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A History of Family & Children Services

June, 2019

Chapter 02: 1912-1916

Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League

Men were invited to attend the annual meeting only, until May 1912, when the doors were thrown open and all were admitted to the regular meetings which had long before come to be held the first Tuesday of each month. At this same time the League took out articles of incorporation and men became a vital part of it. - Mrs. Lydia G. Wood, “History of the Civic League” (1914)

With the admission of men as full members, the Women’s Civic Improvement League (WCIL) changed its name to the Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League (KCIL), and work carried on largely as it had before.

These early and middle years of the 1910s were a critical time for the Civic League. Relationships were cultivated with individual community leaders and leading Kalamazoo families, as well as with established and emerging institutions. A strong network of supporters emerged - many of their family names familiar to present-day Kalamazooans as place names, such as Stetson Chapel, Kleinstuck Preserve, and the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.



Women To Open Hospital Tent at Inter State Fair


KCIL’s Formative Years

While still in its first decade of existence, the League championed a number of causes including reform of the prisons and criminal justice system (which included advocating for the hiring of a woman police officer and a woman probation officer), and improving public sanitation. The two most constant campaigns at this time, however, were those of the League’s bank lady and nurse.

Since 1906 the League had successfully operated a Thrift Department, sending “the bank lady,” Mrs. Shaw, to visit under-resourced Kalamazoo families and encourage them to make a habit of saving whatever money they could; she did this by accepting bank deposits on the spot - usually for very small amounts - which she would then deliver to the bank. Mrs. Shaw’s visits meant that the inconvenience of visiting the bank could no longer be used as a reason not to save.

Just as Mrs. Shaw made house calls, so too did League nurses. In 1910, in cooperation with the school board, the League began sending a nurse, Miss Mary McClure (who was hired in 1905), to provide her services to Kalamazoo schools for two hours a day. Miss McClure proved so in demand that in 1912 a second nurse was hired.1

At the 1913 annual meeting, held May 6th at the Commercial Club Rooms in downtown Kalamazoo, officers were elected for the 1913 to 1914 term. The Commercial Club was a like-minded men’s organization founded in 1903, and with which the Civic League attempted unsuccessfully to jointly establish a community-wide organized charities function in 1909.2 Despite this failure, only good feelings existed between the two organizations, and the Commercial Club made space available to the Civic League at no charge. (In 1915, the Commercial Club was renamed the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce.3)

One year after men were admitted full membership in the League, the leadership roll read as follows:

President: Mrs. L. H. Wood

1st Vice President: Mrs. A.J. Mills

2nd Vice President: Mrs. H.L. Stetson

Recording Secretary: Mrs. S. O. Hartwell

Assistant Recording Secretary: Mrs. H.E. Praeger

Corresponding Secretary: Mrs. Ella Lewis

Treasurer: Miss Anna Cobb

Assistant Treasurer: Mrs. Edward Arnes


Trustees for three years:

Dr. Otha Balch

Mrs. C.W. Chamberlain

A number of male names can be found among the delegates at large, however all of the officers and both trustees were women.

President Lydia G. Wood served as a League board member from 1904 through 1930. In 1914 she authored an invaluable history of the League’s first ten years (quoted at the beginning of this installment). In it Mrs. Wood casually expresses her doubts over the decision made two years earlier to admit men as full members.

Mrs. Wood’s second-in-command, First Vice President Florence G. Mills, was married to Kalamazoo attorney and judge, the Honorable A.J. Mills. Years earlier, in 1903, Mrs. Mills had been among the women who represented the Ladies Library Association on the original organizing committee of the Women’s Civic Improvement League.4 She was also involved in organizing women at the state level; from 1904 through as late as 1909, Mrs. Mills served as treasurer of the Michigan State Federation of Women’s Clubs.

Second Vice President Mary C. Stetson was married to Dr. Herbert Lee Stetson, the widely-revered seventh president of Kalamazoo College and namesake of the campus chapel.

When Mrs. Wood authored the League history in 1914, the original standing committees - Outdoor Art, Public Health, Charities (renamed from General Welfare), and Membership - remained, and they were joined by two subcommittees - “Nurses” and “Thrift” - that were formed as part of the Charities Committee.

