The Three Rivers Woman’s Club is the community’s oldest service organization. Founded in 1916, the women have been instrumental over the years for several community accomplishments, including ensuring electricity was available for Three Rivers residents ca. 1920; restoring Tharp’s Log (1923) in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park, today a popular visitor attraction; operating The Thingerie thrift shop since 1980; and providing hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to academic scholarships and civic projects.
Published 28 March 2016, The Kaweah Commonwealth
“Our club began as a sewing group that met in the homes of the members,” began Wilma Kauling as she recited the 100-year history of the Three Rivers Woman’s Club.
This was one of many highlights during the club’s Centennial Celebration held Sunday, March 20, in commemoration of the founding of the club in March 1916. The dinner was held at St. Anthony Retreat with nearly 200 people in attendance.
“How many of you enjoyed the wine tonight?” Wilma asked. “Well, it wasn’t always that way. The Three Rivers Woman’s Club unanimously supported Prohibition.”
A lot has changed since that dry period from 1920 to 1933. In fact, at the dinner, the Woman’s Club had its own custom label on the Cacciatore wine with multiple bottles placed on every table. And they sold bottles of the keepsake wine for $8.
As evidenced, Woman’s Club members enjoy a good time. But they work hard too.
Over the years, they have donated well over $500,000 to community projects, including the academic scholarships they award annually to hardworking high school students.
The Club has provided financial assistance over the past century to many facets of civic improvement, as well as lobbied successfully to bring electricity to Three Rivers when before there was none, begin PTA groups at Sulphur Springs and Three Rivers schools, have the painted line installed down the center of the main highway through town, and establish the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce.
Club members have also accomplished some special projects of their own such as restoring Tharps Log in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park; installing the original sign at the Veterans Memorial Building listing local residents serving in World War II; and, in 1922, planting a giant sequoia — the Club’s official emblem — in the yard of then-president Nellie Britten (located on South Fork Drive about a half-mile from its intersection with Highway 198).
A home of their own— The Club intended to transplant the tree when they secured a clubhouse, but for unknown reasons, the tree was never relocated. A plaque was installed at the tree in 1996, part of the Club’s 80-year anniversary celebration.
Just two years after the giant sequoia was planted, the Club was bequeathed a clubhouse, which is what they wanted more than anything. Upon her death in 1924, Anna McMullin Hays specified that her home be donated to the Club.
For the next 40 years, the members of the Club worked diligently on the remodeling, upkeep, and maintenance of this property that today is the Three Rivers Arts Center on North Fork Drive. But it was determined that too much of their funds and time was going into keeping the clubhouse in operating shape, so in 1965 the home was given back to the Hays descendants and meetings began being held at the Three Rivers Memorial Building, where the Club gathers to this day.