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Eugene Shakespeare Club records

Identifier: Coll 227

Scope and Contents

The collection contains correspondence, constitutions, histories and recollections, and minutes that include annual reports, clippings, programs, and membership information.

The collection includes an initial donation which was processed as a whole and then two accessions which came later. A description of accession contents can be found at the end of this note. The paper finding aid contains a listing of the initial donation only.

The Eugene Shakespeare Club collection consists principally of the minutes of the first (Carson's) society, 1893-1899, and the minutes of the second club, covering the years 1912-1979 (according to Knapp, records of the second club prior to 1912 do not exist). However, a limited number of other materials have been preserved, including:

Histories — From 1957 and 1967 and also including several letters secured by Knapp from other early members, and which were used in composing her 1957 historical summary. A later addendum contains folders of recollections of members and a summary of plays studied (1967-2000).

Agreement with Eugene Public Library, 1942 — Regarding the purchase and donation of volumes of the Variorum Shakespeare.

Constitutions — Printed documents, 1951 and 1967. Other versions of the constitution appear in the minutes occasionally, as revisions were considered. A later addendum contains constitutions from 1925-1979.

Financial Records — Including two bank books, U.S. National Bank (1933-1935, and 1935-1943), and also a Treasurer's Book (1915-40). Other records of dues paid, disbursements, etc., are found in the minutes.

Correspondence, 1967-1969 — Discussing donations to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and to the Stratford upon Avon Parish Church Restoration Club, as well as payments made to lecturers in the Eugene Public Library series. Correspondence from other years has not been preserved, although it is occasionally referred to in the minutes. A later addendum includes additional correspondence.

The Minutes themselves are arranged chronologically (1893-1979), and provide a wealth of information on the varied nature of Shakespeare studies over the course of the century, and ways in which Shakespeare has been construed by the popular imagination as well as by professional scholars. Also included in the minutes are annual reports, newspaper clippings, programs of plays presented and of social events, and membership and attendance information. A later addendum includes additional minutes.

The amount of space devoted to specific details of the group's discussions in the minutes varies from time period to time period, and from individual secretary to individual secretary — some have been more effusive, devoting substantial room to such commentary, whereas others have focused almost exclusively on business matters.

The conversations of the first Shakespeare club focused primarily on matters of character, even including such events as a mock trial of Brutus in the case of the murder of Julius Caesar. In addition, members regularly presented papers critiquing the plays, and addressing related historical topics.

During the early years of the current club, energies were directed first and foremost to the reading and acting out of the plays, with little consideration of critical perspectives. Beginning in the 1950s, the records reflect an increase in the sophistication of the studies, and discussions encompassing a wide range of scholarly concerns. Cinematized versions and audio recordings of Shakespeare's plays are referred to, and a wide variety of histories and works of literary criticism are considered.

A perusal of these records should yield significant data on the evolution of a certain type of women's literary and social organization over the course of the twentieth century, as well as data on currents in Shakespeare studies (popular and professional alike), and specific information concerning the history of Eugene and of the University of Oregon, including the activities of many people who played prominent roles in the development of both.

There were two additional accessions to the main collection:

Accession 98.044.M: consists of additional recollections of members, minutes, correspondence, and a summary of plays studied. This accession covers the years 1967-2000.

Accession 02.018.M: consists of additional constitutions, 1925-1979.


  • 1893-2000


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

The current Eugene Shakespeare Club, an organization of women devoted to the study of Shakespeare's works, was founded in 1909 and continues in existence as of the date of this writing (1993). The club’s initial membership of twelve later expanded to twenty-five, in addition to inactive and honorary members. The club meets bi-weekly during a season that runs from October to May, and typically undertakes the examination of several plays per year, with a different discussion leader chosen for each.

In addition to their regular scholarly pursuits, the club has participated in the promotion of Shakespearean studies in Oregon, sponsoring lecture series at the Eugene Public Library, as well as patronizing the Oregon Shakespeare Festival at Ashland. In earlier years the group was enrolled as a member of the Oregon Federation of Women's Clubs, and assisted materially and financially in various civic and charitable projects, although these activities were later curtailed. A limited number of annual social events include a Twelfth Night party, and a Shakespeare's Birthday luncheon.

