From the New York Times:
... the Ebell Club, a women’s social club that still operates in one of its original buildings, erected in 1927 in the Hancock Park neighborhood. Established in 1897 as a substitute for the university education that women were largely denied, the club had 2,500 members in its heyday in the 1920s, and activities included Shakespeare, gardening and art appreciation.
The club, one of the first of its kind in the country, is now struggling with a 21st-century problem: how to convince modern women that such a club has contemporary value to them.
Women’s clubs were established in American life shortly after the Civil War. “It was a time women all over the country decided a woman’s place is not in the home, that they needed to get out,” said Karen J. Blair, a history professor and expert on women’s clubs at Central Washington University. “So they got together to study literature, history, philosophy and poetry.”
In 1868 in New York, a journalist named Jane Cunningham Croly founded her own club, Sorosis, after she was denied entry at an all-male press club where Charles Dickens was speaking. Ms. Croly was instrumental in the creation of clubs throughout the country, whose missions soon began to include various political and social welfare agendas, from women’s suffrage to child labor to public health.
The Ebell was named after Adrian Ebell, a German professor who traveled around California forming study groups for women. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Ebell was one of the largest and most elite clubs in the nation, rivaled only by the Friday Morning Club in downtown Los Angeles.