A group of female students at North Texas Normal College met on October 12, 1902, to form the Mary Arden Club. The organization was named for William Shakespeare’s mother. The faculty member responsible for this new literary group was Miss Edith Lanier Clark. Clark, an English instructor at the time, wanted a club that would study the works of Shakespeare. Members analyzed two plays each session and performed a play each year for their fellow students. The first officers were Sadie Hanks, president; Tennie Malone, vice-president; Jennie Coller, secretary; and Jimmie Stiff, treasurer. Olive Murphy and Georgian Phipps served as sergeant-at-arms. The membership was limited to 30 students until 1914. In 1915, the club joined the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Club members chose the club’s name, colors (white and orange), and flower (white rose) during the second meeting of the club. The 1932 yearbook, The Yucca, stated that Eugene Chinn, a student, suggested the name of the club. During the first year the club presented acts from Hamlet and As You Like It in the area that is now behind the Auditorium Building. Elizabeth Hillyard, head of the art department, designed the senior club pin in 1906. It was a gold arrow with three pearls representing faith, fidelity, and friendship. At least three songs were composed for the club. Lois Rodgers wrote the senior club song, “When a Mary Meets a Mary” in 1925. Olga Borth composed a song for the Junior Mary Ardens in 1935. Virginia Haile composed a song to Mary Arden and dedicated it to Edith L. Clark in 1940.

The club originally met in the Normal Building, the first structure to be built on the North Texas Normal’s campus. Unfortunately, that building was struck by lightning in 1907 and burned down. Meeting in other campus structures (the Main Building, the Library [now Curry Hall], and later the College Club House) did not fully meet the needs of the club. The Mary Arden members raised funds for a structure to meet in by staging Shakespearian plays and through donations from former members. The lot was acquired between 1914 and 1915 with plans to build a club house. However, the lodge could not be built until after World War I. Bessie Shook, an English instructor, laid the corner stone. The Mary Arden Lodge was a shingled bungalow with French windows, a terrace and pergola. There was a spacious club room with a beamed ceiling and fireplace, a dining room, and a kitchen. It was located across Avenue A, east of the 10-acre campus of the Normal College. It was said to be the first clubhouse owned by a women’s literary club in Texas. It was also the second one by a member of the Federated Women’s Clubs in Texas (the other one was in Beaumont). Martha Simkins, artist and former UNT faculty member, presented an oil portrait of Edith Clark to the club in 1923. The painting was hung above the fireplace. The club made the last payment on the lodge in 1927.

As the club grew, the subjects studied by the members broadened to include art and current event issues (political, economic, and social). In 1933, the theme for the fall semester was “The Successful Woman of Today and Her Profession.”  During World War II, members also participated in gathering toys for under-privileged children, were active with the local Red Cross chapter, buying war bonds, hosting dances for service members, and contributing to kits for soldiers.

In 1935, the Club was split into the Junior Mary Ardens and the Senior Mary Ardens. The Junior Mary Ardens was composed of freshmen and sophomores, with juniors and seniors making up the Senior Mary Ardens. By 1945, the Junior Mary Ardens had one hundred members.

The Mary Arden Lodge was rented out for use by other campus organizations for meetings, dances, and other activities. However, after World War II, the Mary Ardens were the first club to donate funds for the building of a Union Building. Their donation reflected the expansion of the student enrollment and the need for more space to accommodate the growth of student groups.

Edith L. Clark retired in 1944 after working for the university for 42 years. Originally an English faculty member, the school’s president appointed her Dean of Women in 1918. Virginia Haile became the second sponsor of the Mary Arden Clubs.

Ms. Clark was honored at the 1952 Homecoming, the same time that the club celebrated its 50th anniversary. The club held a luncheon in the Crystal Room of Marquis Hall. Grace Cartwright, a member of the Board of Regents and a former club member, was one of the guests.

The property, needed for the long-range development of the campus, was purchases by the school in 1959 for $10,000. The structure was torn down in 1960. The block it sat on was eventually the home of the Art and the Speech and Drama buildings. The Mary Arden clubs were once again searching for space to meet in. The Junior Mary Ardens initially met in the Women’s Gym.

The money from the sale of the lodge funded scholarships for the Edith L. Clark and Mary Arden Lodge scholarships. The scholarships were first handed out in 1960. Betty Joyce Peterson received the Edith L. Clark scholarship. Barbara Bristow received the Mary Arden Scholarship. The latter scholarship started out as a loan for members in need during 1939. Mrs. Elizabeth M. Fly of Amarillo provided the original money for the loan fund.

Edith Clark died in 1964 at the age of 90. In the following year, the Board of Regents approve a contract for the building of a new women’s dormitory with plans to name it after Edith Clark.

The Mary Arden Club continued to be active and listed in the “Student Handbook” until 1975.


Club members gather in their club house, 1941-1942.

Members having tea at a meeting, 1941-1942. The portrait of Edith Clark by Martha Simkins is seen over the fireplace.

Leon Breedon, the director of the One O’clock Lab Band, speaks to members of the Mary Arden Club in 1962.

President J. C. Matthews, former Dean of Women Edith Clark, and President Emeritus W. C. McConnell were photographed in 1952 at a Homecoming celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Mary Arden Club. Clark was the founder of the club.

A page from the 1974 Yucca devoted to the Mary Arden Club.

Bessie Shook is pictured with other members of the faculty in the 1923 Yucca.

Virginia Haile, the second sponsor of the Mary Arden Club, also sponsored the Yucca, the school’s yearbook.

An early image of the Library Building, later known as the Historical Building and Curry Hall.  This image is undated.

Speech and Drama Building, circa 1970s

The Art Building in 1973.

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