Question of the Week
Organized in 1894 by prominent Philadelphia women, what club sought to promote “by education and active cooperation a higher public spirit and better public order”?
Answer: The Civic Club of Philadelphia
Organized in 1894, the Civic Club of Philadelphia joined prominent Philadelphia women, like Cornelia Frothingham, Mary Channing Wister, Alice Potter Lippincott, Caroline Brown Lea, and Sarah Yorke Stevenson, who served as the club’s first president. The group sought to promote "by education and active cooperation a higher public spirit and better public order."
Initially, the club was organized into four departments: municipal government, education, social service, and art. Each of these departments operated somewhat autonomously and created its own committees or task forces. For example, the education department managed committees on public schools, free libraries, and free kindergarten classes, while the municipal government department included committees on sanitation, civil service reform, and police patrons.
Despite its interest in social and political reform, the Civic Club refused, on several occasions, to participate as "disfranchised citizens" in meetings of the Anti-Spoils League and the National Civil Service Reform Convention. By the 1920s, after the passage on the nineteenth amendment granting suffrage to women, the club structure changed. Departments were abandoned and the committees were reduced in number with new, more limited charges. In 1959, the membership voted the Civic Club of Philadelphia out of existence and transferred its assets to other civic organizations.
HSP’s collection of Civic Club of Philadelphia records (#1813) consists of papers from the entire span of the club’s existence, dating from 1894 to 1959, and includes minutes, annual reports, bulletins, calendars, and scrapbooks.
Image: Civic Club of Philadelphia seal, print (circa 1913), In memoriam: Mrs. Owen Wister (Wi* .902), The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.