A letter to Mr.
William Jonas, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Happy Knoll Country
Club, from Mrs. I. J. Felton, wife of Mr. I. J. Felton, a member of the Happy
Knoll Country Club.
My dear Mr.
Although I do not know you personally, I am sending you this letter because I
believe you to be chairman of the Board of Governors of the Happy Knoll Country
Club. At least, when my husband pointed you out to me, he told me that you
were, but then, Ingram is apt to be very inaccurate, on Saturday afternoons.
However, you were on the 18th green, which is not far from the terrace where
women are allowed to buy drinks and, judging from your restrained dress and
manner, you may very well be what Ingram said you are. Also I feel impelled to
write to someone in authority instead of entrusting my complaints to Ingram,
who is never accurate when carrying messages even to a drugstore.
Briefly, I am
writing to complain regarding the general situation existing in the ladies'
locker room at the Happy Knoll Country Club—a region with which I cannot
believe you are in the least familiar, and there are unfortunately no women as
yet on any Happy Knoll governing board. Happy Knoll is, as Ingram reiterates,
whenever I criticize the place, a Man's World, and for once I believe he is
right, which leads me to ask a question before I lodge my series of just
tells me before you retired that you were a leading lawyer in New York City who
has served on civic committees with women prominent in society and professional
life, I fear I can foretell your answer. This makes no difference, since I know
the correct one, from my experience as president of the Parent-Teacher
Association, of the local League of Women Voters, and as a former president of
the State Association of Garden Clubs. My answer is that in all the wide
workaday world of give and take, including the United Nations and Bryn Mawr
College, my alma mater, women are people—but not at the Happy Knoll Country
Club. I know the reason for this as well as you, Mr. Jonas. Men, I have
observed, are afraid of women who have ideas which are even remotely abstract.
Society, as it was founded in my youth, and even more so in yours, Mr. Jonas,
judging from my glimpse of you, was founded on that fear. Men retreated then to
such places as the Happy Knoll Country Club and, I regret, continue this
outmoded practice, except for a growing number of enlightened young couples who
share the burdens of marriage equally, including dishwashing and the care and
entertainment of infants. I am happy to perceive that a hint of this spirit is
now infiltrating Happy Knoll by way of the younger set, but admittedly it is
still far from prevalent. Yet women do have rights, Mr. Jonas, even at your
so-called country club, in spite of their lacking democratic representation
save on the garden and decorating committees. And what, briefly, would you do
without us? Have you ever pondered that question, Mr. Jonas?
more women than men use your tennis courts. Half the greens fees on the golf
course are paid by women. Women pay more than half of the teaching fees
collected by your professional, Mr. Muldoon; especially, if I may say so, Mrs.
Meadows of the younger golfing set, who whenever I seek an hour's instruction
is taking a playing lesson with Mr. Muldoon at some distant part of the course.
This, you may say, is neither here nor there, but such facts reinforce my point
that women more than share the financial burdens of Happy Knoll. The restaurant
would perish without the patronage of Happy Knoll wives and their guests, and
at long last you have displayed, though reluctantly, the acumen to admit women
to the new bar. But in spite of the desegregation triumphs in the South we are
still second-class citizens in your organization.
What is the
reason for this, Mr. Jonas? Is it because my sex is socially unattractive as a
group? Is it because women are not supposed to compete with men in outdoor
sports? Physiologists are now proving that women are more robust than men,
outdoors and indoors, Mr. Jonas. They have greater qualities of character and
endurance, can bear pain with a stoicism of which a male is incapable—and what
man has ever borne a baby? Besides, the statisticians have now proved that a
woman's life span is years longer, on the average, than that of the comparable
male—and this is itself a factor in women's rights at Happy Knoll that has been
overlooked by your governing board. Actually, the sums expended by Happy Knoll
widows do more toward supporting the club than the low scale of dues extended
your younger male members, though admittedly these individuals eventually may
marry and thus finally contribute to the widow backlog. I therefore ask you
again: Are women people? Are they or are they not useful to you at Happy Knoll?
Or should they be confined in their suburban homes with their knitting, where a
great many men, including yourself, I am afraid, Mr. Jonas, appear to desire
I shall grant, as
you will doubtless state in rebuttal, that you have made concessions to women
and their wants at Happy Knoll. You have instituted the Saturday night dances,
though more for your amusement, I fear, than ours, judging from the frequent
rumors of near seductions which are said to take place in parked cars and in
the improperly lighted shrubbery behind the tennis courts. It is true, also,
that you have enlarged the restaurant and, because of pressure brought to bear
by wives of bankers and others in higher financial brackets than those enjoyed
by Mr. Felton and myself, have finally discharged your wretched cook, who was
able only to prepare fried chicken and fattening French-fried potatoes.
Nevertheless, the dining room and indeed the lounge, though recently
redecorated in a vulgar manner under the auspices of a member (who I have heard
pocketed her 33?% commission without a by your leave), still reeks of deep fat.
It is true also that you have opened what you call, un-originally, the mixed
card room, as well as the mixed bar, where a woman may be seen without her
husband with only a modicum of comment as long as she is not seen with someone
else's, however platonic their relationship.