The Lyceum Club in Melbourne was founded in 1912 by a group of educated women, following enthusiastic support at a public meeting. Its model was the London Lyceum Club, created in 1904, whose aims were to provide women members with congenial surroundings and the promotion of lifelong learning.
In Melbourne the Lyceum Club’s foundation meeting in March 1912 numbered 25 women in a rented room on the corner of Collins and Elizabeth Streets. As described in ‘Circles of Friendship’ (Janette Bomford, 2012) the new club ‘would provide generations of their sisters with a safe and comfortable place to meet in the city, to forge and sustain friendships and to engage in intellectual and cultural pursuits’. Membership, then and now, is open to ‘women connected with or distinguished in literature, science, education, music or art, philanthropy, journalism, social or public service and the learned professions’. In 1915 the Club’s first discussion group or Circle was formed and these special interest Circles (now numbering 60) are considered the lifeblood of the Club.
Membership numbers steadily increased and the Club moved four times to ever-larger rented premises. In 1947 the membership limit was raised to 1200 to ‘absorb a long and patient waiting list’ and in 1957 members made the bold decision to build their own club in Ridgway Place. This building was subsequently listed on the Victorian Heritage Register as a place of State significance, and in 2018 an additional award-winning floor was added to accommodate the many activities offered to our 1400+ members.
In 1913 the Club was admitted to the International Association of Lyceum Clubs, which holds a Congress every three years. Ours is the largest and most active
Lyceum Club in the world.