Friday, July 29, 2016

The Doting Grandmother's Club

Museum Musings for July 30, 2016

The Doting Grandmother’s

As I think of my mother with her grandsons and granddaughters I have memories of favorite meals, always having their favorite toys readily available and of photos displaying all of their milestones.  The albums would come out at all gatherings and she then proceeded to tell anyone who would listen about the adorable and later the scholarly or athletic antics of her grandchildren.  My mother doted when they visited as little boys and even now when my sons are adults she still dotes.  This week’s musing is about a group of “Doting Grandmothers” from Junction City that garnered national attention.
Mrs. Frank Flowers began the “Doting Grandmothers Club” in November of 1936.  When her granddaughter Karen was born she found herself doing what she had promised never to do, “I wanted to talk about the child all the time,” she said.  “Before she was two weeks old I had embarrassed myself by my public enthusiasm, so I said to some old friends, ‘Come over to my house next Tuesday afternoon and we’ll have a doting grandmother’s club where we can talk to our hearts content. Bring pictures, too.” Mrs. Flowers is quoted as saying first in a Kansas City article dated February 21, 1937 and later in the Junction City Republic.
In the beginning ten women came together and there were no rules and no by-laws they just sat beaming at each other as they were able to openly and without fear of rebuke gloat over their darling grandchildren. There would be no raised eyebrows by those without grandchildren or by spouses who while also adoring of the newest additions to the family sometimes nudged an elbow stating, “Enough is enough.”  While there was the fun and laughter; wisdom and knowledge was shared amongst these women. They as grandmothers, “were an institution of this world through which life is handed down through the generations,” according to Mrs. B.N. Mead.
The Doting Grandmothers became famous after the Kansas City Star sent a feature writer named Miss Nellie Snead to Junction City and the story of this unique group appeared in the Star on February 27, 1937.  When this came to the attention of other newspapers there were serious discussions such as the one printed on March 27th, 1937.  The Philadelphia Inquirer published an article about the differences between doting and spoiling.  This led to debates of how it might be considered interfering with a new mother’s method of child rearing to spoil or dote.  So there was finally a rule within the Doting Grandmother’s Club: ‘They vowed never to interfere with the mother’s method of rearing her child.  They may not always approve but they agreed the grandmother has no right to interfere,” as quoted in the Junction City Republic article from July 9, 1980.
In 1983 Sherry Blair of the Daily Union revisited the Doting Grandmothers at their monthly meeting.  At that time there were 14 of Junction City’s grandmothers who belonged to the organization.  The rules were still the same: You must be a grandmother and you must dote.  In addition to the normal doting it was fascinating to see how the grandmother’s had changed some were now college students, artists, and one was an accomplished quilter. 
Another special event that took place at this particular meeting according to the article, “Those attending the July meeting elected Dorothy Bramlage to honorary membership in the Doting Grandmothers Club,  “In honor of what she and Fred (Dorothy’s husband, Junction City Businessman Fred Bramlage) have done for this Community.” That was the first time that anyone had been made an honorary member.
At the Geary County Historical Society one of our current exhibits is called “Grandma’s Kitchen,” and it evokes memories of pies cooling on the window sill while grandmothers doted on their beloved grandchildren.  We are also very grateful for the generous support we have received from the Bramlage Family from our beginnings and through to present day.  So please come visit us at the museum during. We are open from Tues-Sunday 1-4PM and look forward to visiting with you.
Photo Courtesy of the Geary County Historical Society
Doting Grandmothers Club 9-21-1948 at the home of Hazel Smiley