At the May 1914 meeting of the Civic League, Nurse McClure offered a succinct report of the services provided by her department the previous month: “43 cases and 369 nursing visits made; 854 pupils inspected at school and 28 homes of pupils visited.”5 That same month, the Thrift (or Savings Department) reported “$660.77 taken in April in 360 deposits, 33 friendly calls made by Mrs. Shaw, and 12 investigations.”6 According to Mrs. Wood, in addition to facilitating friendly visits by League nurses and “the bank lady,” two of the most valuable services the League offered were gainful employment (in the wood yard) and access to a well-stocked nurse’s closet.7

One of the more revealing anecdotes recounted by Mrs. Wood relates to the League’s dwindling supply of wood, without which it could not employ men to chop wood. She writes, “When we despaired early in the fall, a note came from the president of Kalamazoo College saying that their campus grove needed thinning and our present supply is the result.”8 The president of Kalamazoo College, of course, was husband to the League’s sitting Second Vice President, Mrs. Stetson.

Charities Organization Department letterhead, Civic Improvement League


Women Make Plans for Clean Railway Station


Mrs. Wood Again Made President of Civic League


Prominent Citizens take KCIL’s Helm

On May 6th, 1914, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported on the annual election of officers and trustees to the Civic League for the year 1914 to 1915. The first and third in command remained the same - Mrs. Wood as President and Mrs. Stetson as Second Vice President - but the office of First Vice President transferred from Mrs. Mills to Mrs. Caroline Hubbard Kleinstuck.

First Vice President Caroline Hubbard Kleinstuck was the daughter of early Michigan settler Silas Hubbard and his wife, Mary Olivia Loomis. Not only was Caroline’s mother dear friends with WCIL-founder Caroline Bartlett Crane, in the 1890s during Bartlett Crane’s tenure as minister of the People’s Church, Silas Hubbard donated $20,000 toward the construction of a new building.9

In 1871, at the age of 16, Mrs. Kleinstuck - then Miss Hubbard - enrolled at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1875 with an undergraduate degree, and in 1876 with a master’s degree.10 Quite notably, Miss Hubbard was the very first woman to earn a Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan.11

When study and travel took Miss Hubbard to Europe, she wound up meeting her future husband. In May 1883, Miss Caroline Hubbard married Carl G. Kleinstuck, a native of Saxony and a recently-naturalized American citizen. In 1885, Mr. Kleinstuck purchased a farm near present-day Oakland Drive that was then-known as “Bragg’s Nursery.”12 The previous owner, Leonard G. Bragg, had developed a large swath of the property into a thriving nursery.13

In the coming years, Mrs. Kleinstuck would serve as President of the Civic League. She also was a volunteer for the Red Cross and a founding member of the Kalamazoo League of Women Voters.14 In addition, Mrs. Kleinstuck is credited with making “the first large donation to the University of Michigan’s Women’s League.”15 Today, a residence hall on the University’s campus is named in her honor.16

In 1922, after Mr. Kleinstuck’s death, Mrs. Kleinstuck deeded to the Michigan Board of Education

48 acres of the former Bragg’s Nursery property purchased by her husband so many years earlier, “[designating] that the property be used for research and educational purposes.”17 Kleinstuck Preserve, as we know it today, is owned and managed by Western Michigan University.

Other notable additions to the Civic League’s 1914 to 1915 leadership roster include those with the title of trustee; elected were two women, Mrs. Florence Mills (former Second Vice President) and Mrs. F.L. Chappell, and two men, Charles Campbell and Dr. W.E. Upjohn.18 Just as Mrs. Florence Mills served on the original organizing committee of the Women’s Civic Improvement League, so too had Dr. W.E. Upjohn’s late first wife, Rachel Babcock Upjohn.19

Several years after the death of Dr. Upjohn’s first wife in 1905, he remarried to Mrs. Carrie Gilmore, his next-door neighbor on South Street and widow of his friend, James Gilmore. Mr. Gilmore was the proprietor of downtown’s premiere department store, Gilmore Brothers, which was founded in the 1880s.

Dr. W.E. Upjohn was a well-known area businessman and philanthropist. Almost thirty years earlier, in 1886, he founded the Upjohn Pill & Granule Company in partnership with his oldest brother, Dr. Henry. By 1914, Upjohn Pill & Granule - now The Upjohn Company - was not only a major employer in Kalamazoo, but had also grown to include branch offices in both New York and Kansas City.