Two other Shakespeare societies have existed in Eugene. The first, and most notable historically, was that founded in 1893 by Professor Luella Clay Carson of the University of Oregon. As well as being remembered for having served as first head of the English department, and later as first Dean of Women, Carson is also noted as an influential rhetorician. In the capacity of director of English education and composition studies for the state of Oregon, she published a Handbook of English Composition, possibly the first of its kind in the nation. The records of this early club (which can be said to be an intellectual forbearer, if not a direct predecessor in fact) were donated to the present club, and have been preserved in this collection.

The society founded by Carson was an outgrowth of her work with the Eutaxian Club, the women students' literary society, which was a major social and educational organization on campus. Carson's profound enthusiasm for Shakespeare and love of theater, which she shared with the Eutaxians, led to a demand for expanded course offerings in English and American literature at the University. Until that time, these subjects had figured only in a minor way in the curriculum. In addition, the efforts of the Eutaxians and their mentor led to the production of the first campus theatrical. After these early successes, Carson's unbounded admiration of Shakespeare led her to form the club, which met from 1893-1899, and included both "town and gown," members of the Eugene community as well as University faculty. One of the more notable participants was U of O President Hiram Chapman, who lectured extensively on Shakespeare and on other literary subjects throughout the state, as a way of promoting the University.

In 1897, the club turned from its studies of Shakespeare to the consideration of several nineteenth-century American authors, including Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson. With a waning membership, the organization dissolved in 1899. The reasons for this turn of events are not given in the minutes; they could as easily be attributed to currents at the University (the expansion and reorganization of the curriculum which demanded the full energies of the professorial staff at this time), as to the club's shift in focus, possible other conflicts not recorded, or other unidentified factors.

The second of the two other Shakespeare societies that have met in Eugene was composed of both University faculty and town men and women, and met for approximately fifteen years beginning in the early 1930s. No records of this group were left in the hands of the present club.

A "History of the Eugene Shakespeare Club" written by Effie Knapp is quite thorough in covering events from 1909 through 1957, and "Recollections," historical notes contributed by a number of long-time members in 1967, adds additional detail. Over the years, the group has included in its membership several of the University of Oregon faculty, who have taken on the role of advisor, or have devoted an exceptional amount of time to leading discussions. Additionally, the club has on occasion brought in other (non-member) faculty, as well as visiting guest lecturers, to augment their studies.

Meetings have included the reading of scenes, and of entire plays, as well as the staging of scenes for the pleasure of the participants and limited audiences. The occasional full-scale production open to the larger community is also recorded. As a group, the women have enjoyed reversing the original conventions of Elizabethan theatre, producing Shakespeare with all-female, rather than with all-male casts.


2.5 linear feet (4 containers)

Language of Materials



The current Eugene Shakespeare Club, an organization of women devoted to the study of Shakespeare's works, was founded in 1909 and continues in existence as of the date of this writing (1993). The collection contains correspondence, constitutions, histories and recollections, and minutes that include annual reports, clippings, programs, and membership information.


Materials within this collection are arranged first by initial accession(s) that were processed together as a whole and then by subsequent accession(s). This organization reflects the fact that the collection had been processed at one point in time and then more materials were acquired in increments over time. This organization is also based on the decision not to merge the various accessions and organize them into a whole at this point in time, given the fact that future accruals are anticipated and/or that this organization is deemed sufficient for access.

Researchers should note that materials within a series or accession may overlap and/or relate to materials found in other accessions or initially processed materials. For example, correspondence may be found in all or only some groupings. In order to locate all relevant material within this collection, researchers may need to consult each accession.

Researchers should also note that similar materials can be arranged differently in each accession, depending on how the material is organized upon receipt or during initial processing. For instance, correspondence is one accession may be arranged alphabetically, while correspondence in another accession is arranged chronologically.

Other Finding Aids

Paper finding aid with additional information is available in Special Collections & University Archives.

Physical Description

3 clamshell boxes and 1 manuscript box.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Debra Shein, 1993.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

This collection may have received a basic level of processing including some organization and rehousing. The initial accession(s) were processed and arranged as a whole and are reflected in the series arrangement. Subsequent accession(s) for the collection have not been merged or organized as a whole. Each subsequent accession is described separately.

Description information is drawn in part from information supplied with the collection and initial surveys of the contents.

Guide to the Eugene Shakespeare Club Records
Revise Description
Tanya Parlet.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Funding for production of this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA