In 1893, three Martha’s Vineyard women decided they would not go through another isolating Island winter without finding ways to gather with their peers and cultivate their minds. Caroline Castello, Carla Coye and Elizabeth Daggett, all of Vineyard Haven, founded the Want to Know Club that year “to promote the social pleasure, intellectual growth and moral development of its members,” according to records stored by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.

The club celebrated its 125th anniversary in May with a gala tea at a member’s home.

Originally a reading and discussion circle for Tisbury ladies, the Want to Know Club soon expanded to its current membership of 20 women from anywhere on the Island, each writing and presenting original research papers to the rest of the group.

“Twenty women have met every year, picked a theme and written papers and listened to those papers being read,” said club member Myra Stark, a former teacher and advertising executive who now works part-time at the Vineyard Haven library.

“Of course, a lot changes over 125 years,” deadpanned member Leah Smith, a retired economics professor. “Their resources were somewhat limited.”

Opportunities for women were also limited, but change was in the atmosphere as the 20th century approached. Early Want to Know Club meetings discussed women’s suffrage, women in the 19th century and the pioneering war nurses Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale.

Topics from the first years of the 1900s included Do business women make good wives? and Does the automobile promote sociability?

World War I, and the devastating flu pandemic of 1918-1920, were apparently the only things that could dent the early members’ commitment to inquiry. In August 1918, they discontinued meetings until the following year because “the times give less leisure for literary pursuits,” according to minutes preserved by the club.

War, with its technological advances and societal upheavals, also expanded the group’s horizons. By the 1920s, according to Want to Know Club records, its members were researching aerial navigation, discussing World Betterment: Shall it be Accomplished by Men or Women? and exploring “civic affairs,” including “Mussolini’s good management of conditions in Italy.”

World War II forced new changes in the club’s proceedings: Members were allowed to read articles instead of writing papers and to do Red Cross work during the meetings. The meetings themselves went on, although in 1944 they were reduced from 20 to 10 each year.

That schedule is still in effect, with 10 members writing and presenting papers inspired by an annual theme and the other 10 hosting the meetings with tea and accompanying snacks. The club also holds an annual picnic, which this year was replaced by the anniversary tea.

Notable Want to Know Club members of the 20th century have included Island poets Dionis Coffin Riggs, who presented 19 papers over 37 years of membership and also reported on the club’s meetings for the Gazette, and James Joyce Award winner Marion Lineaweaver.

Former Gazette columnist Gratia Harrington delivered her last Want to Know paper at the age of 99 and at least three current members were on hand for the club’s centennial a quarter-century ago, Ms. Stark said.

A club member also founded, in the early 1960s, the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services thrift shop now known as Chicken Alley.

Club dues, originally 25 cents a year, are currently $15 after peaking at $20 in 2015-2016. A portion is allocated to buy books for Island school libraries, Ms. Vardasz said. The club has also supported the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and other local causes.

In addition to its 20 active members, the Want to Know Club includes honorary members who, after presenting at least five papers over 10 years, have chosen to remain in the audience. There are also “ladies in waiting,” who have been recruited by active members to join when there is an opening.

Seasonal residents are not invited. The club has always been for year-round Islanders, Ms. Stark said.

“It was originally designed to be a winter organization, to provide a lifeline to knowledge in the winter,” she said. “Someone who goes away for three months to Florida—it wouldn’t be suitable for them.”

While tea was not a leading element of the group’s earliest meetings, it has since become a Want to Know Club staple. “Some members collect teacups,” said Linda Vardasz, a former executive in the media and arts management industries.

Ms. Stark’s collection of delicately colorful cups and saucers lines the center of a dining table in her Vineyard Haven home. “I have them always ready,” she said with a smile. Cups and saucers haven’t altered much over 125 years, but the Want to Know Club has weathered plenty of other technological changes. Meeting notes, once kept by hand, were later recorded on cassette tapes that still were in use when Ms. Stark joined nearly 10 years ago. The tapes finally gave way to floppy discs that were soon replaced by flash drives.

“Nobody writes it out any more,” Ms. Stark said.

Similarly, some Want to Know Club members are moving toward electronic presentations, using platforms such as Powerpoint. Computer slideshows are especially helpful for papers about art, according to Ms. Vardasz, but Ms. Smith prefers the old-school approach.

“Papers are better,” she said.