By KAREN GARDNER
The Frederick News-Post
THURMONT, Md. (AP) — Members of the Walkersville Homemakers Club sorted through their history at their club’s final meeting earlier this month. After 91 years, the club is disbanding because of low membership.
Six women came to the Thurmont Library to donate club minutes and other written memorabilia to the Maryland Room’s agriculture history collection, which is based at the Thurmont Library.
In the 1980s, the club had as many as 60 active members. In 1996, there were 48 members. At its close, 10 women belonged to the club, with eight active members. Homemakers Clubs are becoming less relevant in a time when information is a mouse click away, members said.
“The younger people are involved in sports,” said Beverly Shoemaker. Women are busy taking their children to sports practices and don’t have time to belong to Homemakers Clubs, she said.
Meetings were once a month. For most of the 1980s and ’90s, meetings were at night, but as members retired, meetings shifted to daytime. Most meetings featured a speaker, usually on topics that were relevant to the household.
Recent Walkersville meetings have focused on stink bugs, gardening during a drought, Frederick tourism and memory enhancement.
One of the topics in 1921 focused on cutting and cultivating roses. Cooking, parenting, ironing and sewing were frequent topics. Cooking topics often reflected the times.
“In the 1970s we had some programs on microwave cooking,” Shoemaker said. “You could just hit a button and something was cooking.” But operating those clunky new machines required guidance, and Homemakers Clubs were a good source, members said.
Not all local Homemakers Clubs in Frederick County are losing members. The Walkersville members have been invited to join the Mount Pleasant Club. Mount Pleasant and Urbana are the largest clubs of the 12 remaining county clubs.
Thelma Powell, at 85, is the club’s oldest member. She recalled her mother belonging to the Woodsboro club, but she said that club disbanded many years ago. Powell joined after she retired and said the club always had good programs.
Tanya Ramsburg is 55 and the club’s youngest member. She grew up in 4-H, and considered membership in the Homemakers Club a natural extension of that.
The Homemakers Clubs have always had a close relationship with the county’s University of Maryland Extension office. The clubs were once known as Extension Homemakers Clubs. In 1994, the clubs became part of the National Association for Family and Community Education.
The Frederick County clubs still work with Frederick County 4-H, an Extension program. Like Ramsburg, many members were in 4-H as children, and joined the Homemakers Club when they grew up.
The Homemakers Clubs stemmed from a time in the early and middle 20th century when home economics was considered a science, said Helen Sheppard. The clubs offered an outlet to get the information to women at a time when cooking, food preparation and cleaning took up a large part of a woman’s day.
Kathryn Nicodemus, who has been a member of the Walkersville club for many years, recalled giving a demonstration on blender cooking in 1974. Nicodemus went on to be president of the state Homemakers council from 1986 to 1988. The state council celebrated its 50th anniversary during Nicodemus’ tenure.
The Walkersville Homemakers Club started out as the Women’s Club of Walkersville, and the first meeting was at the home of Helena Stauffer. The club soon became the Walkersville Homemakers Club, one of more than 400 Homemakers Clubs throughout Maryland, and the oldest one in Frederick County.
Another early meeting focused on colorful linens, and how to use and care for them. Over the years, the club had many fundraisers. From 1989 to 2007, the club hosted a Christmas house tour. Six homes were featured each year, but the tours were scrapped after 2007 because it became harder to find homeowners willing to feature their house on the tour.
The club also made craft items and cookies, and sold them at the local Safeway. All the money raised from fundraisers went to the local 4-H chapters, the local food bank and the high school’s Safe and Sound graduation event.
The club’s historian is Phyllis Smith. The other two active members are Kitty Powell and Vivian Houck. Gloria Werking and Marge Smith are 50-year members. The club has saved many of its programs. Club colors were blue and gold, the same colors as the local high school, and the club flower is the yellow jonquil.
The club formed when Walkersville had about 800 residents, members said. Now around 6,000 people call Walkersville home. Once a farming community, it is now largely a bedroom community for commuters working in Frederick and beyond. Farms still surround Walkersville, reminding residents of its rural roots.
The remaining members of the Walkersville club hope to keep in touch by meeting for dinner once every three months.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)