Lansing Woman's Club
Constructed in 1889, this downtown structure was home to the Lansing Woman’s Club until 1952. The club was formed for the advancement of women in Michigan and focused on providing cultural and educational opportunities for its members. The club was one of the earliest of its kind in the region and its history reflects the profound changes in women's experience from the late nineteenth century to the present. The Lansing Women’s Club commissioned architect James Appleyard to design the building which housed the club for over sixty years. The Late Victorian building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Backstory and Context
This downtown brick structure was built in 1889 to house the Lansing Woman’s Club, an early organization established to advance the interests of women in the Lansing area. The Lansing Woman’s Club occupied the two-story brick building on West Ottawa Street downtown for over sixty years as the club met regularly to carry out their work.
The Lansing Woman’s Club was established and began meeting in 1874. The club was founded by prominent Lansing women such as Anna Ballard, a practicing physician, political activist, and organizer of the Lansing Medical Society; and Harriet Tenny, the first female State Librarian. United by a common purpose of advancing the cultural and educational interests of women, the club aimed to promote “the study and improvement of its members in Literature, the Sciences and Fine Arts.”
Before moving into the two-story brick structure on West Ottawa Street, the Lansing Woman’s Club rented space in various buildings throughout the city. Thanks to various fundraisers and contributions, the organization acquired the resources to construct their own building by the late 1880s. The leaders of the organization commissioned a local architectural firm to design and build this downtown building. Once construction was complete, the club rented out office space on the first floor and used the second floor for its meeting rooms and office space. In 1912, the Lansing Woman’s Club added a third story for its use and rented out the two floors beneath. The building hosted all club activities until 1952, when the organization purchased new headquarters just west on Ottawa Street.
In addition to serving as the meeting place for the Lansing Woman’s Club, the Lansing building is architecturally significant for other reasons. It is the only known remaining work of the architect James Appleyard. Appleyard was the husband of one of the club members and worked for Nehemiah Osburn & Co., the firm which built the Michigan State Capitol. Additionally, the building is also one of the oldest structures in Michigan that was built for the purpose of housing a women’s club. The Lansing Woman’s Club Building remains as a rare surviving structure on was a Late Victorian block, and serves as a reminder of the early, active community of women that have shaped Lansing. While this building has not housed the club for nearly seven decades, the organization remains active and accepts new members.
Adler, Ari B. Lansing Woman's Club Building. 2012. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Lansing_Woman%27s_Club_Building.jpg
Beckwith, Gladys. “Women’s rights fight underway in 19th century in Lansing.” Lansing State Journal (Lansing, MI), May 20, 1984. https://lugnut215.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/womens-rights-fight-underway-in-19th-century-in-lansing/
Capital Area District Libraries. Ingham County Federation of Women’s Clubs Archive Record. Accessed July 18, 2019. https://cadl.pastperfectonline.com/archive/F1A8E9A0-D110-4428-BFD0-380641465706
United States Department of the Interior. Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service. National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form. July 14, 1980. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/25337983.
Winslow, Helen M. Lansing (Michigan) Woman's Club. 1902. In The Club Women. Boston: L.C. Page & Company, 1902, 40-43.