The House That Women Built: The First One Hundred Years of the Metropolitan Club of San Francisco

Book Covers 0002 The House That Women Built Cover

The story of the House that Women Built began in the early 1900s when the city of San Francisco, the most important port city of the New West, was experiencing unprecedented growth. It was then that a 7.8 magnitude earthquake and three days of subsequent fires helped set the stage to shape the city that we know today. Women of all economic backgrounds became involved in the fight for equality and had a significant impact on the new cityscape. Influential women led the way by forming many local organizations including the first woman’s athletic club west of Chicago. The initial idea for a woman’s athletic club in San Francisco was proposed at the home of Mrs. William Denman on an afternoon in 1912. Over tea with Mrs. Thomas Driscoll and Mrs. Babcock (later Mrs. John Lawson), Elizabeth Taylor Pillsbury, daughter of the publisher of the Boston Globe, shared her recent experience of visiting the Woman’s Athletic Club of Chicago. She described the elegant club on Michigan Avenue with its large ballroom, well-appointed dining room, pool, gymnasium, and beauty shop. The core of the membership of the club was expected to come from the Social Register, but efforts were made to reach artistically trained and working-class women. The Club was founded in 1915 with the aim of “education first and recreation and pleasure afterward.” One hundred years later, The Metropolitan Club of San Francisco formerly The Woman’s Athletic Club of San Francisco, stands strong while a new generation of women walk through the doors, learn of their shared history, and make lifelong friends.