History Of En Ka

Originally established in 1902 as a Winchester High School sorority, the En Ka Society has thrived as a women’s volunteer service organization for over 100 years. En Ka was organized by six Winchester High School girls who wanted to have a club similar to one that the boys had formed.  With the help of their German teacher, they chose “Nachmachen den Knaben”, “to imitate the boys,” as their motto.  Soon the motto was abbreviated to the letters N K, which is pronounced in German as En Ka, the name we use today. 

During the first decades, members of the organization began their campaign of good works by sewing for the Visiting Nurses, preparing surgical dressings for the Red Cross, and sending toys to children in war-stricken Europe.  In 1916, a Hospital Fund was established to furnish a room in Winchester’s new hospital.

In the 1920’s, when the Winchester School Board voted to prohibit members of secret societies from participating in high school activities, the En Ka Society briefly disbanded.  En Ka held its last meeting on January 3, 1928.  However, on May 18, 1932, 85 past members held a reunion banquet and voted to reorganize En Ka as an adult women’s group to aid all Winchester charities.  The current organization structure and mission closely resemble this 1930’s model for voluntarism.  En Ka Society’s sole objective remains “to supply and aid, through volunteer services, the raising and contributing of funds, supplies, services and equipment to organizations located in or serving the people of Winchester, which are charitable in nature.”

En Ka’s first Street Fair was held behind Winchester Town Hall in 1935.  The What Not Shop started in 1944 and its successor, the En Ka Exchange, opened in 1958.  The Fair and the Exchange were, and still are, primary sources of income to provide services and gifts to the community.

From Sorority to Society:

The History of the En Ka Society

The En Ka Society Invites you to Explore it’s Past with a Newly Published Book


En Ka Fair, En Ka Exchange, En Ka Society…What is En Ka?? You know that En Ka hosts Winchester’s biggest fundraiser and social event of the year, the En Ka Fair, but do you know the origins of En Ka, what they do and how the society contributes to the Winchester community?

The En Ka Society proudly presents the first-ever book of En Ka’s history, En Ka Society – From Sorority to Society, Dedicated Through Service to Our Community. The 90-page coffee table style hardcover book, full of previously unpublished stories and photos, is available to purchase for $30 at enkasociety.org.

To read En Ka Society – From Sorority to Society, Dedicated Through Service to Our Community, please visit Winchester Public Library.   

Written by Dr. Ellen Knight, Ph.D., En Ka Society – From Sorority to Society, Dedicated Through Service to Our Community, is a wonderful compilation of the stories about the people, events, and spirit that shaped En Ka’s rich century-old history.  Photographs once hidden away in shoeboxes and pasted in scrapbooks bring En Ka’s past to life.  Newspaper articles dating to the 1930s recall early fairs, home-front efforts to support troops during wartime, and development of the En Ka Exchange.  This book delves into the origins of the Society, dating back to 1902, and sheds light on how it has grown from a small, but strong, group of Winchester high school girls into a thriving multigenerational sisterhood of women who continue to fulfill the original promise of service and raise funds for hundreds of Winchester-based non-profit organizations.

Author Ellen Knight, currently the reference archivist in the Winchester Archival Center, has authored hundreds o f local history articles for the newspapers, along with several books and booklets, the latest being the centennial history of Winchester Hospital and an illustrated history of Wright-Locke Farm.

WWII relic returns to Winchester


Out of the Hürtgen Forest in Germany, site of a series of World War II battles, has emerged a relic which is not simply a military artifact but also a symbol of Winchester’s devotion to its country’s war effort. And that relic has now come home.

The Hürtgenwald has yielded many finds to relic hunters. Earlier this year a resident of Frankfurt purchased one at a flea market, found by someone searching for WW II relics with a metal detector.

The finder was especially interested in German artifacts, but this was American. Embossed on a rectangular metal plaque measuring about 4.5 x 8 inches, the inscription states: “[S]COUT CAR, PRESENTED TO THE UNITED STATES ARMY BY THE EN KA SOCIETY, WINCHESTER, MASS. THROUGH PURCHASE OF WAR BONDS.”

The purchaser, Thomas Gey of Frankfurt, curious to know more, e-mailed the Winchester Archival Center, which contacted the En Ka Society. Then began another search, this one for an explanation of the plaque, which had become a forgotten part of En Ka history.

During the war years, Americans across the country were engaging in home-front support of the Allied cause and its local service men and women. Winchester was no different, and the En Ka Society pitched in.

Prior to December 1941, Americans were providing aid to war victims and preparing for war. All organizations in Winchester were asked to sell defense stamps and bonds, later war bonds. En Ka took its turn at the railroad stations doing so. It also purchased war bonds, and in 1943 it sponsored a war bond auction at the Winchester Theater.

