March is Women’s History Month, so what better time to celebrate some of our own local women’s history here in Marin County than by shining a spotlight on the Sausalito Woman’s Club? Formed in 1913 and incorporated in 1916, the club’s 300-strong multigenerational membership ranges from younger women, many of whom have demanding careers and young children, to those who have been members for 50 years. “It really speaks volumes about the beauty of this club and how it has sustained itself over the years,” says club president Susan Watson.
Times have certainly changed since the early days of the Sausalito Woman’s Club, when Sausalito’s main drag was merely a dirt road that was filled with brothels and gambling establishments. “One of the things that the women did back then was to clean out the jail and throw out the lice-infested mattresses — we’re not doing that anymore!” laughs Watson. Still, club members adhere to the founders’ mission even today: “…to preserve the beauty of Sausalito and to aid, through organized effort, such worthy causes as may enlist its sympathies and to create a center of thought and action among the people for the promotion of whatever tends for the best interest of this town and of the state.”
“We really adhere to it as much today as they did back then,” says Watson. Indeed, the club’s 50 different committees attend to a wide variety of community needs, from tending gardens in Downtown Sausalito to offering community outreach in Marin City. In addition, the Sausalito Woman’s Club Scholarship Recognition Fund provides financial assistance to local students from the Sausalito Marin City School District to help them achieve their higher education goals.
Although many of the Sausalito Woman’s Club’s in-person activities have been temporarily suspended due to the pandemic, it’s known for hosting community events, such as book club meetings, poetry nights and wildflower hikes. One tradition that has endured for many decades, however, is what the club refers to as the “Jinks,” an elaborate annual show, complete with backdrops, costumes and props, written by an existing member and performed by each year’s new members on founders’ day in mid-March.
Completed in 1918, The Sausalito Woman’s Club’s beautiful Julia Morgan-designed clubhouse was bestowed a spot on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. It hosts many of the club’s events, as well as docent-led historical tours, and is also available to rent Regular fundraising efforts have helped the club procure much-needed funds to complete ongoing preservation projects, including providing a new roof for the building last year. “We’re following the U.S. Department of the Interior’s historic guidelines for historic preservation, so we’re pretty serious about doing it right,” says Janet Chapman, chair of the Sausalito Woman’s Club Preservation Society, who strives to raise awareness about the structure’s historical significance in the community. “Many people don’t realize that we have this architectural gem here, right in the heart of town,” she says. “It’s a remarkable building.” Learn more about the Sausalito Woman’s Club and find out how to donate at sausalitowomansclub.org.
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Lotus Abrams has covered everything from beauty to business to tech in her editorial career, but it might be writing about her native Bay Area that inspires her most. She lives with her husband and two daughters in the San Francisco Peninsula, where they enjoy spending time outdoors at the area’s many open spaces protected and preserved by her favorite local nonprofit, the Peninsula Open Space Trust.