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Booklover’s Club To Celebrate A Special, Double Birthday On May 1

ABINGDON, Va. – April 26, 2009 –  On May 1, the Booklover’s Club of Abingdon will celebrate a double birthday: 95 years of existence and 90 years of federation with the General Federation of Women’s Clubs of Virginia.

The club is best known for forming the first public library in Washington County in 1915, during a time when no public libraries existed at all – even in schools.

The seeds of success germinated in September 1914, when 13 women met at the home of Mattie Roundtree Stevenson to create a formal women’s group with a constitution, bylaws and elected officers. They had been meeting for months as a “study group,” in which they presented papers and hosted discussions.

The minutes of Oct. 2, 1914 stated, “Our reasons for entering into this Club are twofold – in the pleasure we will derive ourselves from the course of reading and study before us, and the benefit we may make to others by the establishment of a library for general use.”

Less than a year later, the group opened the first public library on the first floor of Mrs. M.E. Davidson’s house on Main Street in Abingdon, across from the Abingdon Methodist Church.

Fannie Withers was the first librarian, and after two years, a total of 704 books was reported. Students could use the library free. Adults paid an annual fee of $1. The club was accepted into the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1919.

For the next 40 years, the library was moved to several locations including the home of Minnie Baugh, a small house on Pecan Street and the upstairs of the Barter Theatre. Books were donated by private individuals, and the club bought new books and library equipment.

In 1954, Robert Porterfield purchased the Stonewall Jackson auditorium dining room and convinced the Washington County Board of Supervisors to allocate enough money to house a state-supported “demonstration library” in that space.

Today, membership in the club consists of over 100 members. They will celebrate by gathering at the Washington County Public Library, then separate to different members’ homes for cake and reminiscing.


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