Moab's Women's Literary Club in 1931. Throughout its century of existence, the Women's Literary Club was involved with numerous community and civic causes. [Moab Museum Collection]

The Moab community has been profoundly shaped by a group of women who first established Moab’s “Busy Woman’s Club” in 1898 to advance cultural and community causes. Over a century later, the influences of this organization’s work in the community remain evident around town.

In the early days of the Club, the Busy Women hosted lectures, organized musical performances, and welcomed guest speakers to provide informative discourse and entertainment.

In 1914, the group renamed itself the “Women’s Literary Club” and focused on local needs for more community and civic improvement projects. The Club’s accomplishments are wide-ranging and long-lasting, and included:

  • Establishing a Fine Arts Guild (1964) and County Senior Center (1986),
  • Incorporating the Southeastern Utah Society for Arts & Sciences (1958), the Moab Museum’s legal name,
  • Raising money for Moab’s hospital (notably in 1976),
  • Hosting a wide variety of cultural events, fundraisers for local community projects, and promoting arts and education through a variety of projects.

One of the Literary Club’s most outstanding achievements for the benefit of Moab was helping to establish the Grand County Public Library, a project that began in 1915. It was no easy task for the club: They secured a whopping 2,500 books for the collection (a number exceeded in the state only by libraries in Salt Lake, Ogden and Provo at the time), raised over $400 in 30 minutes with which they purchased a plot of land for the library, gained the support of Utah State Library organizer Mary E. Downey, and ensured that the library would be owned and tax-maintained by the town of Moab.

After all that, they were twice denied funds for a building by the Carnegie Corporation. The reasons stated for denial were wartime conditions and that Moab’s population was simply too small to support a library. Nevertheless, the Club’s library continued to serve the community via a space allotted in the courthouse location.

When the courthouse building was demolished in 1934, the library was moved to the old Grand County High School, which was destroyed by fire in 1967. Once again, the Women’s Literary Club sought to and succeeded in erecting a proper building for the library, gaining federal and county funding to build on the same lot they had purchased 53 years prior.

The Women’s Literary Club celebrated its centennial in early 1998 and voted to dissolve a few months later on June 18. But what a century it was – the several generations of Club members forever shaped the Moab we know today.

The Moab Museum is dedicated to sharing stories of the natural and human history of the Moab area. To explore more of Moab’s stories and artifacts, find out about upcoming programs, and become a Member, visit www.moabmuseum.org.