As early as 1897 the club extended women an invitation to attend events, but these invitations were rare.
The inclusion of women into the club was slow, and early events spotlighting women involved the Morton Arboretum. In 1958 Mrs. Raymond Watts addressed the club at the Arboretum on “What So Lovely as a Tree?” In 1967 Suzette Morton Zurcher, an accomplished book designer, hosted Caxtonians for a luncheon in her home followed by a presentation at the Arboretum’s Sterling Morton Library.
On May 2, 1973, Sue Allen became the first woman to address the club at a regular dinner meeting. Sue’s presentation on “Victorian Bindings,” a subject on which she was a well-recognized expert, raised the question “If women can be speakers, can they not be members?”
In 1974 the club took up the issue of women’s membership. After a year of study, the council voted ten to five in favor of admitting women. But such a radical step required the approval of the full membership which voted 142 in favor, 30 opposed, and 4 undecided. (See the March, 2020 Caxtonian for more information.) The vote being taken and the by-laws amended, on January 12, 1976, the club elected to resident membership Mary Beth Beal, Suzette Morton Davidson, Frances Hammill, Karen A. Skubish, and Mary Lynn McCree. Of these original five, three are now deceased and Mary Beth Beal and Mary Lynn McCree remain active members of the Club.
Since those early days, the club has elected four women presidents. Two of the four were from the group first inducted.
Women have made and continue to make important contributions to our club. The April, 2017 Caxtonian, guest edited by Susan Hanes with all women contributors, highlights those contributions.