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The Seattle Times | Pacific Northwest
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Now & Then Paul Dorpat

A Century Of Strength

Many readers, I suspect, have an uncanny feeling that they know this room. The ceiling lights, windows and trim are the same in both settings, although separated by about 80 years. The drapes, some but not all of the furniture, the rug, of course, and the painting hanging above the fireplace at the far wall have changed. Actually, the painting, a landscape, still hangs in this room but on another wall.

The familiarity is easily explained. Since 1968 the great clubroom of the Women's Century Club has also been the elegant but cozy lobby for the Harvard Exit Theatre on Capitol Hill. The club was already 34 years old when it opened its new brick clubhouse in 1925 at the southeast corner of Roy Street and Harvard Avenue, a year before former club president Bertha Landes began her two-year term as Seattle's first and so far only female mayor.

On its boomtown founding in 1891, the women's club took its name "Century" from the expectation that the coming 20th century would be a woman's century. Club members meant to help it along with a great variety of popular programs in the arts, travel, languages, philanthropy, social service and political action, especially that involving women's right to vote. The club's first president, Carrie Chapman Catt, was an activist colleague of Susan B. Anthony, and succeeded her in 1900 as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

When the club women sold their clubhouse in the late 1960s to Art Bernstein and Jim O'Steen, Boeing engineers turned film impresarios, the new owners happily agreed that this big club room would not be radically remodeled and that the club members could continue to use it for their meetings. Nearly 40 years later, they still do.

"Washington Then and Now," the new book by Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard, can be purchased through www.washingtonthenandnow.com ($45) or through Tartu Publications at P.O. Box 85208, Seattle, WA 98145.

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