Marshfield, October 1901: The Helping Hand Society holds its Charity Ball
By Kris Leonhardt
The women of the Marshfield community had worked tirelessly throughout the beginning months of 1901 to prepare for one special evening. As one of the most popular social events of the year, much time and effort had been taken to decorate the Adler Opera House and enhance its glamour and style.
As the primary means of support for the Helping Hand Society, the success of the event weighed heavily on their minds as the hour drew near for the opening of the Charity Ball.
The Helping Hand Society began in the late 1800s with ties to the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Consisting completely of female volunteers, the group assisted local families in need by providing food and clothing. With the holiday season drawing near, October had become a significant fundraising month, the ball providing nearly all of the group’s fundraising dollars.
The society’s efforts were quite important at the turn of the century, a time when hardy pioneers would sooner go to their graves than ask for government assistance.
Admission for the event was set at $1 per couple or 50 cents for an individual. The six women chosen as floor managers for the event — Mrs. Cole, Mrs. Laemle, Mrs. Deming, Mrs. Bly, Mrs. Little, and Mrs. Voelker — assembled at 8 p.m. as the doors opened for the event.
The Second Regiment Orchestra began playing the first song of the night as couples strolled along the opera house floor during the Opening Grand March.
As the band played the standards of the time, men squired their partners while mixing on and off the dance floor as organizers enjoyed another successful evening.
Throughout the following years, the society would find great success in the annual ball. However, with the city growing and the Depression bearing down, it became harder and harder to meet the needs the city of Marshfield required.
The Helping Hand Society would discontinue hosting its annual ball in the 1920s and turn to local churches and organizations to fulfill its requirements.
Always the astute businessman, J.P. Adler would use the new “talkies” — talking movies introduced in 1927 — to aid in the Helping Hands’ mission. Charging noncash admission, Adler collected clothing and preserves from residents as well as toys from local children.
Even with the assistance from local businesses, churches, and organizations, the need increased to a point where it was unreachable to the Helping Hands. The group would ultimately seek aide from the city of Marshfield itself.