In 1892 seven faculty wives met in the home of Mrs. Franklin Gault, wife of the university's first president, to form a book review club. President Gault joined them in the living room later, and when he learned they did not have a name, he suggested “The Pleiades Club,” comparing the seven ladies to the seven stars in the constellation. The group adopted its formal constitution in 1894 and joined the Idaho State Federation of Women's Clubs in 1895, as one of the first federated clubs in the state. The first yearbook was printed in 1897.
The first project of the Pleiades was the "gold and silver book," which it had made for Idaho's exhibit at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Mrs. Gault suggested the idea; Miss Annette Bowman, a faculty member, designed the box; and the Gorham Company made the item from Idaho gold, silver, and semi-precious stones. The “book,” rescued from the 1906 Administration Building fire, is now in the office of the University President.
Members of the Pleiades also helped to organize the Historical Club, and in 1901, these two clubs began to raise money for a public library in Moscow. The members started correspondence with the Carnegie Foundation, and in 1904, the Foundation granted the clubs $10,000 toward construction of a building. The library opened in 1906.
The Pleiades Club maintains a membership of 15 or 16 and continues to meet in the homes of its members. For the first 40 years, Shakespeare’s plays formed a part of its program and roll call was answered with a Shakespearean quotation. Programs now include literature, music, and current events. The Club continues its active participation in civic and charitable projects.
The records of the Pleiades Club span the years 1892 to 2011/12, with the bulk of the material from the years 1940 to 1970.
The material includes minute books, the Club yearbooks that list the program for the year, reports on activities, newspaper clippings about the Club and its members, and photographs of Club members. Some Pleiades members attended state and district federation meetings, and the yearbooks and programs of these groups form a separate series.
The minute books are, for the most part, handwritten minutes of the meetings of the Club. The French Orphans folder contains some very interesting correspondence with a French family to whom the Club sent food and clothing after World War II. The Gold and Silver Book folder contains correspondence with Tiffany's and Gorham in an attempt to get more information about the book; the Performing Arts Center folder outlines the Club's plan to raise money for the Center. The certificates include merit awards and community service awards.
A note by Gertrude Axtell on an envelope, which contained two minute books, states that the first and second secretary's books were in the possession of Kathryn Truitt, and at the time of her death, Mrs. Axtell and Mrs. Eldridge went to Jack McQuade for the books but were told they had been destroyed.
A leather bound membership book given to the Club by Belle Sweet, first University Librarian, on the occasion of the Club's 50th anniversary was not among the items received by the Library, although there are photographs of several pages of signatures of Club members.
The minute books and yearbooks are arranged chronologically, while the material in folders is arranged by subject, then by date. The scrapbook that Mrs. Axtell started, and which she mentions several times in her writings, was very fragile; therefore, it was disassembled and the material put into folders.
No more than two copies of each yearbook were kept; others were discarded. Yearbooks for 1977/78, 1979/80, 1988/89-2006/07, and 2009/10 are missing. A copy of a booklet, “Idaho Laws Concerning Women and Children,” ca. 1920, was removed from the collection and was added to the Day-NW Collection in Special Collections and Archives.
In 2012, Julie Monroe integrated Manuscript Accession 2002-17 into the collection.
Detailed Description of 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.