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Finding aid to the Square and Circle Club Records
SFH 13  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance
  • Related Materials
  • Materials Transferred
  • Conservation Note
  • Accruals note
  • Organizational History
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement

  • Title: Square and Circle Club Records
    Date (inclusive): 1924-2004
    Date (bulk): 1954-1999
    Collection Identifier: SFH 13
    Creator: Square and Circle Club (San Francisco, Calif.).
    Physical Description: 8 cartons, 1 poster in flat file (ca. 8.0 cubic feet)
    Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    (415) 557-4567
    Abstract: The collection documents the formation, administration, and activities of what is believed to be the oldest active Chinese American women's service organization in the United States. The collection includes constitution and bylaws, meeting minutes, committee files, financial records, and materials pertaining to fundraising, service projects, and member events. Also includes correspondence with community-based organizations and other service agencies, including Chung Mei Home for Boys, Ming Quong Home for Girls, Chinese Hospital, and On Lok Senior Health Services.
    Physical Location: Collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.


    The collection is open for research, with photographs available during Photo Desk hours. Please call the San Francisco History Center for hours and information at 415-557-4567.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Square and Circle Club Records (SFH 13), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.


    Gift from the Square and Circle Club, 2004.

    Related Materials

    Researchers are encouraged to view the catalog holdings of the San Francisco Public Library for related materials, particularly, Unbound Feet by Judy Yung and Bridging the Pacific: San Francisco Chinatown and Its People by Thomas W. Chinn.

    Materials Transferred

    Photographs (12 folders) have been transferred to the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection.

    Conservation Note

    During processing, the entire collection was re-foldered and re-housed in acid-free folders. Some metal staples remain. Pages were removed from binders and notebooks.

    Accruals note

    Further accruals expected.

    Organizational History

    The Square and Circle Club derives its name from an old Chinese couplet translated as "In deeds be square, in knowledge be all-round". The Square and Circle Club is believed to be the oldest active Chinese women's service organization in the United States and has served the San Francisco Bay Area for over 80 years. Comprised primarily of professional women of Chinese descent, the mission of the club is to promote local community issues, provide monies to organizations and persons in need, and act as a social fellowship for the club members.
    The Square and Circle Club was formed in 1924 by a group of seven young women: Daisy Wong Chinn, Jennie J. Lee, Ann Lee Leong, Ivy Lee Mah, Bessie Wong Shum, Daisy K. Wong, and Alice Fong Yu. The group originally came together to raise funds for flood and famine victims in China and the first fundraiser was a benefit dance that successfully raised $250 for relief packages. After the success of the event, the Square and Circle Club turned their attentions to the local San Francisco community, embarking upon what has become a much respected and longstanding philanthropic tradition.
    Early service projects focused upon orphans, healthcare, and educational activities. Fundraising for projects at Laguna Honda Hospital, the Chung Mei Home for Chinese Boys, the Mei Lan Yuen Home and the Ming Quong Home for Chinese girls, took the form of raffles, benefit dances and variety shows. From the late 1920s through the early 1940s, the Square and Circle Club produced many well-attended events that showcased popular themes, dances and music of the era and provided funds for the many service projects of the club. "It Happened in Zandavia", presented in 1933, was the first such musical and featured boys from the Chung Mei Home performing alongside the women of the club. Above and beyond raising money, members often volunteered their time to a variety of community projects including assisting with local tuberculosis screening and visiting the patients of the Laguna Honda Hospital. In addition to serving the community, Square and Circle Club also organized dinners, picnics and anniversary parties for the growing numbers of members. While the club's main focus was local service, the women did become active in larger volunteer arenas such as involvement with the Chinese War Relief Association, supporting a bill promoting rights of entry and U.S. citizenship to Chinese persons, and voicing staunch support of boycotts against Japanese products during World War II.
    After World War II, the women of the Square and Circle Club continued to further the philanthropic activities of the club while pursuing their own educational and career advancement. The musicals and variety shows continued to be very popular with titles such as "Goo Ma Steps Out", "Once Upon a Holiday", "Song of Dynasty" and "My Fair Co-ed". The club's popular fashion shows and New Years Eve Charity Balls began during this time and continued with great success. Always innovative in their fundraising ideas, the club launched the publication of a Square and Circle Cookbook in 1976, Cooking with Square and Circle, which sold out its 5,000 copies and went into a third printing.
    Many of the members have been individually recognized and awarded for their community leadership and accomplishments. The club's first president, Alice Fong Yu, was the first Chinese American teacher hired into the San Francisco Unified School District, and after a long and respected career in elementary education and speech therapy, had a Chinese immersion school named for her in 1996, the Alice Fong Yu Alternative School.
    The Square and Circle Club's mission to "promote and foster philanthropic projects and community service" has remained unchanged since its inception in 1924. Through its fundraising efforts and volunteer projects, the club has provided support for YMCA and YWCA camperships; scholarships to City College, San Francisco State University, Mills College and the annual Close-up Washington, D.C. program; equipment for On Lok Senior Health Services and Chinese Hospital; and funds for the Asian Women's Shelter, Chinatown Youth Center, San Francisco Public Library, Chinese Education Center, the Chinese Newcomers Service Center, and Laguna Honda Hospital, to name a few.

    Scope and Contents

    The collection documents the activities of the Square and Circle Club from 1924 – 2003. The club began in 1924 and is one of the largest and oldest Chinese women's service organizations still active in the country. These documents provide insight into the organization of the club and the many service projects they have undertaken over the years. In addition to the operations of the Square and Circle Club, the collection also gives evidence of the evolving needs of the Chinese community in San Francisco and gives a detailed look into the way the club answered these needs.
    Materials include the Square and Circle Club's constitution and bylaws, meeting minutes, clubhouse records, correspondence, committee files, fundraising materials, financial records and publicity. The meeting minutes yield much information on the organizational decisions made by the club, from changes in bylaws to dispersals of monies within the local community. The collection has a particularly notable section of annual fundraising projects and activities, including photographs and historical materials about the San Francisco Bay Area. This club is still active.


    The material has been arranged into seven series: Series 1. Administration; Series 2. Correspondence; Series 3. Community Service Projects; Series 4. Fundraisers; Series 5. Member Events; Series 6. Financial records; and Series 7. Publicity/Press.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Square and Circle Club (San Francisco, Calif.). -- Archives
    Chinese American women--Societies and Clubs
    Chinese Americans--California--San Francisco--Societies, etc.
    Clubs--California--San Francisco
    San Francisco (Calif.)--Social life and customs