New York City
March 2003

Women’s City Club: 88 Years Old & Going Strong
by Sybil Maimin

Eleanor Roosevelt was a member. So were Helen Hayes, the actress; Dorothy Schiff, the New York Post publisher; Virginia Gildersleeve, commander of the WW II WAVES; three college presidents; officers of major corporations; the head of a major labor union; and a member of the US House of Representatives. These leading citizens shared in common with 650 current New York City women (and some men) membership in the Women’s City Club (WCC), a venerable 88 year old organization founded by one hundred suffragettes in 1915 to prepare females about to get the vote for meaningful participation in the policy-making arena. The club is still going strong, having broadened its agenda from studying, reporting, and advocating on issues that particularly impact women such as health care, working conditions, and educational opportunities to include more general community problems such as transportation, sanitation, affordable housing, youth issues, and the penal system. The organization is non-profit, non-partisan, and dependent upon member volunteers (in recent years sometimes assisted by interns from colleges in the city) for its important research and advocacy work.

The WCC has issued numerous important and influential in-depth reports on a wide range of issues during its long history, beginning with “Should Women Be Admitted to Columbia Law School,” published in 19l6 and cited in a recent celebration at the school of the 75th anniversary of the admission of female students. A breakthrough video about HIV/AIDS awareness for adolescents, produced in 1995, is shown in city public schools. In common with all its reports, a 2002 “Snapshot of New York City Charter Schools” involved extensive member research, field work, and analysis. We “try to bring something original to the table,” explains WCC president Blanche E. Lawton, and “become effective by bringing these findings before decision makers.” The organization produced the city’s first voter’s manual, first directory of housing options for homeless women, first full report on the need for better public housing, and has impacted schools, the juvenile penal system, and the status of women. The WCC is able to bring to issues “a slant, a point of view unique to women,” explains Lawton.

Five committees currently generate study topics—education, housing and planning, infrastructure, status of women, and arts and landmarks. Priority areas for 2003 are making government work, building a more livable city, and meeting human needs. Ad hoc task forces tackle immediate concerns requiring quick responses. An educated public is crucial to the WCC mission of fostering citizen participation in policy making. Lectures on important issues and tours of significant community sites are offered. Reports are made available. President Lawson relies on “person power, brain power, and funding to do the club’s projects.” Longtime member Elsie Diamond enthusiastically describes the “professional women who bring their expertise to the club, be it corporate-world skills, education, social work, or law. They have made me aware of how dynamic women are and how well they accomplish their goals.” More information about WCC can be found at

City: State:

Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email:
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2003.