Genealogy Sleuthing for Details from “Bohemian Club Women Note Double Anniversary Affairs”
Here is a brand new addition from ‘The Harding Bohemian Genealogy Treasure Chest’.
It is an article from an unknown newspaper and of an unknown publication date, which describes not only the 46th anniversary celebration of the Bohemian Women’s Society (Cesky Kavovy), but also the 71st birthday of one of its founding members, Mrs. Caroline Rychlik.
One of the best aspects of this article is that the reporter listed dozens of participants who gathered for this gala event and that several are included in the delightful photograph. That makes it difficult for anyone who enjoys genealogy to find any significant fault. However, it certainly is a bit of a disappointment that those in this photograph are not identified, which we unfortunately find is all too commonplace in many Bohemian group photos in the newspapers of this era. But we have it and for our historic genealogy purposes I am very happy we do.
While we greatly appreciate the work that went into the article listing the 40+ surnames of the speakers, attendees, and honorees of this event, we raise one note of interest/caution. This note of caution is regarding the descriptions and names used by the reporter for the organization so prominently featured and headlined in this article.
You see, if you go searching for “Bohemian Club”, “Bohemian Women’s Society”, and/or “Cesky Kavovy”, which is not translated as ‘Bohemian Women’s Society but as ‘Bohemian Coffee Club’, you won’t find a nickel’s worth of proper history. It requires that we look deeper to get the full and accurate story and to try and date this article. So that is exactly what we decided to do.
After reading, and re-reading, the article we began our research into the two major Bohemian/Czech benefit societies in early Cleveland, Ohio and which eventually stretched far beyond the city. The first group, comprised of local Lodges was affiliated with the Freethinking movement, which made up over half of the Bohemian immigrant population in Cleveland. These Lodges were part of the organization with the name of Česko-Slovanské Podporující Společnosti (Č.S.P.S.), which is translated in English as the Bohemian Slovenian Benevolent Society, later changed to the Czechoslovak Society of America (C.S.A.), and is reported to be the oldest Czech and Slovak organization in America. How old is the Č.S.P.S.? It was established on March 4, 1854, which is four months before the present day Republican Party came into being, at the time there were only 17 States in the United States, Commodore Perry ‘opened’ Japan to the Western world, and the Crimean War began.
The second organization was affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, and was named Česká Římsko-Katolická První Ustřední Jednota ve Spojených Státech, which is translated as Czech Roman-Catholic First Central Union of the United States and was later changed to simply the Czech Catholic Union (CCU) and was organized a few years later than the Č.S.P.S. in 1878.
We began our researching on the Č.S.P.S. and it turned out to be a good decision.
The first resource we tapped was the book “One Hundred Years of the CSA 1854-1954”. This book, written by Joseph Martínek, contains a detailed and exceptionally complete history of the C.S.A., which is not surprising since it fills more than 540 pages.
One thing to take note of is that early in the history of both the Č.S.P.S. and the C.C.U. both organizations had all-male and all-female lodges and sub-organizations. So it was that we found on pages 464 to 479 a chapter titled “The Czech Ladies Benevolent Society”. It is good to note the opening sentences of this chapter:
“It appears that there is less written about the role of women in the life of the Czechoslovakia (sic) in America than about any other factor effecting these people. Yet, they do deserve special special attention because we owe these women more than is generally admitted. If for no other reason, these women had to carry the heaviest burden of all in the process of adjusting to the new conditions. During the early pioneering days, if it was particularly difficult for men to adjust to the ways of American life, and customs, it was twice as difficult for their women.” (page 464)
On just the next page we found the following:
“The first of Czech women’s benevolent societies, which was the foremost expression of the feminist movement, were organized in the United States during the last sixties of the nineteenth century. The oldest such organization, by now virtually forgotten, was the Jednota Dcer Vlasty (Unity of the Daughters of Vlasta) founded in New York. …. The second such group was the Jednota Českých Dam (Unity of Czech Ladies) of Cleveland, Ohio. Lodge Libuše No. 1 was its first lodge founded September 25, 1870. Originally this was merely a women’s lodge organized to aid the local Slovak (sic. It should be Slavic) Linden Hall in Cleveland, however, by February 1873 they changed over to a benevolent society. The structure of the lodge was patterned after the Č.S.P.S., whose format worker Brother Václav Rychílk, was responsible for the founding of the benevolent organization. Brother Rychlík’s wife, Caroline, was the actual founder of the new society.” (page 465)
While we were looking for clues, we certainly didn’t expect, nor did we mind, finding Caroline Rychlík , who is one of those being celebrated in our article, being named along with some nice additional history, which goes on for several more pages. Interestingly, we also noted that for the first time in our work, we were reading a quote from Hugo Chotek’s 1895 history of Cleveland, Česká Osada a Její Spolkový Život v Cleveland, O. v Severni Americe, and the more we read the more we came to be certain that the celebration discussed in our newspaper article was for the Freethinking Jednota Českých Dam organization.
First, we know that the article states it was the 46th anniversary of the organization and the 71st birthday of Mrs. Rychílk. If we look at the establishment date of Jednota Ceskych Dam, we find that according to Joseph Martínek, that date was in 1870, so adding 46 years gives us 1916±. We then looked for an obituary for Mrs. Karolina Rychílk. Our first stop was the Cleveland Necorology File (a wonderful free resource from the Cleveland Public Library) and while we did find one, it did not list any age for Mrs. Rychlik, however it gave us a year, 1925. We then began searching in the newspapers of GenealogyBank.com and there on October 22, 1925 in the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) was an obituary headlined “Bury Bohemian Leader. Funeral Services for Mrs. Karolina Rychlik Set for Today”. Our luck was better with this obituary since it gives us her age at death of 80, names her as the founder of Jednota Ceskych, and that she died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. L. C. Chott, which is the same daughter mentioned in our original article. Subtracting Mrs. Rychlik’s age from 1925 and we get her birth year as 1845±. When we go back to her age in our original article as 71 years, and subtract it from or estimated year of 1916, we come up with 1845 again.
We were very pleased to have accomplished our goals of identifying which organization was being described and trying to date our genealogy treasure article, Bohemian Club Women Note Double Anniversary Affairs, as having been published in 1916. Along our journey we have also been able to add that the organization is Jednota Českých Dam and also some very welcome additional history to the story surrounding it.
We hope you have enjoyed following along on this portion of our journey.
We are already hard at work on our next treasures. As a hint, you can expect them to be first time translations from Czech to English of some more of the articles from “The Harding Bohemian Genealogy Treasure Chest”!