In April 1868, a banquet honoring Charles Dickens was thrown at Delmonico’s restaurant (on the corner of 14th and Fifth) by The New York Press Club. Jane Cunningham Croly, who wrote under the name Jennie June, was not present at this event.
Stories vary as to why. Some say she was a member of the New York Press Club and they refused to add her to the guest list because she was a woman. Others say that the Press Club would not admit her as a member because she was a woman.
Whatever the truth was, Cunningham had had enough of it. She invited other career-minded women to her home on Fourteenth street so they could discuss ways of fighting discrimination.
Sorosis, the nation’s first professional women’s organization, was founded on March 21, 1868. Counted among members were poet Alice Cary, who was the club’s first president, and writer Franny Fern.
Sorosis was likely named after the botanical name for a fruit that is formed from the ovaries or receptacles that are meshed together on a crowded stem (such as a pineapple), or from the Greek word soror, which means sister.
The club was a precursor to both the New York Women’s Press Club (1889) and the General Federation of Women’s Clubs (1890), and one of their early accomplishments was organizing a similar banquet where New York men and women attended as social equals. From what we have read and posted so far, it is not surprising that this bold, forward-thinking club was the brainchild of a Greenwich Villager.