Lucy Sawyer, the first president of the Social Science Club, wrote that the purpose of the Club was to "broaden the life of women by turning their thoughts persistently upon interests which touch men and women as gathered in society" so that "a better and safer society could be built up."
Founded in 1886 in Newton Corner, MA by six stalwart women, the Club grew rapidly as members studied and presented papers on the social problems of their time and soon moved on to civic activism in the area of education. Club members established the first vocational school in Newton in 1887 and ran it successfully for 20 years. They were also involved in the Newton public schools in several different areas. Early in the 20th century the Club supported free milk for school children and funded a scholarship for a high school girl. Those activities persist to this day in the form of summer camperships for school children and a college scholarship for a Newton senior girl.
Club membership remained well over 100 through the 1950s, but the women's movement of the 1960s and '70s took its toll as members left to pursue compensated work. Today, membership has stabilized at around 40 and the typical member is a recent retiree who appreciates the opportunity to study and learn about today's social issues in the company of like-minded women. Underlying all the Club's activities and forming its very backbone from the start is the quality of friendship that the members have found in one another. As Aristotle noted, the richest friendships arise from work done in unison for a goal outside oneself.
A sepia portrait of early member Augusta Stanley.