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In the spring of 1911, a group of mothers concerned about the overall health and well-being of Evanston’s youth met to draw up a constitution for a club.  The club’s objective would be “to promote acquaintance, to make a united effort toward the development of friendly community service and to benefit youth wherever possible.”

Nearly 100 years later, the North End Mother’s Club (NEMC) stands by its original purpose.  The Club continues to support youth by promoting and advancing educational, charitable, civic, health and welfare activities throughout the City.

Though called the North End Mother’s Club by virtue of its North Evanston roots, the Club is open to all Evanston women and supports organizations throughout the City.

An Explosive History

The Club was initially called the Mother’s Club of Central School.  Located at Central and Stewart, it was the only school in North Evanston at the time.  The site is now Independence Park.

In the early years, the Club focused on activities such as collecting and donating books to libraries, encouraging school instruction in music appreciation and offering dance classes for children.

One of the Club’s most notable marks on the City was the planning and organizing of the first Evanston Fourth of July parade and fireworks in 1922.  Concerned about children’s safety, the women of NEMC believed an organized event would help to eliminate possible dangers and be fun for everyone. 

With the support of other local community organizations, the original Fourth of July festivities included a parade and picnic dinner followed by dancing on one of the streets illuminated by strings of electric lights.  After dark, everyone journeyed to the Northwestern University Athletic Field to witness an elaborate fireworks display. 

The celebration in 1922 was touted by the Chicago Daily News as the best in Cook County that year.

Scholarships for High School Seniors

Today, NEMC consists of about 120 women from a variety of backgrounds and generations.

The Club’s primary charitable focus is on providing three scholarships to seniors graduating from ETHS: the Senior Girl’s Honor Award, the Nursing Scholarship and the Joanne Murphy Trautwein Music Award.

Since 1953, the Senior Girl’s Honor Award has been given to the ETHS senior girl who is deemed first in her class in all-around qualities, including intellectual ability, excellent character, capacity for leadership and distinguished service to both school and community.  Each girl in the senior class nominates one girl by written ballot.  The nominations are submitted to the high school Committee of Awards, and the recipient is announced at the annual Awards Night. The award provides a given amount of funding each year until graduation from college.

Last year’s winner, Adrianne Slaughter, is currently attending her first year at Harvard University.

The Nursing Scholarship began in 1979 and originally benefited nursing students at Evanston and St. Francis Hospitals. Currently, the award winner is selected from ETHS seniors interested in pursuing a nursing career.  Last year’s recipient, Ashley Tolentino, is attending the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The Joanne Murphy Trautwein Music Award was created in 1992 by the Trautwein family in honor of long-time NEMC member and past president, Joanne Murphy Trautwein, an accomplished musician.  The award-winner is selected from ETHS seniors planning to study music.  Julian Allen, last year’s winner, is currently a freshman at the University of Michigan.

NEMC also donates funds each year to local youth-oriented organizations.  In 2009, the Club donated $20,000 to charities such as the Evanston Fourth of July Association, the ETHS After Midnight post-prom program and the Evanston YWCA Women’s Shelter.

Fox Trot for Funds

The Club’s major fundraiser is the Fortnightly dance class offered to all Evanston sixth- and seventh-graders each fall.  Started in 1916, the social dancing class in which students are taught traditional dances such as the waltz and fox trot, as well as contemporary dance steps, has not wavered in its popularity.

Fortnightly chairperson Nicole Marks says not only does the class fill up immediately each year, but “it is just as popular with the boys as with the girls.”

The program consists of six sessions and is held at the Woman’s Club of Evanston.  The classes are open to 100 girls and 100 boys in each of the two grades. Students also receive instructions on social skills and etiquette.

“Fortnightly is a part of growing up in Evanston,” says Ms. Marks, who has fond memories of attending the social dancing classes herself. “The goal is to teach students proper etiquette and decent dance skills.  If they find themselves in a formal ballroom, setting they will know what to do.”

Ms. Marks adds, “The students truly seem to enjoy attending Fortnightly and are rewarded with a chaperoned DJ party in seventh grade.”

NEMC president Karin Ruetzel says she appreciates the generational diversity of the Club’s members and recognizes the Club as an Evanston tradition. 

“A lot of the ideals the Club was originally founded on nearly 100 years ago are still issues women of Evanston care about today,” says Ms. Ruetzel.

To find out more about NEMC or Fortnightly dance class go to www.northendmothersclub.org.