February 12, 2007
Film to document ‘incredible
history’ of Emory Woman’s Club
BY kim urquhart
The Emory University Woman’s Club, the oldest consecutively run woman’s club in the state of Georgia, has come a long way from its 1919 origins as a social group for faculty wives. “When you look at the history of Emory University Woman’s Club, you’re looking at a history of civil rights, political awareness and the growth of women in society over the last almost 100 years,” said Margot Eckman, the club’s current president. To chronicle what Eckman called “an incredible history” — and help attract new members — the club is producing a documentary film.
The Woman’s Club is a social and service group for women connected with Emory and its partners along the Clifton Corridor. While its function and causes have changed over the years, Eckman said “one theme has permeated since the 1920s,” the club’s motto: “Connecting women to Emory, the community and each other.” The group’s service and project-oriented focus includes raising funds for scholarships, hosting a speaker’s series and participating in a variety of community service activities.
The Woman’s Club meets monthly at the Houston Mill House, a venue it once administered. The club’s role in saving the Houston Mill House from destruction and its subsequent restoration is a key part of its history, and is one of the milestones to be chronicled in the 30-minute film. The documentary will tell the club’s story through the voices of its members, some who have been part of the club for more than half a century and witnessed many changes at Emory.
“I feared that once these women were gone, we would lose the oral history attached to the club,” said Judi Shur, who is spearheading the film project. “Fortunately, the written history has been preserved in the Woodruff Library archives, dating back to handwritten minutes from 1919,” she added.
Shur originally set out to write a book, but thought a film would better capture the spirit of the club’s members. “I don’t know that I could ever convey in writing how charming these ladies really are,” said Shur, who was so impressed with the club that she joined last year after attending a meeting as a featured speaker.
The film is being produced, edited and directed by Greg Frasure, a graduate student in Emory’s film studies department. To support production costs, the Woman’s Club is hosting a dinner and silent auction on March 10 at the Miller-Ward Alumni House. Tickets are $50.
The documentary will debut at the club’s spring luncheon, and a copy will be placed in the library archives. The club also plans to use the film as a marketing tool in the hopes of updating its image and boosting its declining membership. “We don’t have the visibility we once did,” said Eckman, due in part to women’s changing role in society.
In fact, one of Shur’s initial intentions was to determine if the concept of a woman’s club is an anachronism in the 21st century. “Through interviewing these ladies, I’d have to answer this query with a ‘no.’ I see that it serves a real purpose as an opportunity for people of different ages and different disciplines to get together,” Shur said.
Shur’s husband is chair of Emory’s cell biology department; Eckman’s is a physician and professor in the School of Medicine. But marriage is no longer a requirement for membership. “We have a very diverse group of intelligent women,” Eckman said. “We’re a group of leaders.”