On Dec. 7, 1942, the U.S. Army’s aircraft observation post (part of a network of posts) in the area of High and Ridge streets went into operation. In February, 1942, the American Legion, which was in charge of keeping the post manned 24/7, called upon all the women’s organizations in town to help transport people to the post and to do daytime observation duty while the men were at work. En Ka did its bit and also purchased a new heater and fuel tank for the original drafty shack, reinstalled in a new tower.

The Society donated various sums through the war years to the Winchester Chapter of the American Red Cross to equip emergency ambulances and mobile canteens and to equip men going to foreign service with Red Cross fitted bags. It also donated to the Greater Boston United War Fund, British War Relief, Russian War Relief, and the National War Fund. The women organized dances and other entertainments for the servicemen. 

One special gift was the donation of a service flag to the Town, which was dedicated when the Roll of Honor was unveiled. (The flag was later lost.)

In 1944, the board of the En Ka Society planned a major gift. Their Jan. 18, 1944, minutes state, “In connection with the Fourth War Loan Drive, the society voted to secure pledges amounting to $30,000 in bonds for a clearing station that takes care of the wounded directly behind the fighting front. A plaque inscribed ‘En Ka Winchester, Mass.’ will be on the station. It was voted that Winnifrede Meyer would be in charge of the work.”

Within a month, they had decided to purchase four scout cars in place of the clearing station. (No explanation was given in the minutes). The board appropriated $12 from its street fair proceeds for four plaques inscribed “En Ka Society, Winchester, Mass.” to be placed on them.

In March, Meyer reported on the bond sale and thanked “all the En Ka Girls who helped to make it possible.” The four plaques were on display at that meeting but apparently no photograph was taken.

A small article appeared in the Winchester Star revealing that En Ka’s war bond drive went over the top of its goal by selling $49,525 in war bonds to finance the purchase of the four cars. Noting the plaques to be affixed to each car, the article stated, “It is hoped this will bring warm thoughts of home to Winchester servicemen who may chance to see one.”

Following the June annual meeting minutes, En Ka’s records are silent on the matter. The women would have had no idea about the fate of the cars they funded. In fact, the fate of three is still unknown. One, it is now known, ended up in the Hürtgen Forest.


Hürtgen Forest

The Battle of Hürtgen Forest was the longest battle (actually a series of battles) on German ground during World War II, taking place from September 1944 to the next February.

After landing at Normandy in June 1944, the Allied forces advanced east to liberate France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. They reached the German border and the defenses of the Siegfried Line in September 1944. The Americans’ equipment included at least one of the En Ka scout cars.

The Allies successfully took Aachen in October, but their efforts to pass through the Hürtgen Forest (east of Aachen) were disastrous. The forest was densely wooded and heavily fortified. The Germans fiercely defended it to protect the Rur River dams and their preparations for the Ardennes Offensive (the Battle of the Bulge). American troops repeatedly attacked but were defeated. The battle was costly to both sides. Reportedly, American casualties exceeded 30,000 in killed, wounded, missing in action, combat exhaustion, and various disease and non-battle injuries.

In December, when the Germans launched their Ardennes Offensive, the Allies concentrated on blocking the German advance. In early February, American forces attacked through the Hürtgen Forest for the final time and reached the Rur River. The Allies were able to continue their push east. Germany surrendered in May


Return of the plaque

After Herr Gey contacted Winchester about the plaque, En Ka’s historians were amazed, as they had known nothing about the scout cars.

Gey expressed himself “astonished and surprised that the En Ka Society had German roots” (its name being derived from a motto that the original members devised in the German language). He sent photos and offered to send the plaque back to En Ka to be shown in a local museum or showroom.

“Although I knew En Ka had worked hard to support the US troops I had no knowledge about raising money to purchase specific equipment,” En Ka Historian Joyce Cummings wrote to him. “On behalf of En Ka, I would very much like to accept your offer of sending the shield to Winchester. We have numerous items that reflect En Ka’s history, mission, and member’s participation throughout the years and the shield would be a wonderful addition to the collection.”

Refusing the Society’s offer to pay his expenses, Gey returned the plaque, saying “I think the shield belongs to Winchester and it’s a part of the town and the En Ka history. Of course, I will send you the item to Winchester, because it has his roots there.

“I think that is a question of honour.”

The plaque arrived in July. When the En Ka board resumes meeting this fall, it is expected to plan how best to exhibit this relic which now represents not only the efforts of Winchester’s women to support its servicemen but also the friendly relations that happily now exist between citizens of former enemy countries.

“Danke schön, Herr Gey!”

En Ka Fair History

“Today is the Day!” the En Ka Society announced in 1935. “The members of The En Ka Society and the many, many persons who have helped plan the Street Fair, to make it a great community success, urge you to come to the Town Hall grounds and join in the fun. How festive it all is! Such a Gala Day, Winchester has not had for a long time. Colored lights, balloons, pretty girls, booths that are cleverly constructed, street musicians, ponies to ride, and so much more to do and see.”

