Wednesday, Jul. 17, 2019

The Romany Club: Adventures of a Women’s Hiking Club

By Laurie Thompson · July 12, 2019

Romany Club members at Rock Springs, Mt. Tamalpais. Eva Nelson is the 2nd from the left. <span>&copy; Anne T. Kent Room </span>

Romany Club members at Rock Springs, Mt. Tamalpais. Eva Nelson is the 2nd from the left.


The Sierra Club and the Romany Club at the Summit House on the Bolinas Ridge, 1915. <span>&copy; Anne T. Kent Room </span> Romany Club hikers & friends at Alpine Dam, 1919. <span>&copy; Anne T. Kent Room </span> Romany Club in Lagunitas Canyon, 1913. <span>&copy; Anne T. Kent Room </span>

Founded in 1913, the Romany Club was a hiking club affiliated with the Oakland YWCA. The club’s official colors were (naturally!) brown & green, and in addition to their regular officers, they boasted a “yell leader” and club poet.

My introduction to the Romany Club came through a group of photograph albums which were donated to the California Room. The albums arrived jumbled and in pieces, and it took several months to organize and preserve them.  Based on their contents, I determined that the albums had belonged to early Romany Club member, Eva Nelson, a resident of Oakland and an avid hiker. Eva’s albums document her hiking trips with the Romany Club as well as other aspects of her life, including outings with friends & family.

Like many members of the YWCA in the early 20th-century, Eva was a young working girl and one of the photographs in the album shows her working as a book-keeper in the offices of A. Sutherland, an Oakland Grocer.

Romany Club members could participate in outings every Friday evening to such places as the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens where they would enjoy a picnic supper.  One Sunday a month, a lengthy excursion was organized to a scenic spot in the Bay Area. Mt. Tamalpais was a frequent destination of the Club.

One of the Romany Club’s first excursions was a 1913 trip to Muir Woods. That same year they hiked to the Mountain Theater to attend the first Mountain Play -Abraham & Isaac. In 1914, they returned to watch the second Mountain Play, Shakuntala.

A 1915 photograph shows Romany Club and Sierra Club members gathered at the Summit House on Bolinas Ridge. The Summit House, a frequent stopping point for excursionists & hikers, once stood on top of Bolinas Ridge where the stage road reached its highest point. Sadly, this popular spot burned down in 1945.

In November of 1919, Eva and her fellow excursionists hiked to the then recently completed Alpine Dam. A segment of Lagunitas Creek was damned to form Alpine Lake and this year marks the 100th anniversary of that key reservoir in the Marin Municipal Water District.

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