Mrs. Pauline Dinkins Anderson, granddaughter and daughter of founding members, provided the historic research and updated it for the 100th anniversary celebration, which was observed at the grand opening of the Progressive Culture Center, located in the city’s historic district.