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Fortnightly Of Jamestown Group To Disband After 126 Years

Members of the Fortnightly of Jamestown are pictured June 28. After impacting the community for 126 years, the group has voted to disband. Submitted Photo

After serving women of the community for 126 years, the Fortnightly of Jamestown has voted to disband.

Fortnightly was established to provide cultural, literary and intellectual development for its members. The organization was named after its bi-weekly meetings that ran during the fall and concluded in early spring.

Fortnightly of Jamestown was founded on Feb. 2, 1894, by Mrs. Charles H. Gifford and a group of women who met at the home of Mrs. George Tuckerman.

“This was a time in the 19th century when women were often denied access to universities, and the Jamestown club was no different,” the group said.

Members of the Fortnightly group were required to write and present papers on a wide range of topics, including American issues, international events, art, humor, technology, education, philosophy and religion.

Fortnightly also held a special “Summer Luncheon,” where members could listen to a speaker and take part in “merrymaking.”

Mrs. Charles H. Gifford was elected as the first president of Jamestown Fortnightly. Other notable presidents included Mrs. Mary Emogene Hazeltine, Mrs. Charles Goddell, Mrs. Stanley Weeks, Miss Jennie Vimmerstedt and Mrs. B. Dolores Thompson.

As one of Jamestown’s oldest women’s organizations, Fortnightly leaves behind a powerful legacy.

Renate Bob has been a member since 1970.

“I’m definitely the oldest member that is still around, at 93,” Bob said.

Bob said the decision to disband was the result of members passing away and fewer people interested in presenting papers.

In the early 1900s, the group had 56 members and 15 people on the waiting list. Bob said membership had been reduced to about 40 women.

“Gradually, we lost people and that was basically the decision that we should disband,” Bob said.

After the Fortnightly’s decision to disband after 126 years, the organization said its remaining funds will be distributed to local libraries.

“We support the libraries, so whenever one of our members has passed on we have always given $50 each time to Prendergast,” Bob said.

Prendergast, Lakewood and Falconer libraries will receives donations from the group’s remaining funds.

“We have a little bit over $1,000 to give,” Bob said.

Although the group is disbanding, several members expressed their desire to continue meeting as a group.

“There are still 10 or more of us who really felt badly about it, so when we met at the Olive Garden a few days ago and voted to disband, we decided to go on,” Bob said. “We don’t know what name we’ll take, but we’re going to be going on a very informal basis.”

While the remaining members have not determined the format for the future, some ideas include people showing Ted Talks in their homes or meeting at the Lakewood Library, which is where the Fortnightly had met before.

“We’re trying to continue but on a very informal basis,” Bob said.

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