A group of Dundas women came together in February 1897 to learn about other countries, researching and planning imaginary trips around the world.
After 125 years, the Dundas Travel Club has continued to meet regularly, study and share information on different parts of the world – from daily life to history, film, literature and food, rights women in other countries.
Current club treasurer Norma Young said privileged young women from Dundas sent abroad to travel or study have written letters to their friends sharing their experiences.
“These letters piqued their interest in the countries their friends visited, and their curiosity about them grew,” Young said.
The unique and enduring group celebrated its 125th anniversary with a special zoom reunion last month, and the Dundas Museum & Archives recognizes the Dundas Travel Club, along with other turn-of-the-century women’s organizations in Dundas, as part of an exhibition entitled “Leading Ladies: Early Dundas Women’s Groups” until May 7th.
The museum is currently open to the public five days a week. Check https://dundasmuseum.ca/ for updates and times.
Club Archivist Joann MacLachlan has written a book, The Dundas Travel Club: Documenting a Journey, about the club’s history. This is the second book on the travel club after “Around the World—100 Years of the Dundas Travel Club” was published 25 years ago.
“I have transcribed all club minutes so that they are now available at the Dundas Museum & Archives. It was my original project,” MacLachlan said. “Then I thought the club might want to know what I had learned as I spent many years reflecting on many years of writing.”
The transcribed minutes, filling 28 books, are now kept in the museum archives.
“The material will be an excellent resource for social scientists interested in the changing roles and thoughts of women in the 20th century,” MacLachlan said.
MacLachlan said one of the details she learned from her careful review of minutes from more than 2,000 meetings was the continuous change in club membership.
“The average age of club members in 1897 was about 24. Most of them were single, had finished high school, and were looking for a way to experience the world,” MacLachlan said. “With each decade, the average age increased. Now, in 2022, the average age is around 75.
She said the club has always met in the afternoon. In the years that followed women’s regular entry into the workforce, these afternoon meetings meant that members had retired and were looking for a way to continue learning about the world.
“The group studied almost every country, sometimes more than once,” MacLachlan said.
She said the club continued so long because the goal was always simple: plan trips and study geographical areas. Members of each generation always had a lot in common, and everyone had to participate.
This year, the club is focusing on Iran, with 17 presentations by members on the country’s history, culture, cities, food and festivals, architecture, arts and crafts, and more.
Young said that in the five years she was a member, the club studied the islands of the world, Argentina, Germany and France. Hungary will be the subject of the club’s 126th year.
“We are, I think, unique enough to last this long and to be able to continually attract such interesting and interested women,” she said.