City Club: 88 Years Old & Going Strong
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 www.wccny.org.
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