Little is known to this writer of the exact origins and history of our Club other than a group of women, during the early years of the last century, coming together in friendship and joining the Priscilla Club or forming the Priscilla Sewing Circle. World War I prompted a change of posture from that of social assemblage to a commitment of their time and talent, in conjunction with the Red Cross, to “war work.” After the Great War ended, this need or desire to volunteer or provide worth to the community was the impetus for founding the Madison Valley Woman’s Club in April 1920 and subsequent membership of the State Federation in 1921. The first President was Mrs. Bert Maynard. Another member at that time was a 16 year old new-comer to the community, Mrs. Florinda Francesca Womack. Frances, as she was known, remained an active member, though honorary in later years, until her demise in 2005 at the age of 100 years.
Numerous and diverse projects were organized, supported and/or funded by the members. To name a very few: purchasing eleven acres for the first garbage dump; building two outdoor toilets for the school; installing a metal fence, still in existence, around the Valley Cemetery; purchasing an electric saw for the school shop and an operating table for the hospital; and a $500 donation to the Galen Chapel fund.
Early fundraising activities included food sales, Commercial Club Dinners, an annual Soil Conservation District meeting luncheon, an annual Community Tea and fashion show, and other fund raising benefits.
On January 22, 1971, another fundraising enterprise, the Nearly New Shoppe, a thrift store located in rented quarters on Main Street, opened its doors. The owner of the building, certain this project would not succeed, charged no rent for the first month. In 2002, the Woman’s Club purchased the hardware store building on Main Street. Not all members were in favor
of this investment, as one stated “ I won’t be around long enough to see the mortgage paid
off”. The rest is history. The Nearly New Shoppe’s revenue for fiscal year 2010-11 exceeded $100,000 for the first time! Revenues have continued to grow, which has allowed us to donate $75,000+ back to the community fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. The Nearly New Shoppe mortgage was paid off in June, 2016. There are women in the the Club that that did not vote yes on purchase of building in 2002 because they thought they would never live to see it paid off. Guess – what they did are and pleasantly surprised. Not bad considering our prices are primarily under $3.00. The Community is a strong supporter by donating “nearly new items” and shopping in the store. We receive return visitors from all over Montana & Idaho, along with tourists mostly during the summer months.
Community Beneficiaries of the Madison Valley Woman’s Club include: Ennis Schools (including $32k in scholarships); the Ennis Library, the Madison Valley Medical Center, The Manor (Nursing Home), the Caring and Sharing Food Bank, Ambulance Services, Search & Rescue, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Ennis Lion’s Club, Farm to Fork, Giving Tree, Meals on Wheels, Madison County Relay for Life, CASA, Woman’s Resource Center, and most recently the new Ennis Senior Center. Our club membership is 137 members, who volunteered 9108 hours this past year.