Later in 1914, Dr. W.E. Upjohn chaired the Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League’s first capital campaign. In 1918, he was elected mayor of Kalamazoo, and by the time of his death in 1932, Dr. W.E. was widely recognized as “Kalamazoo’s First Citizen.”20

In May 1915, League members elected new officers to each of the top three positions: Mrs. Fannie B. Praeger, President; Miss Evelyn Fairbanks, First Vice-President; and Mrs. Herbert S. Humphrey, Second Vice-President.21

Mrs. Praeger was married to William Emilius Praeger, a biology professor at Kalamazoo College. She served as League president the following year (1916 to 1917) as well.

As for First Vice-President Evelyn Fairbanks, unfortunately very little is known about her other than her address. Miss Fairbanks served for one year and was succeeded by Mrs. Kleinstuck for the 1916 to 1917 term.

Second Vice President Constance Humphrey was an 1896 graduate of Smith College, where she - then Constance Plumer McCalmont - served as an editor of The Smith College Monthly.22 Constance contributed lengthy essays to the publication, in doing so demonstrating a fine education and very powerful mind. In April 1897, Constance married Herbert S. Humphrey, an English immigrant who was ten years her senior. Mr. Humphrey was a successful businessman and inventor.

In 1915, the same year that Mrs. Humphrey took on a leadership position with the League, her husband hired a Chicago architect to build for his wife and two daughters a large Tudor-style house at the corner of Academy Street and Carmel Avenue (present-day Acker Street).23

After Mrs. Humphrey’s death in 1959, the Humphrey daughters deeded the house to Kalamazoo College.24 Not only is the house still standing today, it is actually still known as Humphrey House; for many years it has been “home to the English, Philosophy, Religion and Classics Departments.”25

In addition to League officers, each of the city’s five wards was represented by two delegates, and upwards of ten “delegates at large” helped where they were needed. By the mid-1910s, the League was rich in members who were anxious to improve quality of life city-wide.


Pretty Lake Vacation Camp

On July 7th, 1916, a meeting of the League’s Executive Committee was called to order “immediately after luncheon” at the Park American Hotel in downtown Kalamazoo.26 Notes on the final agenda item read as follows:

Mrs. Kleinstuck presented Mr. Edward Desenberg’s offer of the use of the cottage at Pretty Lake for September and October, rent free, for families under the observation of charity workers, who would not otherwise be able to take an outing. The occupants to pay simply for their board.

The motion was quickly moved, seconded, and carried. Before concluding the meeting, WCIL founder Caroline Bartlett Crane further “moved that the Thrift Committee, with Mrs. Shaw, Miss Kleinstuck and Mr. Desenberg, have this matter in charge.”27 (Unfortunately, it is unclear which “Miss Kleinstuck” the records are referring to - Mrs. Caroline Kleinstuck and her husband had four children, three of them daughters.)

The concept for the camp soon evolved from serving entire families to serving exclusively children, and with no time to waste - it was already early July - members of the Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League set to work identifying children who would benefit most from time spent at Mr. Desenberg’s Pretty Lake cottage.28 During that inaugural year of Pretty Lake Fresh Air Vacation Camp, sixteen campers were hosted. Within two years, that number grew to 35, and by 1919 capacity had increased to sixty children.29

Children from the Kalamazoo Fresh Air School were given priority, the goal being for them to attend the camp for the entirety of the summer. The remaining seats were filled by children who visited the camp for an average of two to three weeks. With about “five shifts of the latter groups,” Pretty Lake Camp served 225 boys and girls during the summer of 1919.30 One measure of the camp’s success is this: among those 225 children, a collective 650 pounds were gained over the course of the summer.31

Meeting Minutes of 07 Jul 1916


A Connected Citizenry Drives KCIL’s Success

While exploring the history of the Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League during these years, a picture begins to form not only of League goings-on but also of what life in Kalamazoo was like at this time. The vast majority of League members lived within walking distance of the downtown, and few lived further north than North Street or further south than Whites Road. One can imagine members knocking on one another’s doors in much the same way we send each other texts or emails today.

One reason for this generation’s success is the high degree of connectedness among League members. Increasingly, husbands joined wives and daughters joined mothers in their work for the League. Kalamazoo was a small enough city that often League members were acquainted with one another from some other context - school, work, church - and through their cooperation for the League, countless friendships were formed. League members learned fast that harnessing the power of Kalamazoo’s social network translated directly into greater outcomes for the entire community.



You are invited to share your own F&CS stories and experiences, and we welcome your ideas about which aspects of our history warrant special attention. Please contact F&CS volunteer and project lead Mary Brigid Corcoran at mbcorcoran@gmail.com or 917-617-2422.



