Nine years ago, Sue Stine retired from her job as a metro-area teacher. She and her husband had dreams of retiring in a rural community, and chose Long Prairie.
She didn’t know this at the time, but as a voracious reader, she really couldn’t have ended up in a better place.
That’s because the small community is home to a lively and engaged group called the Women’s Literary Club – an organization that’s about to celebrate its 125th anniversary next year.
And Stine, along with about 24 other women, are busy navigating the cherished organization through the 21st Century.
Founded in 1893, the Women’s Literary Club was a refuge for women – many of whom lived and worked on farms – who were passionate about literature.
In the years to come, the club became about much more than reading and discussing literature.
In fact, it’s likely that Long Prairie wouldn’t be what it is today without them.
Society members championed women’s suffrage and feminist issues at the turn of the 20th Century. They supported war efforts with projects like Victory Gardens. They continuously organized and ran clothing and book drives. They lent their support to the important work of organizations like the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and the American Cancer Society.
And, the club left a lasting testament to literacy by founding the Long Prairie Public Library nearly 100 years ago.
Today, the books being discussed might be new, and the meetings less formal, (hats and gloves were once required attire) but the group’s commitment to literary, intellectual and community-focused pursuits is unchanged.
Club members, most of whom are retired, spent long careers as busy professional women. Now, they cherish their time to read – and thanks to the power of the group, they often read things that they might not have chosen on their own.
With a membership currently sitting around 25, the ladies meet monthly from September to May. Fiction is the primary focus, though nonfiction sneaks into the lineup now and then.
Meetings begin with a poetry recitation and roll call, which are followed by “book reports.” This is a time for members to share their thoughts on what they’ve been reading. Of course, treats are always part of the festivities, and the group enjoys bringing in guest speakers – like authors – when they can.
And, beyond the literary, the club is a chance for members to see friends and chat about life.
Those chats are, without a doubt, very interesting. The most recent roster of club members are extremely well-traveled, with passports boasting stamps from Egypt, Russia, Italy, a variety of Scandinavian nations, Ireland, Scotland and Mexico … which the traveler saw during a road trip.
All in all, group members say a major, shared goal is to continue advocating for the public library, attract new members and keep the club thriving.
And, of course, to plan a celebration in honor of 125 years.
“Maybe we’ll dress up like they did at the beginning,” laughs one member. “Or we’ll just have a big cake.”