Story Share by: Sharon E. Graves, Bridgewater, MA
The Ousamequin Club of the Bridgewaters is the definition of a “Good News Story” and yet, we are one of the best kept secrets in the area .We’re not sure why, accept that we do go about our community activism in a “quiet” way. Do you know who we are? Please allow me to tell you.
The Ousamequin Club is one of the oldest continuously operating clubs in the Commonwealth, having formed as a womans club on April 4, 1898, 122 years ago. It was started by two groups of Bridgewater women, one of “town” ladies and one of the Normal School teachers. It began with 91 charter members and took the name Ousamequin, the name Massasoit took when he became Chieftain of the Wampanoag Indians . The name was an appropriate choice for the Club, for just as Ousamequin was a leader of his people, so was the Ousamequin Club a leading force in the community.
In the early years of the Club women did not work outside the home and the Club’s membership quickly rose to 200. The object of the Club was to broaden and strengthen the moral, social and cultural life of its members and to awaken in these clubwomen the realization of their responsibilities and opportunities in the fields of education, legislation and volunteer service and to develop an awareness of their heritage and responsibility as American citizens. These goals were embraced by the women of that time and have continued to be so to this day.
The Ousamequin Club is credited with funding the beginnings of the Bridgewater VNA, creating a canteen from a donated building placed on the common from which sandwiches and pies were served to servicemen from all 48 states passing through town during the second World War. That building was later moved to Legion Field and with a bit of an addition, today houses the Recreation and Water Departments.
Ousamequin Club was also instrumental in establishing the Bridgewater Improvement Association which is still in operation. In years gone by the Club held classes in various handicrafts and in 1904 these culminated in an Arts & Crafts Exhibition which was the largest anywhere up to that time outside of Boston. It continued for five days with daily lectures by experts in crafts. Ousamequin took an active interest in the planning of the new library and they also helped launch The Literacy Place, an adult literacy program.
Current Events classes were held in the early years and the Club has always shown great interest in both political and social issues. Reading groups and committee study groups were held in the homes of members. Local concerns were also evident. “To inspire habits of thrift among children” Stamp Savings collections were started in schools and continued for 17 years when the local Savings Bank took it over. Our Education Committee led many community projects including Americanization classes. The first Parent-Teacher group was begun at the McElwain School and in 1913 the Club established and helped maintain a kindergarten at the Prospect School. Today we give three $1,000. Scholarships every year to graduating seniors from the Bridgewaters who have shown exceptional dedication to their communities through volunteerism.
The accomplishments and service to the community from the Club throughout our 122 year existence are too numerous to mention here. Though our numbers have dropped to now 36 members we continue to make a difference in the lives of others through our dedication to the Arts, Education, Veterans, Conservation, Home Life and Public Outreach. Our support continues to the Sunshine Farm Sanctuary, the DECA Business Club at BRRHS, the 4th of July Committee, the Bridgewater Food Pantry, Bridgewater Operation Santa, Music Alley, Brockton Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Penelope’s Place, Project Pack, the Dress A Girl program, the Jon David Louison Foundation, the Cole Yeaton Senior Center, Heifer International, the American Heart Association, Soles for Souls, and More Than Words.
The Ousamequin Club meets monthly giving women of all ages a chance to get involved and “do good work”. One of our members joined the club 47 years ago! We are a member of the General Federation of Womans Clubs which is an international organization and have been recognized by them for several years in a row as The “Best Small Club”, a title we are extremely proud of.
So, the next time someone mentions the Ousamequin Club you will not say “Who? What it that?”, because now you know. We are “The Good News Story of the Bridgewaters”!