Clubhouses and Hospitality

Clubroom of Crosby Hall, ca. 1927, BFUW Archives, Women's Library, London.

The IFUW successfully created permanent initiatives for its members to network across national and professional boundaries. The most important of these were clubhouses. During the 1920s private donations enabled the IFUW to found three clubhouses. In London, Paris, and Washington, the clubhouses functioned as sites of lively international and intellectual exchange. The first was inaugurated in the American capital in 1919, directly across from the White House. A second, palatial Reid Hall, was opened in Paris in 1922 on the occasion of the IFUW’s second gathering. Five years later, a venerable estate in the Chelsea district of London was added to the list. Each clubhouse offered, in addition to room and board for some 50 guests, a festive dining room, library, and clubrooms.

Receptions, workshops, and working groups initiated by the guests themselves lent all of the clubhouses, but especially London’s Crosby Hall , an abiding intellectual vitality. In 1920s London, the Spirit of Geneva founds its equivalent in the Spirit of Crosby Hall. There as in Washington and Paris, visiting academics gave new meaning to what many contemporaries regarded as the special virtues of academic freedom and world citizenship.