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The Tuesday Club, Mrs. Farnham Lyon and The Federation of Women’s Clubs.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are exploring the history of a few of Saginaw’s Women’s Clubs.


The Tuesday Club


“Among the very early clubs, the forerunners of our prominent literary organizations of the present day, was the Tuesday Club. It was a small but very exclusive club of women, all very close friends, who were prominent in the social and religious life of the city. They first met together in the early eighties, and the name was suggested by the choice of Tuesday as the weekly time of meeting. The membership was limited to fifteen, and there was always a waiting list of leading women eager to enter the inner circle of their friends. There was no very formal organization, and the charter members were not enrolled on vellum in letters of gold. The gold they sought were the nuggets of knowledge gleaned from thoughtful study and reading of the best literature. The picture on the opposite page [a copy appears above], taken from a photograph made in 1885,* probably embraces nearly, if not all, the original members.


The members shown in the picture, which was taken on the steps of Mrs. Buckhout's home on North Washington Avenue, are: Mrs. Chauncey Wisner, Mrs. Farnum Lyon, Mrs. C. Stuart Draper, Mrs. Gurdon Corning, Mrs. Edward Mershon, Mrs. Henry D. Wickes, Mrs. William F. Potter, Miss Lizzie Thurber, Mrs. James F. Brown, Mrs. L. A. Clark, Mrs. Sanford Keeler, Mrs. Byron B. Buckhout and Mrs. John J. Wheeler. Mrs. Robert Boyd and another member of the club, not now recalled, were not present at the time this picture was taken.


The work of the Tuesday Club was always conducted very quietly, without the least publicity, but its influence upon the intellectual life of its members, with reference to the sociological and philanthropic side of their natures, was very marked. Through death and removal from the city of its leading members the club at length disbanded, after an existence of more than twenty- five years, but the recollection of its good work still lingers with the few members still living.” (James C. Mills, History of Saginaw County, Michigan.)


Women’s clubs were an important force in Saginaw – as they were throughout the nation:


 “In the years between the 1870s and 1920s, women’s clubs became the major vehicle by which American women could exercise their developing talents to shape the world beyond their homes. Although the twentieth century would deliver increasing educational, professional, and business venues for women to make use of their intellect, training, and creativity, hundreds of clubs continued to function in this country into modern times, providing members with regular meetings in order to network, learn about social issues, identify civic problems, and devise solutions through volunteer power.” (From the Women’s National History Museum website


The Tuesday Club was a member of the Saginaw Federation of Clubs. Formed in the spring of 1897, the Saginaw Federation was created for “The purpose of uniting the women’s clubs of the city in any work for civic betterment and improvement that conditions might suggest.” (The Saginaw Daily News, May 1, 1911.)


The goals of the Saginaw Federation of Clubs were all-encompassing and included:


“Pure wholesome food, good sanitation, a clean attractive city, have ever been the slogan of the Federation. Efforts to secure all of these have been made and these efforts will be represented, until the improvement already made us improved upon, that Saginaw stands the peer of any city in the land.” (The Saginaw Daily News, May 1, 1911.)


Mrs. Farnham Lyon – Caroline” Carrie” Merchant Lyon


In the paper she was always, Mrs. Farnham Lyon. She and husband lived at the Bancroft House, he was the manager.** The paper reported on her activities and the events she hosted at the Bancroft House – including her serving as president of the Tuesday Club. Her obituary outlines her life:


“Mrs. Carrie Lyon, widow of Farnham Lyon, and one of the prominent old residents of Grand Rapids, died Saturday morning in her home, 48 Lafayette ave., S.E. at the age of 86. She was born in Herkimer county, New York, but lived in Grand Rapids and Sagianw more than 50 years.


She was prominent in Grand Rapids in the earlier period of her life. Her husband for many years was the proprietor and manager of the Bancroft House in Saginaw and previously had been one of the proprietors with Charles Lyon of the old Rathburn House in Grand Rapids.


Mrs. Lyon was communicant of St. Mark’s procathedral and was a member of the Women’s city club. During later years she had retired from active social life. (Grand Rapids Press, June 8, 1919, p. 1. as reproduced on website Find a Grave.)

As you recreate Carrie Merchant Lyon’s silver cake -from the recipe, we suspect she may have relied upon the staff at the Bancroft House to cook it, we encourage you to consider Carrie Merchant Lyon’s life, including the role that being a member of the Tuesday Club played in her life. Also, we encourage you to focus on how women’s clubs became a power in reshaping Saginaw and enabled women to transcend proscribed roles and gender discrimination.


*The date of this photograph may be incorrect. According to May 1, 1911, article in The Saginaw Daily News, the club was founded on October 13, 1886.


**In 1889, The Lyon’s telephone number was 260 2 rings.


The Recipe: Silver Cake - Mrs. Farnham Lyon


3 cups white sugar

1 cup of butter

1 cup milk

4 cups flour

whites of 12 eggs

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoon of flavoring


Recipe as written: 

Stir sugar and butter together, then the eggs without beating; then add all other ingredients and stir until smooth.


CTK Interpretation:

  1. In a large bowl, whip egg whites to stiff peaks. 

  2. In a separate large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. 

  3. Add milk and vanilla, then stir in flour and baking powder. At this point you should have a thick sugar cookie-like dough. 

  4. Fold in your whipped eggs. This will loosen the dough into a batter. 

  5. Split batter into three cake pans. 

  6. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.



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