When Char Larson and Hazel Palmer started a study club 50 years ago, they named it Audacia. The word “audacia” is related to the word audacious, means “boldly forward — and the club is still going strong today.
Back in the 1950s and 60s, study clubs were the in thing. Every town had almost as many study clubs as it had bridge clubs — since everyone who was anyone belonged to a bridge club, too.
“There were nine other womens clubs in Redwood Falls in 1962, and they were all limited to 25 members,” said Hazel Palmer.
“Char Larson and I thought we should start another club since there were enough younger people to do it. Everyone called us the baby club because we were the youngest ones.”
Palmer and Larson did, and called theirs the Audacia Study Club. The word “audacia” is related to the word audacious, and means “boldly forward.
The club’s stated purpose was “to stimulate the intellectual and social life of its members, and to promote the welfare of the community.
“For many women, study clubs were a chance to get out of the house,” said Karen Moore. “They used to dress up quite a lot, and come wearing hats and gloves.”
The club’s reputation for youth lasted for decades.
“We moved to town in 1979, and everyone said I should join the Audacia club because that was the youngest one,” laughed Kay Prouty.
At the first meeting, Palmer was voted the first president. One of the first orders of business: choose the club flower (brown cushion pompon), and club colors (brown and gold).
This coming year, the Audacia Study Club celebrates 50 years of fun and service in the Redwood area. Since it was organized, the Audacia Study Club has had 138 members.
At various times, the age range of the members has varied from the early 20s to their 90s.
According to Pam Prouty, the variety of ages was one of the biggest attractions for her.
“The younger members enjoy hearing the older women share their stories,” Prouty said.
It works both ways.
“It gives us a chance to find out what young moms deal with today that we didn’t have to,” said Judi Dahms.
The social aspect is still one of the biggest attractions.
“Our monthly meetings are the only time I see some of these ladies,” said Kay Prouty. “It’s a good way to stay connected.”
She added, “The meetings used to go on until one in the morning for some members, at least for those who didn’t have to get children to bed.”
Moore joked the 25-member limit was imposed by how many chairs most members could scrounge up when they hosted a meeting at their homes.
One fun activity was “progressive dinners.” The members would start off with snacks at one member’s house, then all hop into their cars and drive to someone else’s house for the main course.
Dessert would follow at a third member’s home.
Not all members live within Redwood Falls city limits. Several come from rural areas, and one commutes from the Vesta region.
Among the many community improvement projects the club has contributed to over the years:
• gift packages for needy families at Thanksgiving and Christmas
• annual parade of homes
• Ramsey Park beautifications and improvements, including collaborating with the Belles Lettres Study Club on the old vita course exercise trail.
• numerous toys, activities, and furnishings for the pediatrics ward of the local hospital.
• work at and supply the hospital auxiliary cart
• work at Red Cross blood drives
• downtown Christmas decorations
• renovation of Gilwood Haven
• annual scholarship for Redwood Valley High School students
• donations to the Library Foundation, Share the Spirit, Friends of the Park, Meals on Wheels, the March of Dimes, and many others.
One of the most visible projects for Audacia Study Club members has been the many urns for flowers in downtown Redwood Falls.
The annual Tour of Homes, run in conjunction with Christmas by Candlelight, is the major fundraiser for maintaining the flower urns downtown.
(“Tell everyone we’re still looking for homes for this year!” said Pam Prouty.)
“In 1976 we marched on city hall and asked them to reduce the speed limits by the schools,” said Palmer, adding, “That wasn’t one of our successful efforts.”
Meetings are held the first Monday of the month. In addition to the socializing and snacks, the group hears a speaker discuss an item of interest.
Items tentatively lined up for the next few months include the 150th anniversary of the Dakota War, a visit to the Hacker tree farm, and an author visit by a local writer.
A year after the club was organized it joined the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC), a national group representing over 100,000 clubwomen, the next year.
“We’re the only club left in town that’s still federated with the GRWC,” said Moore. “The state convention is going to be at Jackpot next year, in May.”
Palmer doesn’t attend all meetings anymore, and is honored as the charter member. Currently Ann Lasley has been the longest-serving member at 44 years, with Karen Moore and Kay Prouty both following her with 33 years each.
How has the club changed in 50 years?
“In some ways, it hasn’t changed at all,” said Lasley. “It’s still 25 women working for the betterment of the community. The projects have changed, but we still do the same thing.”
“I don’t think the number of hours we volunteer each year has changed,” said Barb Dahms. “We just volunteer for different projects.”