Question of the Week
Where was the Huguenot Society of Pennsylvania founded?
In 1918 in Reading, Pennsylvania, approximately ten men and women of known Huguenot descent founded the Huguenot Society of Pennsylvania, one of the first societies for the descendants of Huguenots established in the United States. They settled on April 13, 1918, for their first official meeting—this date was the 320th anniversary of the Edict of Nantes, an edict passed by Henry IV that ended the French Wars of Religion and gave the Huguenots limited religious freedom.
The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France from the 16th to 18th centuries, many of whom emigrated from France to escape persecution and religious intolerance. At the group’s first meeting in Reading, Pennsylvania, the members developed a group of objectives for the organization, which included perpetuating and maintaining the history, principles, and beliefs of the Huguenots and celebrating and preserving the spirit of their ancestors. Some of their first official acts as an organization included making General John J. Pershing, a direct Huguenot descendant, an honorary member of the Society, and giving their symbolic support to the French during World War I.
In 1931, the Huguenot Society of Pennsylvania, along with the societies from New Jersey and Washington D. C., formed the Federation of Huguenot Societies. The federation met annually in Washington, and by 1946, included societies from Ohio, California, Michigan, West Virginia, and North Carolina. In 1951, the federation officially changed its name to the National Huguenot Society, which today encompasses more than 40 state member societies.
The records of the Huguenot Society of Pennsylvania at HSP (#3009) consist primarily of membership applications, organized numerically by membership number assigned by the Society. The remainder of the collection consists of newspaper clippings and magazine articles about Huguenot communities in the United States and South Africa, other printed material, genealogical research notes, and a small number of administrative files and artifacts.
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.