Tag Archives: Polanie Club

Polanie Club archives tell stories of Polish women in Minnesota

A few years ago I was introduced to, intrigued by – and soon wrote about – the Polanie Club, a Northeast Minneapolis organization founded in 1927 by twelve women of Polish descent. (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/polanie-club/) I enjoyed learning about the ongoing work of the organization and have followed the organization ever since.

The stated mission of the Polanie Club was to preserve and broaden knowledge of Polish culture while encouraging local Polish residents to pursue higher education. The work of the women of the Polonai Club has been bold and enduring. Members of the Polanie Club have sponsored scholarships, published books of fiction and nonfiction and a cookbook of Polish recipes which turned out to be a successful fundraiser for the organization.

Thus I was concerned to learn recently that the Polanie Club will soon dissolve. The membership – and thus the energy of the organization – is waning.

The really good news is that the archives of the Polanie Club, an incredible treasure trove of local, ethnic and women’s history, will remain an accessible and curated resource for scholars and anyone who has an interest in the history and stories of Polish immigrants. The Polanie Club archives will become part of the Immigration History Research Center collection at the University of Minnesota Libraries.

As a complement to the IHRC archives, the Minneapolis History Collection will continue to curate the files of the Polanie Club. That collection includes information about programs from the 1930’s through the 1960’s as well as various clippings about activities, publications and news of the Club. These files supplement, or may on occasion duplicate, the U of M archival collection.

The official archives at the Immigration History Center, supplemented by the materials at the Minneapolis History Collection, will provide a robust history of this unique organization. Appreciation is due to the members and leaders of the Polanie Club who have preserved the record and who will now share their history for posterity.

Women of the Polanie Club Share the Polish Heritage for Eighty Decades and More

Of the scores of clubs and organizations that have donated their priceless archives to the James K. Hosmer Special Collections at the Minneapolis Central Library none collected and preserved the record more thoroughly than the Polanie Club.  Known well by Polish Americans everywhere and by residents of Northeast Minneapolis in particular, the Polanie Club is mighty force committed to preserving – and sharing – all that is good about Polish culture.

The Polanie Club  became a reality in October 1927 when a dozen young women of Polish descent gathered for a social club and welcome home to a friend who had just returned from Poland, “full of enthusiasm” to share what she had learned.  The young women agreed to a common purpose,  shaped a collective vision and a shared mission: to preserve their Polish heritage – the history, language, art, music and cuisine of their native land.  The fledgling group called themselves the Polanie Club, “polanie” meaning “people of the prairie.”  From the outside the Club served as a resource, providing Polish national clothing, exhibits, recipes, and a library open to the community.  In the   1930’s the Club sponsored Polish language classes at the U of M and at two public high schools.

Nearly a half century after the formation of the Polanie Club the publication  Northeast: A history described the women and the early days of the club they shaped:

Each was beginning her career as wife, mother, teacher, social worker, lawyer, musician or University student.  Even the Depression years, which followed, were gay times at the Club…The group celebrated each other’s birthdays, engagements, graduation, scholarship awards, and new babies, but never lost sight of its main purpose, to enhance understanding of Polish culture.  This was largely due to the influence of Monica Krawczyk.  (from notes found in the Polanie Club file housed at the James K. Hosmer Special Collections, Minneapolis Central Library)

The unidentified author of this article reminds the reader that the Polanie Club grew at a time when many Polish Americans were changing their names by dropping the RZ-SC-CA combination that native Americans found difficult.

Over the years the Polanie Club continued to meet in members’ homes where they enjoyed comraderie and a monthly gourmet dinner.  Though they ardently supported the defense effort, they held firm to their commitment to preserving the Polish culture.  Wartime programs included “The Music of Poland”(1939), Musical Education in Poland”, and “Poland, a Songland of the World from Music and Youth,”  Later programs featured “Polish Folklore” and” “Polish Women Authors” among a long list of serious discussions of Polish culture, talks often presented by noted scholars and artists.

At these monthly meetings, the women reviewed their many projects and pondered how best to promulgate Polish culture in this country.  Focus on writing and publishing, they agreed, was the best way to spread the word.

Their first publishing venture was launched in 1942 with a collection of the lyrics of 110 Polish songs, Piesni Ludowe. On their 15th anniversary they published Victoria Janda’s collection of poems entitled “Star Hunger”.  That was followed two years later by the poet’s “Walls of Space.”  In 1948 the Polanie Club published its premiere best seller, a cookbook entitled Treasured Polish Recipes for Americans, illustrated by Stanley Legun, a Northeast Minneapolis artist.

The presses were kept busy with Polish publications – poetry, short stories and, in 1957, a compilation of over 300 songs – music and words.  This major work, entitled Treasured Polish Songs with English Translations was illustrated by Maria Werten and translated by Polanie members.

