The New Year’s Eve dance was being held at the Peoria Women’s Club on
the corner Madison and Fayette in downtown Peoria. Along with the
headlining Peoria Municipal Band, several other bands were performing as
well: the Bronson Family Singers, the Husk Shuckers Blue Grass Band and the
Whiskey River Boys.
The Women’s Club was relatively new to Peoria, being built just a couple of
years before. It was the first meeting place the was owned by the women of
the community, and Daisy visited often picking up and delivering packages
to the Club. After coming around a few times, the ladies recognized Daisy’s
independent nature and sort of took the young woman under their
collective wing. That’s how Daisy first got to know her good friend, Julia,
whom she was meeting up with that night.
Julia was one of the founders of the Peoria Women’s Club and one of the
youngest of over 200 members. Her profession was that of a kindergarten
teacher. Like Daisy, Julia’s family – the Proctors – lived outside of the city on a
farm, although she was living downtown in a boarding house. They knew
each other through the Club and started running into each other around the
city more and more – usually at Union Station. Perhaps it was that small
familial connection that drew them to each other causing them to become
fast friends. When Daisy was staying at her aunt and uncle’s home she and
Julia would often meet for breakfast and occasionally get together after
work at the Women’s Club.
Julia’s professional world was very different from Daisy’s. Whereas Daisy’s was
concerned with making deliveries and keeping things on schedule, Julia’s
was centered around education and the more progressive issues of the day.
When Daisy brought up how many letters she delivered, Julia would tell her
about the literacy rate and how it was lower among children who lived in
the city, versus those who lived in the country. When Daisy mentioned how
many children she saw on the streets during school hours – and how she
sometimes had to dodge gaggles of them as they darted in front of her
heavily laden mail bike – Julia would tell her about “truancy officers” and
lament the lack of them.
“We’re supposed to be this progressive city living in an enlightened age and
yet we don’t have a truancy officer,”
Julia would say with spite and dismay.
“And we don’t even have free public schools for kindergartners!”
Through the Women’s Club is also how she got to know Anna Adams, or Dr.
Adams to the rest of the world. Anna was the first women with a medical
degree to open a practice in Peoria. She was a graduate of the celebrated
Female Medical College in Philadelphia before practicing at the
Philadelphia Women’s Hospital. When she moved back to Peoria, she
opened a practice at 201 South Adams Street and Daisy would stop by on
her postal rounds whenever she could. Just like with Julia, Daisy and Anna
bonded quickly sensing in each other a kind of kindred independent spirit,
and they too would spend hours at the Club together, talking about
anything that came to mind. Actually, Daisy did a lot more listening than
talking as she realized how intelligent and well-educated these women
The Women’s Club was a lively place year ‘round, with lectures on the arts,
education and politics – all without male oversight, which was a refreshing
change for them all. But it was also something that didn’t sit well with a lot of
men in the community.
“That just shows why it’s so important that we have our own club,” Julia told
Visitors to the Club were greeted by a large meeting parlor on the first floor,
along with an expansive dining room and kitchen. The dance was held
upstairs in the music hall which had been adapted for the evening. Normally,
the music hall was used for musical programs, plays and lectures. It held over
450 seats which faced a “raked stage,” a stage that tilted forward so the
audience could see the action in back. All the seats had been removed for
the evening, revealing a floor that sloped slightly downward toward the
stage. It created superb acoustics but also potential hazards for hazardless
Even though the Women’s Club hosted events open to all – like the New
Year’s Eve dance – many men wouldn’t be caught dead there.
Dan however, wasn’t one of them.