Though the attractions may have changed, the En Ka Fair is still a gala day and continues an annual tradition which has been going strong since 1935.

The En Ka Society originated as a high school sorority in 1902. About that time there were also fraternities – Phi Delta and Gamma Eta – and another sorority, Sigma Beta. En Ka fashioned its name in the style of Greek letters but invented them from the initial letters “N” and “K” (vocalized as “En” and “Ka”) of its motto.

The girls’ motto originally was “Nachmachen den Knaben” (“to imitate the boys”), later changed to “Nachleben die klösterlichen Genossenschaft,” which they translate as “to live up to the sisterhood” (literally, to live up to a cloister-like cooperative).

As a sorority, En Ka provided helping hands within the community. Its name appears in the records of the Visiting Nurse Association among those who provided gifts for the visiting nurse program, for the cottage hospital which the Association opened in 1912, and for the new hospital building which opened in 1917.

Although the societies were literary or charity-oriented, the School Committee decided about 1919 to squash them with a decree that members be banned from holding class office, serving on a school publication, or representing the high school in any athletic contest. Though the groups lingered on for a while and the students protested, by 1928 the groups had disbanded.

During the Great Depression, members of En Ka came together again. One of the institutions which the women of the En Ka Society had supported as girls, Winchester Hospital, had to take extraordinary steps to survive the Depression. By closing its nurses’ training school and separating from its parent organization, the Visiting Nurse Association, and with support from the community, the hospital was able to keep going.

Still, money was tight. The hospital needed to devote what money it had to operating and maintaining the hospital. Yet the hospital had a second building, a nurses’ home. Helping out there was the impetus for the first street fair.

In order to help the hospital, first the women of En Ka had to reorganize. In 1932, a group of former sorority sisters met and decided to revive their association as an adult, charitable society. Then as now it aimed to provide service or funding to charitable and non-profit activities and organizations. The proceeds from the first three En Ka Society fairs were devoted to the nurses’ home. Since then, En Ka has divided the proceeds from its fairs and other activities among a wide variety of Winchester charities and organizations.


First En Ka Fair

In May 1935, the En Ka Society held its first street fair. It was a novelty to Winchester and was a huge success, attracting thousands.

The first fair was held in the parking lot at the rear of Town Hall, running from Washington Street to what is now known as Sandy’s Island. Brightly painted posts, balloons, and a sign marked the entrance to the “street.”

The emphasis then was on booths and entertainments rather than rides. Each “shop” had its own street number and was decorated differently and devoted to a different sale.

At an apron shop, made up to look like a kitchen, alumnae of the Hospital Training School for Nurses sold aprons, hot pads, and towels. At the “Attic” house was a collection of “interesting and valuable treasures” which was cleaned out by 10 o’clock.

Cherokee pottery and other hand-made articles were displayed at the “Gift Box,” decorated as a red box with white bow. One shop that the newspaper reporter considered the most novel was the “Knit Shop,” decorated with a thatched roof, ivy covered trellis, pink curtains, and window boxes filled with knitted flowers. Raffles were held for a knit dress and sweater.

There were other raffles and drawings. A corner was reserved under a beach umbrella for selling the permanent-wave prize. At a booth decorated as a doll house, a raffle was held for a miniature doll house. At the end of the day, one lucky boy won a bicycle, which he reportedly rode until 2 a.m.

The attractions were varied. “Madame Zara,” palmist, read fortunes. There was a midway, and a games booth was set up to entertain children. Wandering musicians, “Tony and Pedro,” entertained with violin and accordion. There was street dancing and a bean supper.

There was art for sale and art to enjoy. Lillian Clarke of Somerville was reportedly surrounded every minute while she cuts silhouettes. Wesley Dennis drew pencil portrait sketches. An exhibit of artworks by members of the Winchester Art Association was enjoyed at the library pergola.

Of course there was food, including a popcorn stand sponsored by nurses, the Alice in Wonderland Candy Shop, an ice cream truck, a sandwich bar, hot dog stand (tended by the “Masters of the Hounds”), and a doughnut machine which reportedly attracted attention all day.

The island, decorated with colored lights, Japanese lanterns, and flowers was transformed into a Japanese Tea Garden.

In addition to the members of the En Ka Society, men, nurses, and high school students helped out at the fair. The fair reportedly cleared $1,963 to be used for the Nurses’ Home.

The fair has outgrown the Town Hall parking lot, and its character has changed in some regards, but its popularity and purpose remain the same. The funds raised go back to the community through En Ka’s charitable giving. And, every year, everyone has a lot of fun.