Violet Crown Garden Club Records
An Inventory of the Collection
Clara Driscoll Sevier, the founder of Violet Crown Garden Club, was a philanthropist and business woman in Texas in the early twentieth century. She married Henry Hulme Sevier, founder of the Austin American-Statesman, in 1906 and later divorced him in 1937. Driscoll has been called the “Savior of the Alamo,” organizing and sponsoring many of the efforts which saved the historic mission. Driscoll was involved with politics, supporting politicians such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, and being elected as the committee woman to the National Democratic Party from 1922 through 1938. Driscoll wrote two books, The Girl of La Gloria and In the Shadow of the Alamo. She also directed the construction of her Austin residence, Laguna Gloria (which has since become the AMOA [Austin Museum of Art]).
In 1924, inspired by the Garden Clubs of America, Driscoll decided to create a garden club for the women of Austin. At their first meeting Driscoll was appointed President, a title she held for four years. It was also at this meeting that the Violet Crown Garden Club got its name. The name is taken from the writer O’Henry, who often referred to Austin as the “city with violet crown hills.” In April of 1952 the Violet Crown Garden Club changed its name upon incorporation to became the Violet Crown Garden Club, Inc. The goals of VCGC in those early years were civic beautification, conservation, and education; these goals remain key components of the club today.
The organization of club leadership consisted of six elected positions: President, First Vice President, Second Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and Historian. In most cases the women elected to these positions served for two years. Further, in 1943, committees were formed so that all VCGC members could participate in organizing and leading club activities. At its peak the VCGC had over eight hundred members. After Driscoll moved from Austin in 1928 the following women served as President of the VCGC:
Members of the VCGC participated in their first flower show in 1928 and flower shows have continued to be a primary activity of the club since then. Study Groups were created early in the club’s history as a way for members to learn more about a specific area in gardening. Examples of Study Groups are Arrangement, Therapy, and Chemurgy (a branch of applied chemistry that is concerned with preparing industrial products from agricultural raw materials). Flower Show Schools were another activity of the VCGC, and were carried out as part of general club meetings. These classes were taught by accredited professors on a range of subjects from “Abstract Flower Arranging” to “Flowers from Around the World.” The Flower Show Schools proved popular and are still taught today. The VCGC not only sought to educate its own members on gardening, but also the youth of Austin. This led the club to sponsor Junior Garden Clubs at local schools; donate books on the environment and gardening to local libraries; and provide scholarships to high school seniors who planned to pursue an education in a field related to gardening.
Throughout its history the VCGC has sought to create memorials for the United States armed forces. After World War II they planted numerous memorials around Austin and they worked with the National Garden Clubs to extend the Blue Star Memorial Highway into Texas.
A notable contribution the VCGC has made to Austin is the Garden Center located in Zilker Park. The VCGC dreamed of having a city garden center, which would serve as a meeting place for all of Austin’s garden clubs. Violet Crown, and other Austin garden clubs, started fundraising and planning for the center in the 1940s. The VCGC raised over twenty-thousand dollars (more than any other garden club) in this effort. Their work lead to the creation of the Garden Center in 1964, and the Garden Center remains the meeting place of the VCGC today. The Garden Center has also been the location of numerous flower shows over the decades, including the annual Home and Garden Show, which is hosted by the VCGC and other Austin area garden clubs.
The VCGC interacted with other garden clubs on a regular basis, particularly the Texas Federated Garden Clubs. In 1928 the VCGC was one of the nine Texas garden clubs which collaborated to form the Texas Federated Garden Clubs. The VCGC was a member of District V, the designation under which all greater Austin area garden clubs fall in the Texas Garden Club.
The VCGC has had numerous well-known members such as Mrs. Frank Dobie, a member of the club during its early years, who focused much of her efforts on the conservation of Texas wildflowers. In 1939 the club started the tradition, which is still in practice today, of extending honorary membership to the First Lady of Texas. Lady Bird Johnson was one First Lady of Texas particularly involved with beautifying the city of Austin. Furthermore, she would attend and speak at VCGC events.
