Durham’s Halcyon Club steeped in tradition

Durham’s historic Halcyon Club was organized 106 years ago by four women who regularly played whist but missed the companionship of friends who were not whist players, says club historian Lucy Grant. They decided to form a literary club and each invited two friends.

Tell us about your club. The club’s 12 founding members were drawn from families and friends of the early Trinity College (now Duke) faculty members, and from the families who founded the earliest banks, law and medical practices as well as Durham’s textile and tobacco manufacturers. While not wearing hats and gloves like their founders, today’s members continue the tradition of an elegant tea table with centerpieces and delicious goodies. The social time before the program presents an opportunity for members to build strong friendships. The format of the club is organized by a topic/theme chosen by the members for the year. This year’s topic was “Literary Genres” and included romance novels, music histories, biography and historical cookbooks.

What are you reading now? “Dimestore: A Writer’s Life” by Lee Smith

What is your club’s favorite book? One theme we especially enjoyed was Famous Scandals/Love Stories, when we read “The Scandal of the Season” by Sophie Gee.

What’s unique about your club? We are fortunate to have detailed minutes of all the Halcyon meetings since 1923 as well as histories written by three different members. The first was written in 1931 by one of the earliest members of the club, Mrs. C.C. Thomas, who described the formation of the club and gave biographies of all the founding members. The minutes, membership books, histories and club documents are now part of the Duke University Archives. Halcyon was also included in a recent book “Smart Women: The Search for America’s Historic All-Women Study Clubs” by Ann Dodds Costello.

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Dimestore: A Writer’s Life

Lee Smith

Algonquin, 224 pages