Mothers' and Daughters' Club House

Mothers and Daughters Club House

Site: N09-6
Municipality: Plainfield, NH
Location: Route 12A
Site Type: Grange/Masonic/etc
UTMs: (Zone 18) E: 713698. N: 4823535.


National Register Nomination Information:


The Mothers' and Daughters' Club House is a building designed by the famed New York architect Charles A. Platt in 1901. This building was planned and designed to meet the specific needs of the, then newly formed, Mothers' and Daughters' Club of Plainfield, N.H. The Club needed space for its rug industry as well as a meeting place.

The Club House is a one-story, 5 x 1 bay, white clapboarded structure, 45' x 26' with a pyramidal hipped roof. The interior consists of one large meeting-work room with large windows on the north and south sides. A large fireplace is at the east end of the room. Attached to the east end of the building is a small kitchen, a utility-storage room and privy. A 15' x 15' woodshed is attached to the main building on the east end. The Mothers' and Daughters' Club House has not been altered appreciably since it was built. A trellised front porch was added soon after it was built. In recent years, a gas heating system was installed to replace wood heat. A hand pump and well, used for many years, was replaced by town water in 1971. Painting and papering have been done at infrequent intervals. A polished hardwood floor has been maintained.

The Club House as designed by the noted architect, Charles A. Platt, exemplifies a simple structure, erected for specific use. The pleasant meeting room is dominated by a large fireplace, flanked by balanced doors leading to the accessory rooms. Large windows, in symmetrical arrangement along the north and south walls, fill the room with light. The high ceiling is simplicity itself; the gently rounded four corners being the only hint of special design. Some of the paintings and etchings, which have been there since the beginning, still adorn the walls.

The building reflects a simple, attractive design planned to provide light, pleasant space for club meetings, work sessions, and social gatherings.


The Mothers' and Daughters' Clubhouse is one of the earliest women's clubhouses in the United States which remains in original condition. Built near the beginning of a strong national movement favoring increased independence and broadened activity for women, the building is a rare survivor of an architectural form that was occasionally built to house such activity. Constructed in direct response to an arts and crafts program for local women, the clubhouse is also an important landmark in the resurgence of American handicrafts, a movement which had strong beginnings in New England and remains especially vigorous in the region today.

The Mothers' and Daughters' Clubhouse is an early example of an architectural form for which no real prototype existed in the nineteenth century. The structure therefore incorporates features to other buildings types which were familiar at the turn of the twentieth century. The single large room with its banks of windows, covered plaster ceiling, chimney for stove and fireplace, and privy at the rear, duplicates the room of a typical New Hampshire district schoolhouse. The building's exterior, with its hipped roof, ornamental rafter feet, and pergola-like porch is reminiscent of the bungalow--a then-fashionable domestic form. The building was designed by artist (and later architect) Charles A. Platt (1861-1933) of New York City, a summer resident of the art colony in nearby Cornish and the husband of one of the founders of the Mothers' and Daughters' Club.(1) In this synthesis of familiar prototypes into a new structure for the club, Platt created a building that exemplified current architectural taste while harmonizing with the traditional buildings of the rural New Hampshire village in which the clubhouse stands.

The Mothers' and Daughters' Club was founded partly in response to the burgeoning interest in arts and crafts at the turn of the twentieth century. This interest was especially strong among the nationally famous artists and writers who summered in the Connecticut Valley near the New Hampshire towns of Cornish and Plainfield In 1897 a group of women associated with the art colony joined members of the local community to establish the club. Even before the organization built its clubhouse it engaged in craft activities to support the American effort in the war with Spain. The club developed a special sensitivity to the growing interest in traditional New England handicrafts--an interest which, in turn, derived from the much older arts and crafts movement in Britain. In 1896, just before the Mothers' and Daughters' Club was founded, the Blue and White Society of Deerfield, Massachusetts, had begun the revival of crewel embroidery and colonial arts some 70 miles to the south; this revival is recognized today as one of the pioneering craft movements in the United States.(2) At the same time Helen R. Albee, a summer resident of Ossipee, N.H., attempted to provide some economic independence for the women of that area by encouraging the home production of traditional hooked rugs of high quality.(3) By 1902 and 1903, the New Hampshire Federation of Women's Clubs was holding displays and crafts produced by its members.(4)

