On November 20, 1918, an eclectic group of Richmond writers came together to propose a club that would make Richmond an influence in the world of letters. The group, which included Samuel Travers Clover, owner of the Richmond Evening Journal; Orie Latham Hatcher, Ph. D., Shakespeare scholar and founder of the Bureau of Vocations for Women; and James Branch Cabell, soon held a second event at the Woman’s Professional Building. The Richmond Times-Dispatch declared the meeting “one of the most interesting events of the season.” Although Cabell was not present at the Virginia Writers’ Club meeting held December 14, 1918, he was officially elected president.
The Virginia Writers’ Club was part of a larger effort to demonstrate the intellectual vitality and literary merit of southern writers. Members of the Club supported and contributed to The Reviewer, a literary magazine whose founders Emily Clark and Hunter Stagg wrote for Clover’s Evening Journal. Cabell biographer Edgar MacDonald reports that on several occasions James Branch Cabell and his wife Priscilla invited Virginia Writers’ Club members and Reviewer editors to receptions for prominent writers in Cabell’s circle of acquaintance. In October 1919, the Club asked members for a list of their published works so as to create “a record of the contribution made by this club to American literature.”
The Virginia Writers’ Club continues today with a mission “to support and stimulate the art, craft, and business of writing, as well as advocate the literary arts in the broader Virginia community.” The following are transcriptions of newspaper notices documenting the group’s earliest days and membership.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Nov. 28, 1918, p. 7
Meeting of Richmond Writers,
One of the most interesting events of the season will be the evening devoted to the interests of Richmond writers to-morrow at 8:15 o’clock in the Woman’s Professional building, 210 East Grace Street. All of the invitations issued by the committee of arrangements have been accepted and a very unusual gathering is assured. The program, which will begin promptly, will consist of addresses, five minutes in length, of entirely personally remminiscent [sic] nature. James Branch Cabell will preside and will open the discussion. He will be followed by Miss Margaret Prescott Montague, Mrs. Sally Nelson Robins, Evan R. Chesterman. After the regular program there will be one-minute talks by the various persons who will be called on by the chair. At the conclusion of this discussion a short business session will be held. Each guest will be asked to register before leaving.
The committee in charge includes Miss Mary Carter Anderson, Mrs. William G. Stauard,[sic] Miss Orie L. Hatcher, S. T. Clover and James Branch Cabell.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dec. 11, 1918, p. 7
Evening for Writers
The second evening for writers on Saturday, December 14 at the Professional Woman’s Building promises to be full of interest to those who enrolled themselves at the last meeting as desiring a permanent organization. Many new names will be presented and a full report will be made at this meeting by the committee on recommendations for the plan, policy and general conduct of this organization. An open discussion by the members of the organization will follow the reading of the report. Miss Margaret Prescott Montague, one of the members of the committee, who is also a member of the Boston Authors’ Club, has received a very kind expression of interest in the proposed Richmond organization from Charles Edward Mann, corresponding secretary of that club, together with a copy of the club’s constitution and by-laws. Some of the points of which will be submitted for consideration to the Richmond organization by a committee which includes James Branch Cabell, B. B. Valentine, E. R. Chesterman, S. T. Clover, Miss Margaret Prescott Montague, Mrs. W. G. Stanard, Miss O. L. Hatcher, and Miss Mary Carter Anderson.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Dec. 12, 1918, p. 7
The committee on recommendations for the policy and plan of the proposed organization for writers met yesterday at the Woman’s Professional Building, and subcommittees were appointed to attend to the various interests of the organization. Suggestions from several members were considered, and the following committees were appointed: Committee on naming club, Miss Margaret Montague; committee on hospitality, Mrs. Kate Langley Bosher, Mrs. Sally Nelson Robins, Miss Orie A. [sic] Hatcher; committee on program, B. B. Valentine and S. T. Clover.
Other committees to be appointed will be those on manuscript and press and publicity. The committee on recommendations will report in full at the second meeting to be held Saturday evening at 8:15 o’clock in the Woman’s Professional Building, and James Branch Cabell will preside.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Oct. 22, 1919, p. 7
Virginia Writers’ Club
The first autumn meeting of the Virginia Writers’ Club will be held on Friday evening in the Professional Woman’s Building, 210 East Grace Street. This will be a special general meeting, at which plans and suggestions made by the executive board relative to the winter’s program will be laid before the club. Each member of the club is asked to bring to this meeting on Friday a list of all creative fiction books or short stories and all verse he has ever had published so that this data may be filed as a record of the contribution made by this club to American literature.
James Branch Cabell is president of the organization; Miss Margaret Prescott Montague, vice-president, and the program committee includes the president, Miss O. L. Hatcher and S. C. [sic] Clover. The executive board includes Mrs. Charles G. Bosher, Mrs. John Lightfoot, Jr., and Miss Mary Carter Anderson.
This Miller & Rhoads advertisement announces The Book Fair, “a literary and social event,” to be held Nov. 1 – 6, 1920 and explicitly compares it to similar events in “several of the larger cities in the North.” Virginia Writers’ Club members were active at the book fair, and on Nov. 4, a luncheon for the Club was hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Rhoads (Richmond Times-Dispatch, Nov. 5, 1920, p. 7). Excerpts from the advertisement are transcribed below.
Richmond Times-Dispatch, Oct. 31, 1920, p. 4
You Are Invited
Beginning tomorrow (Monday) morning, and continuing throughout the week, will be given, for the first time in Richmond, “The Book Fair,” a presentation such as has proved its worth in several of the larger cities of the North, and which promises to be equally successful here, as a literary and social event. In scope and character it undoubtedly will surpass anything of the sort yet witnessed by our book-loving folk….
James Branch Cabell will open the Book Fair, presiding at one of the booths, and autographing books for his friends. Other important writers who will be guests Monday are Mrs. Ladonia Dascheil, short-story writer; Miss Nellie Tompkins, author of “The Egotistical I,” and Mrs. John B. Lightfoot, Jr. short-story writer and artist.
Men, women and children are invited to enjoy the Fair to their hearts’ content. There will be something to interest them. They will always find it educational and inspirational….
Members of “The Writers’ Club of Richmond” will receive visitors to the Book Fair Monday afternoon, from 3 to 5 o’clock.