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Gertrude Weil - Smith College - Home Culture Club

In this letter, Weil discusses with her mother the possibility of starting a "Home Culture Club" in Goldsboro. Run by a Miss Moffat, whom Weil greatly admired, the Home Culture Club provided classes and advice to the working-class population of Northampton. Here, Weil provides an astute analysis of the differences between social service work in different types of communities, commenting how different the populations of Goldsboro and Northampton were.

Weil wrote regularly to her mother about her work with the Club. In October 1898, having signed up to teach penmanship, she expressed her initial nervousness to her mother*:

I'm sure I shall be frightened to death when I start to speak to a class—fancy my giving directions to a class of great big working men, who, I am told, will most likely be the class. Maybe it will give me a little self confidence—make me less afraid when Miss Hauscom, Ph..D., calls upon me to criticize a ballad in Lit. class. If they were only children, I shouldn't mind. But they say that the people who go to learn are very earnest and conscientious.

Work with the Club gave Weil not only self-confidence, but also practical experience working to improve the lives of those less fortunate than herself. She would draw constantly on this experience in her later social service work, most immediately in the advice she gave her mother on establishing a similar organization in Goldsboro.

Excerpts from Letter from Gertrude Weil to her family, November 20, 1898

Letter from Gertrude Weil to her family, November 20, 1898 - excerpt from page 1
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41 West St.,
Nov. 20, l898.

My dear Ones,—...

Letter from Gertrude Weil to her family, November 20, 1898 - excerpt from page 11
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....Instead I'll be trotting to Home Culture & Miss Moffat—she's worth two or three Maude Adams's.

I had already thought on the possibilities of instituting a Home Culture Club in Goldsboro. It would be a splendid thing if it once got to going—if the people knew what it means. I agree with you that the beginnings would have to be very small. The thing of it is—you are dealing with people so different when you tackle the poor uneducated of a New England college town & those of a small Southern town. I never saw people so eager to learn, as they are here. Lots of them come

Letter from Gertrude Weil to her family, November 20, 1898 - excerpt from page 12
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four & five times a week for different things. Servants with only certain nights "off" go down there to take Elocution, or dancing, or French. The worst trouble at home, it seems to me, would be in getting the people to take an interest in it. I'll speak to Miss Moffat about H.C. Clubs in general, -- in particular about the early history of this one. There may be printed records and announcements—I'll ask her. It would be rather an imposition to suggest a correspondence—she is the busiest woman I ever saw. She was speaking the other night to some women of a club about to be formed—not for study but to consist of talks on various toimages & questions that come up in common daily experience—and she said she had only one hour free—on Sunday afternoon—and it would probably be scheduled for that time. And yet when you talk with her, she is just as easy & takes as much interest in each particular want, as if that were the only thing on her mind ...

View the full letter.


*Letter from Gertrude Weil to her family, October 17, 1898, in the Gertrude Weil Papers at the North Carolina Office of Archives and History.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Gertrude Weil - Smith College - Home Culture Club." (Viewed on November 25, 2015) <>.


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