Women’s History Month – Honoring the Three Women who Founded the First Boys & Girls Clubs

During Women’s History Month, we want to honor and celebrate the three women who founded the first Boys & Girls Clubs in 1860 – Elizabeth Hammersley and two sisters, Mary and Alice Goodwin. They started the first club in Hartford, Connecticut. Believing that boys who roamed the streets should have a positive alternative, they organized the first Club, “The Dashaway Club”.  It began very casually. The three women were concerned about a group of lonely and shabby boys and invited them into their homes for refreshments and recreation. With character development as the cornerstone of the experience, the Club focused on capturing boys’ interests, improving their behavior, and increasing their personal expectations and goals.  A cause was born.

The ‘club’ became so popular that they rented a meeting hall and offered dramatics, music and books. In 1880, Mary Stuart Hall – another public-spirited woman from Hartford (and the first female lawyer in the state of Connecticut) – reorganized “The Dashaway Club” as “The Good Will Boys Club.” Hall wanted to prove that even tough street kids, given opportunity and guidance, could get along in society and abide by the rules. She drew upon her legal training to teach these young people to live within rules and expectations. She worked with the boys until her death in 1927. The “Good Will Boys Club” continues today as the Boys & Girls Club of Hartford.

For 75 years, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland have been providing programs and services to young people ages six to 18 who come from a wide variety of backgrounds. We offer access to resources like healthy food, technology, caring mentors, homework support, athletic leagues, art programs, college visits, first jobs, summer camps for youth and teens and more.

In 2019, Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metro Area established the nation’s first M.A.E. Circle, an energized organization of women designed to grow the legacy of the three founding members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America – Mary, Alice and Elizabeth. M.A.E. Circle members consist of a community of female philanthropists and leaders who are committed to making a difference in the lives of Portland youth by advancing the mission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metro Area.

Interested in learning more about M.A.E. Circle – https://bgcportland.org/maecircle/