Somewhere around 1900, coffee klatches — casual get-togethers to share conversation, coffee and snacks — began in Germany. They were dubbed kaffeeklatsch, klatsch being the German word for gossip.
After World War Two, when returning soldiers bumped North American women out of the workplace and back into the home, the coffee klatch was a godsend for women isolated out in the suburbs with young kids — and some lifelong friendships began.
Now klatches are used to build all kinds of communities — the website of the New Democratic Party of Canada, for example, suggests that supporters “invite the neighbours to a coffee klatch evening, meet-the-candidate session.” At Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook, Nfld., coffee klatches are part of the orientation program for new students and, on the other side of the country, the James Bay United Church near Victoria hosts klatches twice a week all summer for about 80 seniors.
In the U.S., klatches have been used to build support for the political right since the 1950s. More recently, screenings of the movie, Uncovered, The Whole Truth About the Iraq War, have been a feature at the home get-togethers of many American liberals against the war. On daytime television, viewers of ABC's The View, can watch Barbara Walters and the gang sit around their own table for coffee and conversation — and, online, viewers can even order matching coffee mugs.
On the Internet, virtual klatches — where women can chat or read, learn and exchange parenting tips, health information and career advice — are the latest incarnation of this popular way for women to take a reality check and receive comfort and support.
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