Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Elk Grove Book clubs turns 70

By Blake Ellington
Citizen Staff Writer

Written into the original constitution and bylaws of their club, there is a restriction on bringing children and doing any type of handwork such as knitting at the monthly meetings; and this from a group of 1937 women in the small town of Elk Grove.
This group of nine educated women, who were for the most part married to local farmers at this time, started the Elk Grove Book Club which is celebrating its’ 70th anniversary this year.
The last remaining founder, Stanford University-educated Edna Sperry, passed away this February at the age of 101. Second in line, behind Sperry, in terms of tenure is chairman Olga Batey, who joined the book club in 1949.
“It is a very tolerant, well-educated group of women,” Batey said. “There is no gossip or small talk.”
The 20-member club, no more no less, meets once a month for 10 months out of the year. The meetings typically include a dessert luncheon and a business meeting where one member presents a 45-minute synopsis of a book they have read and enjoyed.
“There is usually someone waiting to grab the book after they hear about it,” said Mary Williams, a Book Club member.
Williams and Batey help sort books at the Elk Grove Library every Tuesday afternoon.
Each book club meeting is held at a different members’ house and every June, a local author is brought in to discuss one of their books or writing styles.
“It is such a pleasant afternoon, you like the people and what you talk about, you don’t want to miss one,” Batey said.
Books that are reviewed range in style and topics from biographies and social satire to politics. Batey’s favorite books are usually political; and when asked what some of her favorites are, she referred to biographies on past leaders such as Harry Truman and Eleanor Roosevelt.
“You find out Eleanor never wanted to be a president’s wife,” Batey said.
Other books that have been reviewed include: “Lazy B” by Sandra Day O’Conner; “Blind Man’s Bluff” by Sherry Santag and Christopher Drew; “An Isolated Incident” by Susan R. Sloan and “The Right Words at the Right Time” by Marlo Thomas.
The group is planning a 70th anniversary party for Thursday, June 21 at the Valley High Country Club. Though the general public is not allowed to attend, members will be inviting several family members and friends.
Since joining in 1949, Batey said very little has changed at the Book Club. The only major change since the early days of Edna and the founders is that they reduced the number of book reviews from two to one due to time constraints.
“Through the years we changed that because it became too long,” Batey said.
The anniversary party on June 21 will be a time to reminisce on the history and culture that the Book Club has provided to the women of Elk Grove.

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