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Intersections: Women's club keeps up with the times

March 05, 2014|By Liana Aghajanian

Drive down La Crescenta Avenue fast enough and you'll miss it — a humble, stone-and-brick building hidden behind a utility pole and a few trees.

It might be nondescript, but for almost a century, the clubhouse of the La Crescenta Woman's Club has been an important part of the area's long, often forgotten legacy. The building, with beautiful wooden floors that creak, a nostalgic fireplace and floral bathroom walls is steeped in history.

Enveloped in the silence before a monthly club meeting, I could almost see the ballroom full of local women with big hats and gloves from another time and place that once occupied this building around me. It also functions as a Red Cross Station during a disaster or emergency for the area, too.

But the clubhouse's strong and long-lasting foundations are not necessarily in its sturdy shell. Instead, they are in the group of women who use the house as a base and safe haven and whose dedication and appreciation for the concept of 'community' have kept the Woman's Club going for so many decades.

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The club's existence today is in itself an amazing feat. Citing declining membership, women's clubs across the country have been shuttering their doors for years. More than two million women in the United States were part of the General Federation of Women's Clubs in the 1950s.

Today, their numbers have drastically decreased to about 100,000.

The clubs are not only competing with the economy, career trajectories and the time and energy of 21st century women — but also with technology, whose overarching presence supposedly fills many of our social needs.

The La Crescenta chapter has felt it, too — it’s lost members to old age and wants to attract new, younger women, many who might not know the club exists.

And then there's debunking the stuffy image.

“I think still a lot of people picture a bunch of old ladies knitting, talking about their husbands,” said Breanna Coe. “We're doing our best, as the younger members, to try and bring in that next generation.”

At 26, she's the youngest member of the club and possibly the youngest in the region. She's also the curator of the club's junior section.

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