The Polymathic Club - Rutherford's 85 Year-Old Club You Probably Don't Know About
Updated: Jul 5, 2019
By Jennifer Ersalesi
Not many people know about a club that has existed for over 85 years in Rutherford, The Polymathic Club. This small club made up of women meets once a month between October and June. Polymathic means “wide and varied interests” and since the Club’s inception the members of the club have shared their interests and expertise on many different topics. This is Rutherford interviewed Anne McCormack who has been a member of the club since 1991 to learn more about this unique, multi-talented, intellectual group of women.
TIR: The Polymathic Club began in 1934, what do you know about how it all came about?
Anne McCormack: There was a group of 35 local women who formed a branch of the Delphian Society, which was a society established by Harvard President, Charles William Eliot, who believed education serves the “purpose of inspiring lifelong learning”. It was considered a six year study program and when the six years ended the women did not want to stop meeting. They continued meeting as The Polymathic Club. In preparation for each meeting, the President of the Club would assign two women to give a program on the same subject matter at each meeting. In the “old days" in the “old homes” there was room to entertain 20 or more people. Just as a point of interest, the club was invite-only. A member would invite a prospective member to a meeting and the members would ask the prospective member questions regarding her background, education, business background, etc.). At the following meeting the members would discuss the prospective member and discuss whether to invite her by written invitation. There were people who were turned down; it was rather selective.
TIR: In 1962, the members of the club decided that the meetings were too long with tea and desserts and lengthy presentations. So how did the Polymathic Club meetings change?
AM: Meetings were hold in members' homes. The meeting would begin with roll call and when each name was called the member would have to provide a quote using the word of the month. Next, all members would take part in “This and That”, during which each member would lead a five minute conversation on a subject that interests her. Topics often came from newspaper or magazine articles or television shows. Starting back in 1932, there was a booklet created, often by the Vice President of the club. The cover often represented a particular theme that would be discussed at the meeting. There are still booklets created for each meeting to this day, which outline the agenda and specify a quote for each particular meeting.
TIR: You have been a member of The Polymathic Club for 28 years and to this day you all still meet on a monthly basis. How many members do you currently have? How is the club different these days?
AM: We currently have twelve members. Many of us are getting much older and we are hoping that we can get some younger women involved to carry on this tradition in Rutherford. If anyone is interested in joining the group, please contact me at email@example.com. Our current officers are President: Mary Maguire, Vice President: Janice Glock, Secretary: Anne McCormack (me...laughs) and Treasurer: Jardine Rennie.
Our meetings are shorter now, for sure, but we still discuss topics that interest us and we follow the same agenda.
At Christmastime, we used to have a grab bag and we would each spend $3 on one of the members. A few years back, we decided to collect money and donate it to the food pantry. Even though we are a small group, we have been able to donate quite a bit of money.
TIR: Recently you recognized the 85th Anniversary of The Polymathic Club, how did you celebrate this special occasion?
AM: We celebrated with a special luncheon. We took a look at some of the club “artifacts” and discussed the history of the club. Mostly, we enjoyed each other’s company as we have been for many years.