Sorosis is an organization of professional and literary women founded in New York City in 1868. Columnist "Jennie June" (Jane C. Croly) and other women journalists were denied tickets to a New York Press Club event honoring Charles Dickens. The presenters claimed that the presence of the women would make the occasion "promiscuous." Offended, the female journalists founded their own press club, naming it Sorosis after a botanical term referring to plants with a grouping of flowers that bore fruit. The term was meant to symbolize women's determination to transform supposedly delicate and feeble ladies into important members of public society. Jane Croly organized a group of her friends, many of whom were writers, into the club to "promote agreeable and useful relations among women," particularly those who had found "expression in outward life and work." The club's mission was to "establish a freemasonry among women of similar pursuits....[to afford] an opportunity for discussion...the results of which promise to exert an important influence on the future of women and the welfare of society." Historian Karen J. Blair states that the members tended to be "career women who had become keenly aware of sexism in their struggle for professional success."1
New York's Sorosis and Boston's New England Woman's Club (both founded in 1868) inspired the formation of women's clubs across the country. Croly called a national convention of women's clubs in 1869 that eventually led to the formation of the Association for the Advancement of Women (1873) and the General Federation of Women's Clubs (1890).
From the very beginning members of Sorosis have been prominent participants in varied professions and political reform movements such as abolitionism, suffrage, prison reform, temperance and peace. Although the discussion of suffrage was forbidden in an effort to create a safe feeling of unity among the members, many Sorosis members were staunchly in favor of, and involved in, the suffrage movement.
Sorosis expanded into local chapters beyond New York City in the early twentieth century and the various chapters went on to organize war relief efforts during both World Wars. Peace time activities included philanthropy (such as support for funding the MacDowell Colony), scholarship funds, and social reforms (such as literary training for immigrant women). In later years, Sorosis focused its activities on local projects, raising money for the aid of other women's clubs, funding scholarships for women, and aiding local rescue missions. Presidents of the club have included Alice Cary, Jennie C. Croly, Charlotte B. Wilbour, M. Louise Thomas, Ella Dietz Clymer and Jennie de la M. Lozier. Sorosis continues to thrive in New York City with an active charitable agenda.
1: Karen J. Blair, The Clubwoman as Feminist: True Womanhood Redefined, 1868-1914 (Homes and Meier Publishers, New York: 1980): 21.