The word “guild” is ancient in its usage, and harkens back to a time in Europe and England when craftsmen would meet together in an intimate setting and share the particular secrets of their craft. It’s no coincidence that Augusta Garloff Hazard chose this very specific word to describe the place that she created for the women of Peacedale as the 20th century dawned. You see, Augusta’s life had prepared her to have a true understanding of the difficulties that lie ahead for women as the new century began. The Neighborhood Guild she envisioned was designed to be a safe haven of sorts, a place where Peacedale’s women could band together like the craftsmen of old and educate and support each other in the modern world.
Augusta Garloff was born on Aug. 10, 1850, the daughter of a German Army officer who came to America with his family to escape the hardships of Europe at that juncture in time. Both of her parents perished soon after coming to this country, leaving Augusta as an orphan. Thankfully for Augusta she was adopted by Mr. & Mrs. John Wister of Philadelphia. Mrs. Wister was the sister of Mrs. Rowland Hazard and through this connection the little orphan girl came to spend her summers in Peacedale each year. At the age of 17 she was married to John Newbold Hazard with whom she eventually had eight children. Before her 50th birthday however, Augusta had attended the funeral of her husband and her eldest son. Out of these tragedies came the genesis for the idea of the Neighborhood Guild. Augusta Hazard realized that women needed a place that would provide them the opportunity to keep up with a rapidly changing world. By funding the construction of the Guild she hoped to fulfill that need; to give the women of Peacedale the opportunity to band together and lift each other up. During those early years training was given in the culinary arts, textile work, seam stressing, dressmaking, and furniture making among other things. Crafts that could be turned into trades, skills that might allow a woman to support herself and her family if need be. As the world continued to change, so did the Guild; classes for young people were added, general adult education classes were held here too. Even after Augusta’s death in 1917, this work, thanks to a generous endowment, continued. In 1940, the building, the endowment fund, and the hopes and aspirations begun by Augusta Hazard were turned over to the Town of South Kingstown. Even to this day Augusta’s thoughtful gift to the women of Peacedale continues to provide for her community as the building now houses much of South Kingstown’s public programming. So, 100 years later, let’s stop and remember the orphan girl Augusta Hazard and the legacy she left behind.