The Woman’s Club of Sewickley Valley (WCSV) has been a formidable force in our area since 1887. It has exemplified the difference women can make in a community. The club’s history is rich. Let’s look at some of the highlights. They are chronicled in a delightful history of the organization written in 1997 to commemorate WCSV’s 100th anniversary.
The Sewickley Valley women joined together as an outgrowth of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs. The Federation was founded in New York in 1889 after a syndicated female writer was snubbed by the male-dominated New York Press Club. The NY women promoted “self-culture” but soon recognized the potential for civic and political influence. Mary Crowley Bassett, founder of WCSV followed the same path. Soon the fledgling club adopted the acronym HELP – Home, Education, Literature and Philanthropy.
During the early years, the club tackled some of the same problems that governmental departments are responsible for handling today. WCSV promoted early civic responsibility in our area. For example, the Department of Home established a kindergarten and a School of Domestic Science in two local schools and brought the need for cleaner streets and railway stations to the public’s attention. The Department of Education provided classes for members and non-members in foreign languages, current events, and history. Classes in poetry, novels and essays were sponsored by the Department of Literature as well as the highly anticipated annual ‘Plays” with members, family and friends all taking part in the production. The Department of Philanthropy brought the District Nurse and the Well Baby Clinic to the area. The former provided medical services for residents who were not able to afford a physician and the latter helped in the early diagnosis of pediatric health problems. Then, as World Wars hit the nation, WCSV postponed some of its activities to help the Red Cross.
WCSV’s early history is dotted with amusing stories that remind us how much the world has changed. There were debates with this club’s members and those of the Twentieth Century Club in Pittsburgh – two of which considered whether “the prevalence of fiction reading is evil” and whether “a college education fits a woman for home life.” Another historical document states, “The care and feeding of husbands and children continued to be our main occupation, and classes often included debates on the latest theories.”
The list of public figures who spoke at the club’s events over the years is nothing but jaw-dropping. There were headliners in politics, literature, art, science, entertainment, etc. lecturing and performing at the Edgeworth Club, where the meetings have been held since the club’s inception. The names of Fannie Farmer, Dr. Woodrow Wilson, Carl Sandburg, Amelia Earhart, The Trapp Family, Grant Wood, Margaret Mead, Dr. Jonas Salk, Dr. Joyce Brothers and Larry King, just to list a few, are found on the archived programs.
Over the years, as to be expected, the club has evolved into a different entity. The Club now focuses on giving the area’s residents the opportunity to socialize, gain information about what is going on locally and globally and enjoy entertaining programs.