The Sydney Lyceum Club
In 1914, the writer, Agnes Rose-Soley (Rose de Boheme), established the first Sydney Lyceum Club. She was joined by other like-minded women including the poet and journalist Mary Gilmore, a staunch supporter of the Club and of women’s rights. By 1982 the Sydney Lyceum Club was no longer active but strong interest was rekindled during the early 1990s and in 1992 a group of Sydney women established The Sydney Lyceum Club Inc. Among the conveners were members of the original club whose presence was greatly valued as they provided a living link between the two organisations.
The Sydney Lyceum Club Inc. is a member of the Australian Association of Lyceum Clubs, which includes groups in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane. These autonomous clubs are also members of the International Association of Lyceum Clubs working under the umbrella of the Lyceum Charter. The Charter promotes friendship and understanding among women and provides opportunities for engagement with the arts, sciences, public life and the sharing of scholarship in an environment of openness, discussion and exchange. Many members travel interstate and overseas to participate in the conferences presented by other Lyceum Clubs of which there are, currently, 74 worldwide.
The Sydney Lyceum Club Inc. aims to provide a non-political and non-sectarian environment for women with complementary interests to meet, converse, discuss and participate in special interest groups and to enjoy a monthly lunch or dinner, and a social gathering with a guest speaker. These are usually held at the Union, University & Schools Club, 25 Bent Street, Sydney.
Origins of the Lyceum Club
Lyceum Club members are women interested in the arts, sciences, social concerns and the pursuit of lifelong learning. Through personal commitment they promote understanding and enjoy friendship.
In ancient Athens the lyceum (or lykeion) was a public meeting place where philosophers and sophists, including Socrates spoke. It became famous for the school and library established by Aristotle. His students and followers, the Peripatetics, would join discussions conducted by their teacher on his afternoon walks through the colonnaded garden of the lyceum. In modern times, the first Lyceum Club was founded in London in 1903, by Miss Constance Smedley. Drawing on the ethos of the lyceum she aimed to provide what was greatly needed at that time, and still is, a meeting place where educated, independent and professional women could discuss and exchange ideas, hear stimulating speakers and explore new horizons. By 1914 there were Lyceum Clubs in many cities, including Paris, Berlin, New York, Rome, Quebec and Melbourne.