The records in this collection date from the years 1928-2008, which span nearly the entire history of the VCGC. The bulk of the documents consist of financial records, competition related scrapbooks, award and submission folders, as well as non-competition, general club scrapbooks. These items document both the day to day activities of the VCGC as well as their long term goals of civic beautification, conservation, and education. The documents also highlight the different ‘study groups’ present within the VCGC as well as the other garden clubs with which the VCGC worked. Materials relating to the Texas Garden Club, Inc., also highlight the role of the VCGC as an active group in Texas gardening society.
The Administrative Material series (1931-1996, undated) consists mainly of meeting minutes and notes, financial records, correspondence, club histories, membership lists, committee reports, bylaws, and materials from President Watts. Most of the monthly meeting minutes are bound together and arranged chronologically offering a detailed perspective of the VCGC’s operations throughout the years.
The Financial Material (1952-1995) consists of ledgers, cash receipts and financial statements, as well as bound Treasurer’s Reports.
The Books of Evidence series (1970-1989) contains thirty-one items. Each item, originally materials bound together in a folder, was prepared by the VCGC for submission to the Texas Garden Club for the purpose of being rated as a club or receiving awards according to specific criteria set out by the latter organization. Each folder contained a typed report on the garden club-related activity it covered, and many also featured photographs, clippings, programs, yearbooks, and correspondence to further document their subject. Loose sheets detailing the ultimate grade and the rubric by which it was decided are usually included.
The Club Activities (1948-2008) series includes various materials from some of the major activities and programs undertaken by the VCGC. The Chemurgy, Flower Arrangement, Landscape, and Therapy study groups are represented, as is the VCGC sponsored Junior Garden Club as well as several Flower Show Schools held in Austin. Included is a guest book from a placement flower show, Reflections of our Heritage, held at the Governor's Mansion in 1974.
The Printed Material and Ephemera (1931-2007) series consists of unassembled scrapbooks, programs, yearbooks, and clippings. Both the club yearbooks and programs are a good source of information for names of the executive officers and of the activities and programs that the VCGC undertook each year. Editions of the yearbooks can be also be found in the Scrapbook series.
The Texas Garden Club (1935-2005) series consists of general documents from the Texas Garden Clubs of an administrative and financial nature that mention the VCGC. Handbooks of the Texas Garden Club from 1935-1965 and a booklet on the history of the Texas Garden Club from 1928-1948 are present. Correspondence is largely between Mrs. Pemberthy, the award coordinator for the Texas Garden Club, and relevant member clubs about award folder submissions. Remaining material concerns District V specifically, and includes administrative and financial documents related to the VCGC as well as newspaper clippings from the 1960s that relate to District V as a whole.
The Photographic Material series (1974-1995, undated) is composed mainly of undated and loose photographs documenting flower arrangements and flower shows. There are also a few photograph albums that document Flower Shows and other VCGC activities.
The Scrapbooks series contains twenty-four scrapbooks that cover the years 1928-1987. Nineteen of these are general scrapbooks of the VCGC, two are dedicated to particular study groups, namely the Therapy and Beautification and Landscaping Groups, and three are associated solely with specific flower shows. Every scrapbook contains photographs, clippings from local and state newspapers, and a variety of other printed material, including yearbooks, programs, and gardening related periodicals. Almost all aspects of the club are represented, from financial information, to community service, correspondence with other garden clubs, and any other club-related activities.
Restrictions on Access
Open to all users.
Restrictions on Use
Donated by the Violet Crown Garden Club.
Violet Crown Garden Club Records (AR 1992.001). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1992/011
Donation Date: 1992 (Collins, C.), 1997 (Millis, B.), 2007 (Watts, P.), 2012 (Allison-Hult S.)
Finding Aid created and encoded by: Rae Berg, Keelee James, Brittany Jurica / November 2012
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.