top of page

Hidden Hero - Eunice Wolley Yawger

On March 18, 1911 the following obituary appeared in the Union Springs Advertiser:

Entered Into Rest

Softly, as night fades into day, passed Mrs. Eunice Wolley into the light of the eternal day. Thus ended here a beautiful life, leaving behind it a radiant after-glow.

Nearly eighty-two years ago in Marlboro, NY, was born Eunice Walley (sic). She was the daughter of Abraham and Hannah Wolley and the youngest of six children. Her early life was spent on the farm. In this country home she learned to love nature passionately, to see beauty in everything and the stillness of the country appealed to her - it gave opportunity for thought and imagination.

It was while visiting a cousin, Mrs. Daniel Yawger, that she met Philip H. Yawger to whom she was married in 1857. After her marriage, her life was spent in this community and was a bright, loving, unselfish one having the welfare of home, family and friends every uppermost. To her were given four sons to whom she gave devoted mother love and to the three motherless ones, left Mr. Yawger by a former marriage, she gave the love they craved taking them with their father into her heart.

Mrs. Yawger's home life spoke of her character. Refinement, purity in language and action, hospitality so delightful, and the welcome in look and word, which means so much. She was extremely fond of company and the hour spent with her was not time idly spent, one always carried away some thought inspiring, or some incentive to better things.

In every place where she had an interest, she was most efficient.

From knowledge of the past, we realize that a rich local history of challenges to the intellect was provided by the former presence of several esteemed academic institutions. Both Oakwood Seminary and the former Howland College, together with nearby Wells College, challenged women to new levels of education and knowledge. This history, coupled with the emergence of the Gilded Age, a period of beautiful clothes and near luxury living, likely prompted Eunice Wolley Yawger to encourage her friends and family to explore the newly available wealth of knowledge and information.

On October 21, 1896, Mrs. Yawger invited a few female friends to her home at 109 Cayuga St. in Union Springs and the Leisure Hour Literary Club was formed. Its objective, as set down so many years ago, "shall be for the mutual improvement and broader social and intellectual life." Meetings were held regularly to allow members some pleasure with each other through a guest lecture, musical or other entertainment, followed by a social hour. On one of these occasions, 60 members and guests met at Mrs. Yawger's home on South Cayuga St. Leisure Hour meetings were so meaningful in the community that front page coverage of a full column in length was often reported in detail by the Union Springs Advertiser, the local paper.

Eunice Wolley Yawger is credited not only for organizing the club, but also serving as its president for many years. Today, 125 years since its founding at 109 Cayuga St., Leisure Hour Literary Club members continue to regularly meet and study the arts, history, literature and other topics, a record which has endured continuously since the club's inception. In its early years, Leisure Hour met on Tuesdays rather than their current practice of Monday. One can speculate that this choice of a meeting day was made as Monday was wash day. All linens and clothing would therefore be fresh and ready for entertaining on Tuesday.

Below is the first written program.

Gone are the servants who provided members with more time for reading and entertaining. And long gone is Eunice Wolley Yawger, as is the home in which Leisure Hour Literary Club was formed. Leisure Hour, however, continues to this day and will be celebrating its 125th anniversary this October. Little did Eunice Yawger and the group of women who met in her home in 1896 envision such a strong and enduring legacy which provided a way for women to pursue knowledge and an understanding of themselves and the world around them.


bottom of page