Organized at the home of Theodore and May Wright Sewall on June 27, 1890, the Contemporary Club’s objective was to cultivate sociability and intellectual activity among a membership open to men and women on equal terms. The club was to express no opinion on any subject, but all subjects were to be open for discussion.

A woman stands on a stage behind a podium. Four people sit behind her.
President Mary Jane Meeker addresses the Contemporary Club during their 100th-anniversary celebration at the Columbia Club, 1990 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

The first meeting was held on September 25, 1890, with Prof. John M. Coulter, a renowned botanist then teaching at Wabash College, reading a paper on “The Physical Basis of life.” Early presidents included William Dudley Foulke, William P. Fishback, Demarchus C. Brown, and Catharine Merrill.

The roster of speakers at the Contemporary Club over the years includes Woodrow Wilson, Booker T. Washington, and William Buckley. Cornelia Otis Skinner, Claude Rains, and Vincent Price came to entertain, and authors Edward Everett Hale, Henry James, and Gertrude Stein addressed the group.

The club celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2010 and continues to be active. While the club is rooted firmly in tradition, that tradition includes concern with contemporary events and people.

Revised April 2021

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