Weavers' Guild of St. Louis copyright 2021

Mystery of the Birth of WGSL

The historians of the Weavers' Guild of St. Louis have been telling its members for decades that the Guild was founded on March 13, 1926, but is that really true? Do we have our own "birther" crisis right here in our Guild?

The first minutes in our archive, for the March 13, 1926 meeting, lead a superficial reader to believe that the Guild was officially founded on that date. There is no mention of the reading and approval of minutes of a previous meeting, a ritual that was later scrupulously followed. But there is also nothing that says that this was the first meeting.

There is also nothing stating who, if anyone, called the meeting to order. According to the minutes, they went right to the election of a secretary-treasurer, after first deciding that one person should hold both offices. (With only four or five members, that certainly makes sense.) Miss Wiley and Mrs. Wuerpel were nominated; Miss Wiley was elected.

The next order of business was choosing a name for the "club". Suggestions, plural, were made and "Weavers Guild of St. Louis" (no apostrophe, at least in the minutes) was chosen. Several other matters regarding the functioning of the Guild were decided but, oddly enough, there was no mention of the election of a president.

The next meeting, on April 10, was, however, "called to order by president". And who was that? We have to go to the third minutes we have, for October 10, to find out that the president was Mrs. Rowse. These minutes are on the reverse side of the page for the April 10 minutes, so there is no reason to suspect that intervening minutes were lost. (And later evidence shows that the Guild meetings after the summer recess resumed in October.) So, presumably, the tradition of having an informal May picnic began that very first spring and there was no formal meeting between April and October.

The minutes of this third recorded meeting are in a distinctly different hand. The content shows why: a vote was held to "fill Miss Wiley's place" as secretary-treasurer. Lillian Glaser was elected. Why Miss Wiley left after only a few meetings is not known.

But was there a meeting prior to March 13? Initially, I thought not because it only seems logical to arrive at a name for the "club" at the first meeting. The other things that were decided during that March 13 meeting also seem to be organizational topics appropriate for a first meeting.

Mrs. Harris read the minutes of the first meeting of the "Weavers Guild of Greater Boston", which had been sent to her in 1923 and provided guidance for the founding of our Guild. At the Boston guild, the first order of business had been to choose a "permanent chairman". The second thing was the election of a secretary-treasurer. After the reading of the Boston minutes, there were suggestions for the object of our "club", though they were not recorded. Next was a discussion of membership qualifications. Three criteria were arrived at: (1) Must live in St. Louis or vicinity, (2) Can present, each year, one finished piece, done by herself, and (3) Be willing to conform to the rules of the guild.

It was then moved and seconded that dues be one dollar per year and that meetings be held the first Saturday of the month "or at the call of the president". But what president?

The April 10 minutes state that the by-laws were read by Mrs. Wuerpel. There was no mention in the March 13 minutes that anyone had been asked to write by-laws. Did Miss Wiley simply leave out the crucial details of the election of the president and the appointment of a by-laws committee at the March 13 meeting? Her minutes of the April 10 meeting state that her minutes of the previous meeting were read and approved.

So, we must come to one of two conclusions: (1) An unrecorded meeting was held before March 13, at which Mrs. Rowse was elected president, or (2) Miss Wiley failed to note the election of the president on March 13 and the membership failed to notice the omission at the April 10 reading of those minutes.

What do you think? And does it matter? We do know that until March 13, 1926, there was no organization officially called "the Weavers Guild of St. Louis". We will probably never know whether that was the first meeting of our Guild or just the one at which it was named.