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Organizations and Clubs

Bohemian Athletic ClubLike Americans throughout the country, Kansans began to establish and join numerous clubs and organizations in the late 19th century. Membership in brotherhoods, lodges, and benevolent societies filled an important role in the social lives of men, women, and children.

Many rural families found the Patrons of Husbandry (Grange) to their liking, but they also joined their city cousins in organizations like the Masons, Good Templars, Modern Woodmen, Knights of Pythias, and the Odd Fellows.

Although some of these organizations served primarily a social function, many were geared toward charitable or educational activities. They were often segregated by race and gender, but frequently provided their members and the community at large with services that were not yet considered a function of state or federal government.

The primary motivation behind some organizations was economic. During the late 19th century, stock breeders and growers associations were formed to protect and promote the livestock interests of the state. Members gathered on a regular basis to exchange information that would help improve the quality of the animals they raised.

Although women tended to be involved in religious endeavors, they were also active in auxiliary lodges, benevolent societies, and independent woman's clubs. Excluded from many positions of power and influence in society during most of the era, some women undoubtedly turned to clubs and organizations as outlets for their energies and talents. Many of their activities were related to education and social reform.

Women's Hesperian Club funded this library in Cawker CityThe primary purpose of some clubs was to provide their members with opportunities for intellectual self-improvement. Reading circles were very popular among Kansas women. The focus of the Woman's Hesperian Library Club of Cawker City was "to maintain a public library, and interest women in literature."

Some of the clubs, organizations, and activities were geared toward young people.  The Boy Scout movement was introduced in the U. S. in 1910. The movement caught on quickly and local scout troops were established across the country. Scouting provided young men with a variety of valuable experiences. A Lawrence group was given the opportunity to "rule" the city for a day. Established as a national organization under the Smith Lever Act of 1914, 4-H clubs became popular with youngsters in rural areas throughout the country.

Many ethnic citizens formed organizations that maintained their cultural traditions. German men often belonged to a turnverein, a combination social and athletic club. Reflecting the cycling craze of the late 19th century, women and men throughout the state organized bicycle clubs.

Boyd's Girl CadetsSome clubs were organized around specific activities like music. Almost every Kansas community had a town band that marched at parades, played at special events, and performed concerts. Additional music clubs were formed by smaller groups of people with more specialized interests or talents. The Dodge City Cow-boy Band is one example. Founded during the mid-1870s, the Topeka Modoc Club was a nationally known men's chorus. Organized in Topeka by Major H. N. Boyd, Boyd's Girl Cadets performed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876.

The large Bohemian or Czech population of central Kansas benefited from the services offered by the Bohemian-Slavonian Benevolent Society. Organized in 1885, this was a fraternal order that provided members with health care benefits and life insurance. The society also undertook many other programs to help fellow Czechs adapt to their new homeland.

Originally known as the Jayhawk Tractor Girls, the Woman's National Agricultural Legion was organized in 1918 to encourage women to take up the slack in the farm labor force while their men were at war. As part of a state-wide recruiting campaign, Salina members took a "schooner trip" to the state fair in Topeka. Their wagons, "electrically lighted and equipped in an up-to-date manner," were pulled by a single tractor, for which the women shared driving responsibilities.

Although generally well received at the various stops along their journey, a woman from Wilson was not particularly enthusiastic. She told a Salina reporter that women like herself had already taken up the slack. "[T]he organization of a bunch of 'tractorettes'," she explained, "will not be necessary to interest Ellsworth county women in farm work as they are already busy with the work," Salina Evening Journal, September 13, 1918

At least one organization was created for the purpose of intimidation. Established as Americans were concerned with foreign affairs, the Ku Klux Klan formed chapters in a number of areas around the state. Its members campaigned in the 1920s against the influence of foreign nations and for preserving protestant traditional ways.

American Legion


Dodge City Cowboy Band

Grand Army of the Republic (GAR)


Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Ku Klux Klan


Modern Woodmen of America

Moneka Woman's Rights Association

Red Cross

Salvation Army

Security Benefit Association

Woman's Kansas Day Club

Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)

Entry: Organizations and Clubs

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: December 1969

Date Modified: March 2011

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.