A major event for the Polanie Club came in 1966 when the organization sponsored the Annual Convention of the American Council of Polish Cultural Clubs (now known as the American Council for Polish Culture.)   The conference, held at the University of Minnesota, celebrated the Polish Millennium with a program of distinguished lecturers on the theme, “Poland through a Thousand Years”  The Polanie Club also supported the Polish American Cultural Institute of Minnesota in hosting the 1996 ACPC convention, held in Minneapolis.

The following year, in 1967, the Club celebrated their fortieth anniversary. In that year four members of the great (Josepha Contoski, Cecily Helgesen, Rose Polski Anderson and Marie Sokolowski), received research grants for study in Poland.  Their experiences and the realia with which they returned to the Twin Cities launched Polonie on a more formal exhibition program.  The Club had long supplied Polish costumes and memorabilia for local projects.  Now the Exhibit Committee, armed with the materials brought back by the grant recipients, extended the program of displays – for which they soon began to receive acclamation and awards.

In 1977 members of the Polanie Club celebrated their 50th anniversary in style with a Red and White Ball at the Holiday Inn on the Nicollet Mall.   They also expanded their publications list.  Treasured Polish Folk Rhymes, Songs and Games was translated into English then published in both languages.

Over the years the list grew.  In 1983 Polanie published Bocheck in Poland: A children’s story about the white stork, the fairytale bird of the old world, by Joseph Contoski.  In the late 1980’s the Club diversified their publications later with a 1989 cassette of Polish Christmas Carols and later a CD of Christmas carols created my piano virtuoso Bonnie Frels.

Let it not be written that Polanie Club members look only to the past – one of the most active programs of today’s Polanie is the scholarship program for post-secondary education.  Minnesotans of Polish-American descent are eligible for stipends to attend the post-secondary institution of their choice.  Since the inception of the program in 2000 tens of thousands of scholarships have been awarded.

When the American Council for Polish Culture met again in Minneapolis in 2003 Polanie  seized the opportunity of the organization’s lifetime when they were called upon to conduct national wide auditions for the Marcella Kochanska Sembrich Vocal Competitions.  The winner performed in concerts at both Hamline and Universities, events that offered hundreds of Twin Citians an opportunity experience the beauty of Polish culture.

A delightful tradition of Polanie is the annual Wigilia celebration, a Polish Christmas tradition kept alive in this community.  Wigilia, meaning “watchful vigil,” is hosted by Polanie during Advent, offering Minnesotans a chance to prepare for the Nativity in a celebratory but reflective gathering feature Polish food, live performances and an altogether “magical evening.”

At this writing, members of the Polanie Club are working feverishly on preparations for the Twin Cities Polish Festival 2011, August 13-14 on the banks of the Mississippi near St. Anthony Main.  The event itself is a celebration of Polish culture featuring a Chopin Celebration, a Polish film festival, an exhibit of the works of Joseph Conrad, Polish jazz and folk music and dance – along with fabulous food and great exhibits where visitors can learn about the Twin Cities Polish community, including the Polanie Club.  Don’t miss it!

Notes:

v    In truth, having lived in Northeast Minneapolis fewer than thirty years, I am a newbie.  Learning about the women of the Polanie Club expands my understanding and appreciation of my neighborhood.  My profound thanks to those who have maintained the record, everyone who kept the minutes, clipped the newspapers, and preserved the reports.

v    It is worthy of note that the files are replete with the individual names of Polanie members and their roles in the Club.  Though I would love to have been able to attribute some of this credit, there were just too many women to name!

v    Most of the publications of Polanie are still available.  Check the Polanie publications on line.  If you don’t find the title you want there, check Amazon.  My google search was successful in finding virtually all of the titles new or used and at reasonable cost.

v    This piece was written for my blog, whimsically, if accurately, known as Poking Around with Mary.  That is what I do, poke around  – around my neighborhood, the city, libraries, parks, coffee shops, and any other sites or gatherings that catch my eye.  I also search online a range of interests, including a current passion to learn about and draw attention to threats to open government.  When I’m not poking around, I write about what I have learned.  If you’re interested you might take time to poke around the blog where you’ll find past posts on related issues including a piece on last year’s Polish Festival and several pieces of what’s happening in Northeast Minneapolis  You will find an easy subscription link online.

Minneapolis – City of Lakes, Learners, Clubs and Their Records

Busy bibliophiles and lifelong learners trying to squeeze in a quick read or a weekly study club take note – you are joining generations of intellectually curious and engaged Minneapolitans who shared the pleasure of a good read or a deep thought with friends and neighbors.

Discovering the Collection:  Consider the scores of boxes that cram the shelves of the Clubs & Organizations Collection in the James K. Hosmer Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library.  The collection reveals much of the city’s history through the largely unpublished legacy of neighborhood and professional groups that thrived in an earlier day.  Within the hundreds of archival boxes are the scrapbooks, directories, minutes, ledgers, programs, letters and ephemera that tell the story of the city’s social, learning and professional organizations dating from the mid-nineteenth century.

Best of all, library staff and supporters have created a beautifully annotated index of the contents of those boxes.  The indispensable guide provides a thumbnail sketch of each organization and an inventory of the treasures buried in the archives.

