In the late nineteenth century the lives of many white middle- and upper-class women were transformed by the woman's club movement. The club movement became the crucible in which the ideology of "true womanhood" was infused with new content, relevance, and meaningfulness for non-wage-earning women in modern America. As a significant, but largely unchronicled, aspect of both the turn-of-the-century "woman's movement" and the early-twentieth-century Progressive movement, the work and the experience of club women constitute an important aspect of the history of American women, the history of Progressive Era reform, and the cultural history of the United States.
White middle- and upper-class women in Texas were enthusiastic participants in this movement beginning with the creation of self-culture clubs in the 1880s and 1890s and continuing into the twentieth century with a dynamic, elaborately organized, and reform-oriented union of clubs, the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs. Texas club women energetically committed themselves to the reclamation of their communities convinced that womanly values were crucial for enlightened progress.
At the municipal, state, and national level, white Texas club women were among the most ardent of Progressive Era reformers. Texas club women maximized their resources of leisure time and class status to compensate for their political disabilities. These resources enabled club women to initiate projects that they would later become public responsibilities. The prodigious activity of the state federation emerged from an unarticulated quartet of political strategies: the Politics of Righteousness, the Politics of Enthusiasm, the Politics of Harmony, and the Politics of Influence.
In their study clubs Texas women found a space for reflection upon the essential and instrumental aspects of womanhood. In their club work they created new opportunities for their talents and gained new recognition for their accomplishments. Most important, as white club women altered the geography of woman's sphere, they rehearsed a significantly modified model of womanhood. They created a new norm--that of professional volunteer--for subsequent generations of non-wage-earning women.