Who Are/Were the Toories?

by Maureen Kind

Today, the Toories are the women who curl in the Toories League on Mondays at 4:30pm. They have their own fine china dinner plates with the name Madison Toories imprinted in gold.  The name, however, had a much broader meaning for many years. 

Toories was the name of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Madison Curling Club. an independent organization with its own bylaws, officers, and committees which organized all events for women curlers and social events for the entire club such as the four club suppers and summer picnic held every year.  In addition, one of the President’s duties was, “to find out what special dinners the men’s organization wants served and the dates.”  They stocked and ran the Commissary or kitchen.  They saw to the repair of refrigerators and coffee urns; they rented tents and tables for the club picnic. They purchased either on their own or together with the men’s organization, tables, chairs, refrigerators, ranges, dishwashers, carpeting, and even a fire extinguisher when the fire department inspector recommended it!   

The minutes of 1950 note that the Toories were accepted by the Men’s Organization as a Women’s Auxiliary of the Madison Curling Club.  A clause in their bylaws limited women’s memberships to those whose husbands or fathers were members of the Men’s Curling Club.  A proposal to allow unaccompanied women to join the Toories was considered in 1962.  The officers of that year addressed a letter to the President of the MCC asking if anything prevented allowing unaccompanied women to join the Toories. When informed by the President that their bylaws made them an Auxiliary of the Men’s Club and not an independent organization, they asked if they became an independent organization within the club, would they have to set dues to pay for the ice, stones, and brooms or would the men’s organization accept the current donations they gave to the club.  The response was that they would have to pay for the ice, stones, and brooms and that the men’s organization would never allow their leagues to play in the evenings. The Toories board voted to remain an auxiliary and the board’s recommendation was passed at the fall meeting. They regretted that they would not be able to admit “our out-sisters” to the auxiliary.  The men’s organization would continue to inform them each year who the new members were and they would reach out to their wives and daughters, inviting them to curl with the Toories.  The death of a husband created a sticky situation as indicated by a letter to one such widow in 1964,“granting Mrs. Ben F. Gurney the privilege of continuing her association with the MCC and its auxiliary, the Toories.” Ultimately a restructuring of the MCC and a rewrite of their bylaws during the 1986-87 season unified the Toories to the MCC.

The Toories were members of the USWCA and participated in their activities including the All-American event and the Scots tours. During the 1957-58 season they hosted the Scottish women with dinners at the Edgewater and the Golden Rooster and provided gifts from the Perfume Shop. They paid travel expenses for members who curled in faraway bonspiels. The Toories also participated in the Badger curling group. When their turn came to host the Badger bonspiel in 1967, the minutes note, “It must go to the men’s organization for approval”. So, on June 16, 1963, a letter was sent to the President of the MCC to request permission to host the bonspiel.   

Their regular leagues from the 1950’s to the 1980’s included the first half Jamieson event and the second half Ferguson event, both on Wednesdays at 9:30am; the Cottrell 1 and 2 events on Thursday at 9am, and the Celidh and Strobel events on Mondays alternating at 6:30pm and 8:30pm with the men’s events.  The Johnson event on Thursday at 4:30pm was for leads, seconds and low-pointed thirds so they could experience other positions. The President’s Cup was run on Tuesdays and sent their winner to the Badger bonspiel. The Knowles event was the club playdown for the National bonspiel.  

The Toories ran an invitational FunSpiel, a two-day bonspiel, generally in February or March. They sometimes held a preseason mini-spiel of six-end games on Tuesday and Wednesday with lunch on Wednesday. They held learn-to-curl events for new members. They had a fall meeting and a postseason annual meeting and awards dinner. In 1965, they suggested to the men’s organization that a separate bulletin board be placed in the ladies’ lounge to post invitations to bonspiels and league results, adding “A bulletin board for mixed events in the lobby would be helpful.”  

Toories members paid “family” dues with their husbands or fathers and additional Toories dues of under $10. In the heyday of high interest rates, they bought short term CDs with their dues, pocketed the interest, and sold them at the start of the next season to buy big ticket items. The Toories gave Christmas and year-end gifts of money to the ice men. They sent flowers or contributed to memorials for curlers and their families when someone died. The president of the Toories generally sent a letter of appreciation to the men’s organization each year thanking them for their cooperation during the season.  

The Toories made the MCC a better place to curl for many years, according to the minutes of the 1962 meeting to discuss admitting unaccompanied members: “They expressed a sincere appreciation of all the Toories who had helped to make curling a better sport, with more people participating and the curling house a more attractive place to come to.”   The Toories saw to the details which added comfort and fun to curling such as a “more romantic atmosphere” for the clubhouse cocktail party.  They were willing to pay more for a better band at the New Year’s Eve party and had song sheets for the picnics and club suppers.  That fine china dinner service represents them well!  

I’m a Curler (Tune: Clementine)

I’m a curler, I’m a curler

I’m a curler ‘til I die.

I would rather be a curler

than a-home a-bakin’ pie!

Posted by Miranda