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July 29, 2013

Onesiphorai Reading Club celebrating a centennial in Franklin

As kids, it’s a joy to be read to by an adult. As adults, we then read to our kids. As for adults reading to adults, there’s not an abundance of that going on locally. In recent years we’ve had creations such as books on tape or CD, but it’s not the same as someone being in the same room, reading to one another.

There is an exception in Franklin, where a group meets every two weeks, just as it has done for the past 100 years, to read aloud, discuss current events and almost as importantly enjoy a delicious homemade dessert. 

The Onesiphorai Reading Club recently celebrated its centennial of the first meeting, which was held on Thursday, Feb. 20, 1913 at Mrs. Lulu Stilson’s home. For those unfamiliar trying to pronounce it, that’s “on-a-sa-fry,” which is a Greek word that can mean “working together,” or “profitable or helpful.”

Current Club President Louise Hebbard said the Onesiphorai Reading Club had its origins in the “Thimble Parties” held in the early 20th century at various homes in Franklin, where sewing was the main activity. Hebbard says that had you been a young woman in Franklin, you might get invited to a party. At that time, most women were mothers with children and spent most of their time at home with family responsibilities. The women still desired to keep up with news and current events, which at the time involved reading, as there wasn’t the Internet, television or radio. At these gatherings, the women sewed and listened to each other read.

At Lulu Stilson’s home, 14 women met for the purpose of organizing a literary and social club. While sewing may have been included, the first object was to read and encourage reading of good literature, and second to promote sociability among its members. Elizabeth S. Rowell was elected first club president, with Helen G. Maurer as secretary-treasurer. The name Onesiphorai was adopted at the third meeting on March 13, 1913.

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