In this context, The Mothers' and Daughters' Club established the Mothers' and Daughters' Industries in 1900. The first effort of the Industries was in the production of woven rugs, a form of floor covering that was traditional in New Hampshire. Local women cut and dyed the cloth strips for these rugs at home and, after their clubhouse was built, brought them to the building to be woven and sewn into floor coverings. The clubhouse, then lighted by kerosene lamps and by its expansive windows, housed the antique looms and work tables upon which these strips were woven into small rugs or sewn together into full-width carpets of many sizes. Club members also fashioned curtains, bedspreads and table coverings which were sold throughout the United States and even overseas. Some of the profit from this production went to the club's treasury, while some augmented the private income of individual club members.(5) The Mothers' and Daughters' Industry thus established precedents that led to the incorporation, thirty years later, of the League of New Hampshire Arts and Crafts, the first statewide handicraft organization in the United States and still a leading force in the American craft movement.

The early twentieth century was a period of increasing activity among women's groups in the United States. This activity manifested itself in efforts to establish greater economic independence for women and in a broadening of organizations which addressed issues of interest to women. Such organizations frequently took the form of clubs sponsored by wealthy or leisured women in an effort to aid less fortunate neighbors through the development of educational or income-producing activities. This was the case with The Mothers' and Daughters' Club, where women associated with one of the nation's most noted summer art colonies, "having manifested the desire to become better acquainted with the native residents . . . and meet them socially as well as in the way of business relations . . . suggested the formation of a club which . . . 'should embrace the sojourners from the city and the country women, so that interests might be shared and helpful work done together.'"(6) As organized in August, 1897, the club stated its purpose as "the mutual improvement of its members; also the promotion of social and philanthropic work in our midst."(7)

The establishment of clubs by women, for the exclusive membership of women, was a phenomenon of the late nineteenth century in New England. The first such organization in New Hampshire was founded in 1873 and, like many others that followed, it was devoted to the study of literature. By the late 1800s, however, women's groups had begun to diversify and a few had found the means to build clubhouses for themselves. The first such building in New Hampshire, and perhaps in the nation, was constructed in 1896. The Mothers' and Daughters' Clubhouse, built only five years later and essentially unaltered since its construction, is certainly one of the earliest such buildings in the United States and survives as a monument to one of the most far-reaching social movements of the turn of the century.

(1) Henry F. Withey and Elsie Rathburn Withey, Biographical Dictionary of American Architects (Deceased). (Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, Inc., 1970), pp. 475-76.
(2) Callen, Anthea, Woman Artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement, 1870-1914. (New York: Pantheon, 1979), pp. 133-134.
(3) Helen R. Albee, Abnakee Rugs (Cambridge, Mass.: The Riverside Press, 1901); Helen R. Albee, Mountain Playmates (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1900), pp. 235-253.
(4) "Report of the Arts and Crafts Committee," New Hampshire Magazine, I, 6 (June 1904), pp. 188-191; The New Hampshire Federation of Women's Clubs, Yearbook, 1903-1904, pp. 15-16; Yearbook, 1904-1905, pp. 14-15.
(5) Mrs. G. S. Ruggles, Mothers' and Daughters' Industry, Plainfield, New Hampshire (N.p.: Plainfield, N.H.: December 1, 1904).
(6) Ibid., p. 3.
(7) Ibid., p. 12.


Ruggles, (Mrs.) G. S. Mothers' and Daughters' Industry. This is a small paper booklet published by the Mothers' and Daughters' Club, December 1, 1904. The N.H. State Library has a copy.

Bishop, Lucy F. The Mothers' and Daughters' Club Through the Years. 1972. This is an unpublished manuscript written for the Club's seventy-fifth anniversary celebration. There is a copy in the Plainfield Library.

Correspondence dated August 8, 1980 and November 14, 1980 from Mr. James L. Garvin, Curator, N. H. Historical Society, 30 Park Street, concord, N.H. 03301.

Miscellaneous, uncatalogued, boxed papers, records, account books, etc., of the Mothers' and Daughters' Club now stored at the homes of Mrs Mary Cassedy and Mrs. Beatrice Clark of Plainfield.

FORM PREPARED BY: Nancy Norwalk, Mary Cassedy and AnnaKaie Sodemann, Plainfield Historical Society, P.O. Box 506, Plainfield, NH. Tel: 603-675-5494 (Norwalk). Date: Not given (circa 1981).

DATE ENTERED: March 11, 1982.
(Source 27)