Sorosis: Professional Women's Club

Portrait of Julia Ward Howe
Julia Ward Howe. Hulton Archives / Getty Images

Sorosis, a professional women's association, was created in 1868 by Jane Cunningham Croly, because women were usually shut out of membership in the organizations of many professions. Croly, for example, was prohibited from joining the male-only New York Press Club.

The word sorosis comes from the botanical name for a fruit formed from the ovaries or receptacles of many flowers merged together. An example is the pineapple. It may also have been intended as a term related to "sorority," which is derived from the Latin word soror or sister. The connotation of "sorosis" is "aggregation." The term "sororize" has sometimes been used as a parallel to "fraternize."


The first president of Sorosis was Alice Cary, the poet, although she took the office reluctantly. Josephine Pollard and Fanny Fern were also members.

Sorosis was founded the same year that Julia Ward Howe founded the New England Woman's Club. Although the foundings were independent, they came out of the culture of the time when women were becoming more independent, becoming involved in professionals, becoming active in reform groups, and becoming interested in self-development.

For Croly, the work of Sorosis was "municipal housekeeping": applying to municipal problems the same principles of housekeeping that a well-educated woman was expected in the late 19th century to practice.

Croly and others also hoped that the club would inspire confidence in women, and bring "womanly self-respect and self-knowledge."

The group, under Croly's leadership, resisted a push to get the organization in alignment with women wage earners, preferring to solve "our" problems and focusing on the self-growth of members.

Founding of General Federation of Women's Clubs

In 1890, delegates from more than 60 women's clubs were brought together by Sorosis to form the General Federation of Women's Clubs, which had as its mission helping local clubs get better organized and encouraging clubs to work together on lobbying efforts for social reforms such as health, education, conservation, and government reforms.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Sorosis: Professional Women's Club." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2020, August 27). Sorosis: Professional Women's Club. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Sorosis: Professional Women's Club." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).