The Caddo Civic and Cemetery Club, founded in 1903, is one of the oldest women’s clubs in Oklahoma. It was formed before statehood, before women could even vote. Ella Bilbo, Dousie Hancock, Belle Walters, Emma Love, Agnes Ainsworth, and Georgia McCoy began a tradition long upheld by Caddo women- they saw a need and they organized to meet it. The town’s burial ground was forlorn and neglected. It was covered with weeds and totally lacking in order and dignity. The women of Caddo joined together to do something about it. In fact the motto of the early group was “Do Things! Dream Not All Day Long.” Today’s motto is “Do Noble Things”.
The women’s group not only cleaned, organized, and administered the business of the cemetery, but also improved the lives of women in Caddo. In 1912 there was electricity in Caddo, but it was only available at night. The Civic Club petitioned the city to turn electricity on during the day on Tuesdays so the women of Caddo could iron! They bought twenty-five electric irons to loan or rent.
In the 1930s the women of the Civic Club assisted local doctors in immunizing hundreds of people against typhoid.
The Civic Club tirelessly supported the war effort by buying savings bonds, sponsoring Red Cross classes in first aid, and canning vegetables and fruits for school lunches. In 1945 the club sent 697 pounds of clothing to war refugees in Europe, collected 5,600 pounds of scrap paper to be recycled, and collected 25 pounds of fat (presumably to be used in making soap). In 1946 the General Federation of Women’s Clubs named the Caddo Civic and Cemetery Club the second best women’s club in America.
Current members of the Civic and Cemetery Club are Wanda Nation (president), Jerri Hadley (vice-president), Tommy Edwards (recording secretary), Hilda Wood (corresponding secretary), Becky Zeober (treasurer), Maggie Szenasi (parliamentarian), Vesta Baker, Annette Carlton, Margaret Gordon, Dianne Horton, Jenna Huggins, Betty Hyde, Louise McGrew, Mary McKinney, Mary Nell McMichael, Leona Michaelis, Nancy Miller, Hatsene Milligan, Leisha Nave, Mary Etta Peters, Wenona Renfro, and Judy Rowland. Hilda Wood has been a member of the Civic Club longer than any other woman. She was elected to membership in 1940 and also served as president from 1963-1969.
The club is currently working on revising and updating the cemetery records. They recently bought a lap top computer to aid in the mapping of the cemetery. The headstones will be photographed and the plots mapped so that families and genealogists will have access to accurate records. The computer was purchased with donations from loyal people who no longer live in Caddo, but have remembered the club in their wills or sent in donations. Funds are also being raised to fence the cemetery property and pave the main driveways.
Throughout its 100+ years of service the women of the Civic and Cemetery Club have been true to the last line of the “club woman’s creed” printed in 1912, “O Lord, let us not forget to be kind”. They have worked diligently to continue to maintain and improve the cemetery and to serve the community. In the process they have done something even more profound- they have inspired and trained generations of young women to follow in their footsteps as community leaders. Look around Caddo today and you will see members and descendents of members prominently represented in businesses, churches, and other community endeavors.
(This profile was written from the notes and research of Lynda Wood Brown and Leslie Meadows Green, and with the assistance of Tommy Edwards.)