Reading Class Book Lists

From their first meeting in 1899 until their 25th Anniversary in 1924, the members of the Reading Class chronicled their membership, meetings and readings in a leather bound book which they called "An Outline History of the Chevy Chase Reading Class."

In later years, they also printed small programs for each member.  These small booklets included a typed list of the reading program for the year and the name of the member leading the discussion on each book or topic.

Below are some notes from the first three years of the Reading Class, taken from "An Outline History of the Chevy Chase Reading Class."

The First Year:  1899-1900

"In the Autumn of 1899, it was suggested to Mrs. Verrill by Mrs. Cousar [perhaps Couper], then living in Chevy Chase, that we inaugurate a Reading Class, modeled on one Mrs. Cousar had attended.  The idea seemed a good one, and Mrs. Verrill invited Mrs. Mary B. Robertson, Mrs. Grace R. Bowen and Mrs. Fannie O. Richards to unite in forming such a class."

"In the following year (1900) we read, during the months of February, March and April, from text books on English Literature; Taine, Stopford Brookes and others."

The Second Year:  1900-1901

"This year we invited to join us the Misses Mary and Helen Childs, Mrs. Helen Z. Tucker and Mrs. Annie L. H. Weaver.  We became more methodical in our meetings.  We reviewed the life and works of the early English poets and purely literary prose writers up to the eighteenth century."

"Chaucer, Spenser, Bacon, Swift, Pope, and Johnson were read, in part."

"Each member became in turn the leader for the day, and an author was assigned to her for special work.  Meetings were held once a week from eleven to twelve-thirty A.M.  Luncheon was abandoned."



The Third Year:  1901-1902

"The first set programs were made this year.  Wednesday morning was chosen as the time of meeting.  Our first lesson was November 4; our last March 31, 22 Lessons.  The authors from whom we read were Scott, Lamb, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Macauley, Moore, Shelley, Keats, and Byron.  A number of papers were read."




Like other middle class women's reading groups at the turn of the twentieth century, the Reading Class initially focused on English literature. For the first five years, Mrs. Verrill developed the reading list, but in succeeding years, a chair and a committee was appointed, and the work was shared by the membership. The group returned to the works of Shakespeare several times, in 1905-1906, 1912-1913, and 1920-1921. Sometimes the reading list was centered on works by American authors, but in other years, literature from Scandinavia and the Far East was featured. A closer examination of all their reading lists suggests that some members had particular interests. For example, Fanny Richards often led discussions about works from the Far East. But for 1919-1920, when she was the chair of the program committee, the "Outline History" includes this comment:  

"This year the novel plan was tried of letting each member select her own writer."

During their 25th anniversary year, 1924-1925, the Reading Class members read contemporary works of both fiction and non-fiction, almost all published in 1923 or 1924. As shown below, the selections for the anniversary year included recent publications on science and psychology by G. Stanley Hall, Havelock Ellis, and others, as well as novels and short stories by Edith Wharton, Margaret Wilson, Anzia Yezierska, and Elizabeth von Armin. They read a number of biographies, including a fictional biography of Shelley by Andre Maurois, and they read three Pulitzer Prize winning books as well as the work of a Nobel winner for Literature.

  The 1924-1925 Program for the Chevy Chase Reading Class  [publication dates are in brackets]
  October 22nd   Mrs. Merrill Recollections of Europe
  October 29th    Mrs. Hillyer

Remembered Yesterdays, Robert Underwood Johnson [1923]

  November 5th Mrs. Warner The Great Game of Politics, Frank Richardson Kent [1923]
  November 12th Mrs. Garland Life and Confessions of a Psychologist, G. Stanley Hall [1900]
  November 19th Mrs. McClellan The Able McLaughlins, Margaret Wilson [1923] *
  December 3rd Mrs. Ashley Science Remaking the World, Edwin Slossom and William Otis Caldwell, editors. [1923] 
  December 10th Mrs. Bowen From Immigrant to Inventor, Michael Idvorsky Pupin [1923] **
  December 17th Mrs. Couper Old New York, Edith Wharton [1924]
  January 7th Miss Mackrille           Ariel: The Life of Shelley, Andre Maurois [1924]
  January 14th    Mrs. Marsh Poetry by William Butler Yeats *** and Robert Frost **** 
  January 21st Mrs. Robertson

The Dance of Life, by Havelock Ellis [1923]

  January 28th    Mrs. Wolcott Human Nature in the Bible, by William Lyon Phelps [1922]
  February 4th Mrs. Dawson Pierre Curie, by Marie Curie [1923]
  February 11th Mrs. Potbury Things Remembered, by Arthur S. Hardy [1923]
  February 18th Mrs. Lane Children of Loneliness, by Anzia Yezierska [1923]
  March 11th      Mrs. Richards The Glory of the Pharaohs, by Arthur Weigall [1923]
  March 18th Mrs. Hodges The New Decalogue of Science, by Albert Edward Wiggam [1922]
  March 25th      Mrs. Jodidi My Musical Life, by Walter Damrosch [1923]
  April 1st Mrs. Stevens Mankind at the Crossroads, by Edward Murray East [1923]
  April 8th Mrs. Prentiss The Enchanted April, by Mary A. [Elizabeth] von Arnim [1922]
      Pulitzer Prize for Best American Novel, 1923.
      ** Pulitzer Prize for Best American Biography, 1923.
      *** Nobel Prize for Literature, 1923.
      **** Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 1923.

Although we do not have any reading lists beyond the 1930-1931 year, we know that the Chevy Chase Reading Class continued to meet in the 1960s. This long history of reading is a testament to the members' individual commitment to reading as well as several generations of friendships developed around the love of books.

Read Transcriptions of the "Outline History" and the Annual Programs

Volunteers at the Chevy Chase Historical Society Archive and Research Center have transcribed both the "Outline History" and the pamphlets.

Read the complete transcription of "An Outline History of the Chevy Chase Reading Class," which chronicles the group and their readings from 1899 to 1924-25. 

Read transcriptions of the Chevy Chase Reading Class annual programs, 1919 through 1931.

Read a complete list of all the members and all the texts read between 1899 and 1931, drawn from the "History" and the annual programs.