The Bellingham PLF Club (Progressive, Literary Fraternal Club) was organized in 1900 as a community organization for educated Bellingham Women. The PLF Club was federated in Washington State in October, 1900, and throughout its 67 year history was an active member of the Washington Federation of Women’s Clubs. Founding members included Washington State poet laureate Ella Higginson, and the first president, Mrs. Frances Axtell. Originally, the main focus was to “establish and maintain a social club, provide reading rooms, provide and give instruction for the diffusion of scientific, artistic, musical or historical purposes.”*
Early activities of the PLF Club included sponsoring lectures by visiting notables, including actors, writers, and politicians. In 1904, the club raised 2200.00 dollars and built a club house, known as Garden Hall, at the corner of Holly and Garden streets in downtown Bellingham. This was the first women’s club house in Washington State. The club house served as a venue for lectures, readings, and other club events, and in June 1908, it hosted the annual meeting of the State Federation for the first time. The PLF Club also used the club house to generate revenue by renting it out for social occasions. However, in 1914 the club sold the house when it became too burdensome to maintain. Later, the building’s name was changed to Tabernacle Hall.
Over time, charitable and social causes came to dominate the club’s activities. The PLF Club worked for city improvements in the water supply, food sanitation, public parks, education, and libraries. The club raised and donated funds to local organizations such as the City Mission, the Y.W.C.A, the Red Cross Milk Fund, Campfire Girls, the Salvation Army, and the Orthopedic Hospital. Beginning in 1941, the PLF participated in WFWC efforts to acquire and preserve forested land along the Snoqualmie highway, near Enumclaw. The "Federation Forest", which came to include 619 acres of old growth forest, later became the Federation Forest State Park. In 1952, one parcel of forest was dedicated as the Ella Higginson Grove. In the 1950s and 1960s, one of the club’s primary causes was the museum fund, to support the renovation and modernization of the Whatcom Museum of History and Art. The club raised and donated thousands of dollars to the museum.
In 1933, the PLF Club spearheaded the formation of a Whatcom County Federation of Women’s Clubs. Many notable Bellingham women were members of the PLF Club, which started with a membership of twenty in 1900, and never experienced a roster of more than forty.
*from Lottie Roeder Roth's History of Whatcom County (Seattle: Pioneer Historical Publishing Company, 19260
The PLF Club records contains material that documents the club’s activities from its incorporation in 1900 through its dissolution in 1967. In addition, the collection includes records from the Washington Federation of Women’s Clubs, of which the PLF Club was a member throughout its existence. These records date from 1928 to 1968, however, the bulk of the material date from 1949 to 1968.
Amongst the PLF Club’s administrative records, most valuable are the detailed meeting minutes, which document the interests and activities of the club from 1911 to 1966. Sixty yearbooks, spanning 1900 to 1967, provide summaries of the club’s membership, activities, and philosophy. The financial records include cash books, receipt books, receipts, and bank statements which provide specific documentation on the club’s donations to a variety of charitable causes. Club efforts to support the Whatcom Museum of History and Art in the 1950s and 1960s are particularly well-documented. Other noteworthy documents include a history of the club through 1934, and two reports funded by the club. The first of these, dated 1913, presents the results of a study on the feasibility of using Lake Whatcom as a reservoir. The second, from 1945, is an appraisal of public health resources and services in Whatcom County.
Of most interest amongst the WFWC materials are the three scrapbooks, which are packed with clippings, event programs, and memorabilia. Researchers should note that additional material from the PLF Club records relating to the Whatcom Christian Temperance Union were removed to form a separate collection at the CPNWS. While the two organizations had some members in common, there was no formal relationship between them.
Restrictions on Access :
Collection is open for research.Preferred Citation :
PLF Club Records, Center for Pacific Northwest Studies, Heritage Resources, Western Washington University, Bellingham WA 98225-9123.
The collection is organized in accordance with the following series and sub-series arrangement:
Acquisition Information :
In October 1997, the PLF Club records were donated by Estella Gelder.Processing Note :
Victor Burgett processed the PLF Club records in July 2006.
Additional material from the same donation relating to the Whatcom Christian Temperance Union were processed as a separate collection; the Whatcom Christian Temperance Union Records. These records are also available at the Center For Pacific Northwest Studies
Additional materials were added to the collection by Joseph Shay in June 2009 and at that time some financial materials including bank statements, check stubs and tax information were removed from the addition to the collection.
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the online catalog. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.