Perusing the Online Inventory:  The good news is that the well annotated index is available online where you can learn a good deal about the club before you attack the original files.  The index provides an overview of nearly 200 organizations, their mission, officers, membership, years of operation, what they read and discussed, where they met, and anything else you could have ever wanted to know about the famed study and social groups of an earlier time – the roots of which live on in this city of reading groups, neighborhood councils, ethnic gatherings and just plain clubs of every conceivable stripe.

These snippets from the files what your curiosity to dig deeper:

  • The Prospect Park Study Club, founded in the tradition of other Federation of Womens Clubs, discussed current interest and academic topics, with programs presented by club members.  The five (huge) boxes cover the Study Club’s doings from 1896 to 2001.
  • Or consider the Ramblers, folks who liked to travel and to discuss the “topography, art, literature, and music of different cultures.  Those files cover 1896 to 1949.
  • No surprise, the Saturday Lunch Club, 1927-1952, was an all-male upscale club founded by Stiles P. Jones (1862-1920), a prominent Twin Cities newsman.  The five boxes of club records list the membership which includes many familiar names while the list of speakers includes some of the nation’s most prominent leaders – W.E.B.DuBois, Clarence Darrow, William Jennings Bryan, Louis D.  Is it any wonder the city created a reputation for engagement and big picture thinking?

Active Minneapolitans didn’t think deep thoughts all the time, though – The collection includes the files of the Kennel Club, the Apollo Club (1895), the first male chorus, the Hostesses, founded in 1898 to make arrangements for a Ball, with the idea of making them a permanent social event each winter, and then there is the Lake Harriet Yacht Club, founded “to promote the physical and mental culture and the social interests of members.”

On a personal note, one issue that strikes me at first blush is that the majority of the files reflect the stories of women’s clubs – the question in my mind is whether there were more women who wanted to read good literature, discuss history, world affairs or social concerns — or did these women just keep their files in better order?

You can bury yourself for untold hours in the online inventory online – I know from experience.  If you don’t have a home computer, your neighborhood library offers a good option.  You’ll laugh, you’ll learn, and you’ll develop a keen appreciation of intellectual and social vitality that shaped today’s cultural, social, political, and recreational profile.

Exploring the Collection:  When you’ve focused on clubs that call out for further study, you’ll pine to dig into those file boxes and folders.  The James K. Hosmer Special Collection is housed in elegant and temperature controlled splendor at the Minneapolis Central Library, 4th floor, behind the ornate carved arched entryway. (the archway was transported originally from the late lamented Library at 10th Hennepin from whence it has migrated over time to its present site in this ultra-21st Century setting.)

And then the fun begins!

  • First and always, call ahead  (612 657-8200)  to give staff time to pull the files you seek – it seems like magic but in fact it’s the result of a skilled and extraordinarily committed staff that runs miles to gather the files from their secure location.
  • Assuming you called ahead, you’ll find materials waiting for you – in this case, archival boxes filled with files maintained by the club in their day or a sheaf of envelopes filled with carefully dated clippings and photos – always a delightful surprise.
  • Then marinate your mind in the stories that leap from the often hand-written notes, membership lists, minutes, and other treasures that divulge the stories of the club about which you want to learn more.
  • If you need a coffee break (1st floor) or have to leave the Library, tell staff and your materials will be waiting for you next trip (assuming it’s soon.)
  • If you need photocopies, you’ll find a low cost and efficient copier that takes coins and even gives change.  If you want to scan something, talk with staff.  Tip:  you will need to copy anything you want to take with you – nothing in the Special Collections Library circulates.
  • Suggestion:  Leave yourself time to browse the stacks.  Though what’s on the open stacks is a smidgeon of the archives’ holdings there are unexpected finds.  If you’re interested in Minneapolis clubs you’ll want to peruse the shelves of the Minneapolis Collection.

My personal hopes:

1) That this small snippet whets your mental appetite to learn more about the history of this city – the neighborhood leaders,  special interest proponents, ethnic groups,  readers and writers, politicians and good government advocates, education supporters and others who took time and made the effort to think big thoughts about their era and about the future.

2) That I can and do make time to plumb the depths of many of these energetic organizations.  My plan is to start with learning all I can about the Polanie Club, a social club founded in 1927 and still going strong today.  The Club was established by twelve young women who wanted to learn more about, share and preserve their Polish culture.  Polanie, meaning ‘people of the plains, aptly describes their interest in the Polish language, literature, music, food, history, art, folklore and more.  The Polanie Club has played a significant role in preserving the Polish legacy which is so much a part of my adopted Northeast neighborhood.  I can’t wait to learn more and to visit the incredible Twin Cities Polish Festival again this year – it’s August 13-14 on the Mississippi Riverfront!

3) That readers will focus on a club that peaks their fancy, check the online inventory, explore the files, interpret and employ 21st Century tools to share the stories with 21st Century Minneapolitans.