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Listen: Garden clubs helped Superior blossom

Archive Dive is a monthly podcast hosted by reporter Maria Lockwood. Episodes dip into the archives of historic events, people and places in Superior and Douglas County with local historians.

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Archive Dive is a monthly history podcast hosted by Superior Telegram reporter Maria Lockwood.
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Garden clubs bloomed in Superior for many decades, not only beautifying the city, but also affecting change. Even today, their plantings and their footprints can be found in Superior. The clubs usually consisted of a group of ladies who would get together and work on gardens in their area. It was a social outlet where they bonded over gardening and would take care of community gardens in public places.

“It always seemed like they were doing something for someone else, for the betterment of the community,” said local historian and retired librarian Teddie Meronek.

Meronek has studied their impact on the community when the clubs ran actively from the 1920s through the 1990s. In this month’s episode of Archive Dive, Meronek shares the origins of the first garden club in Superior. The Superior Garden Club, later known as the Central Garden Club, was organized in 1926 by sisters Mabel Stratton and Faith Kennedy. Their passion for gardening came from their father, Robert Kelly, the manager of The Land and River Improvement Company.

It turns out, Mabel and Faith weren’t the only ones passionate about gardening. They were going to cap their enrollment at 30, but everyone in town wanted to belong to the club. By 1939, Superior had the largest garden club in the state, with almost 300 people. Eventually the club would be broken down into auxiliaries, sometimes along neighborhood lines. Other garden clubs formed and would spread throughout Douglas County.

“They just loved these flowers, loved gardening and just wanted everyone to enjoy it as much as they did,” said Meronek.

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Club members learned landscaping, held flower shows and events, sponsored school clubs, and were ahead of their time in promoting planting gardens that would attract bees, birds and wildlife. The clubs also kept their notebooks, addresses, newspaper clippings and pictures in scrapbooks as colorful as the gardens they tended.

New episodes of Archive Dive are published monthly. Listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like to see covered, email Maria Lockwood at mlockwood@superiortelegram.com .

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
What to read next
Read the latest news in the Dispatches from Douglas County newsletter published every Friday.
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As reported by Douglas County Circuit Court.
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