1 Wood, Lydia
2 Frost, Nancy
3 Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Congress
4 Dolores Matheny
5 Meeting Minutes, p59
6 Meeting Minutes, p59
7 Wood, Lydia
8 Wood, Lydia
9 Rickard, O’Ryan
10 Weissert, Charles A.
11 “Caroline Hubbard Kleinstuck”
12 “Kleinstuck Preserve Timeline”
13 “Kleinstuck Preserve Timeline”
14 “Caroline Hubbard Kleinstuck”
15 “Caroline Hubbard Kleinstuck”
16 “Caroline Hubbard Kleinstuck”
17 “Kleinstuck Preserve Timeline”
18 “Mrs. Wood Again Made President of Civic League”
19 Matheny, Dolores
20 Lohrstorfer, Martha and Catherine Larson
21 Meeting Minutes, p83
22 “The Smith College Monthly.”
23 “Humphrey House”
24 “Humphrey House”
25 “Humphrey House”
26 Meeting Minutes, p165
27 Meeting Minutes, p167
28 Buttelman, C.V.
29 Meeting Minutes, p167
30 Buttelman, C.V.
31 Buttelman, C.V.


Buttelman, C.V. “Go Thou and Do Likewise,” The Rotarian (Vol. XVI, No. 6). 1920.  Accessed via Google Books (May 2019). <https://tinyurl.com/yyg9tpwp>

“Caroline Hubbard Kleinstuck.” Living in History, Names of U-M Residence Halls, University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Undated (accessed May 2019).

Frost, Nancy. “A Scrapbook History of an Enduring Source of Hope for the Greater Kalamazoo Community.” 1996.

“History,” Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce. Undated (accessed May 2019).

“History of People’s Church (1855-current).” People’s Church of Kalamazoo. Undated (accessed Jan 2019).

“Humphrey House.” Undated (accessed May 2019). Cache, Kalamazoo College Digital Archive. <https://cache.kzoo.edu/handle/10920/21342>

Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League Meeting MInutes, 1913-1917. Family & Children Services Archives. Kalamazoo, MI.

“Kleinstuck Preserve Timeline.” Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections, Zhang Legacy Collections Center. Kalamazoo, MI. Undated (accessed May 2019).

Lohrstorfer, Martha and Catherine Larson. “William E. Upjohn: Person of the Century.” Kalamazoo Public Library. 2002 (accessed Apr 2019).

Matheny, Dolores. “History of The Women’s Civic Improvement League, 1903-1912.” 1951 (accessed Dec 2018). History Department Local History Seminar Papers, 1947-1991. RG 29/6.3.1 #36. Cache, Kalamazoo College Digital Archive. <https://cache.kzoo.edu/handle/10920/18251>

“Mrs. Wood Again Made President of Civic League.” Kalamazoo Telegraph. 06 May 1914.

Rickard, O’Ryan. A Just Verdict: The Life of Caroline Bartlett Crane. New Issues Press, Western Michigan University: 1994.

“The Smith College Monthly.” Accessed via Google Books (Apr 2019). <https://tinyurl.com/y3kahave>

Weissert, Charles A. An Account of Kalamazoo County. National Historical Association, Inc.: 1928. Accessed via Michigan State Library (online), May 2019.

Wood, Lydia. “History of the Civic League.” 1914.


  1. “Women To Open Hospital Tent at Inter State Fair.” Kalamazoo Telegraph-Press. 17 Sep 1913. Accessed May 2019 via <http://www.kpl.gov/local-history/regional-publications/>
  2. “Women Make Plans for Clean Railway Station.” Kalamazoo-Telegraph-Press. 07 Oct 1914. Accessed May 2019 via <http://www.kpl.gov/local-history/regional-publications/>
  3. “Mrs. Wood Again Made President of Civic League” (excerpt). Kalamazoo Telegraph-Press. 06 May 1914. Access May 2019 via <http://www.kpl.gov/local-history/regional-publications/>
  4. Charities Organization Department letterhead, Civic Improvement League. 09 Sep. 1913. Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League Meeting Minutes, 1913-1917. Family & Children Services Archives. Kalamazoo, MI.
  5. Meeting Minutes of 07 Jul 1916 (excerpt). Kalamazoo Civic Improvement League Meeting Minutes, 1913-1917. Family & Children Services Archives. Kalamazoo, MI.