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History

From Hilary MacGregor ’88, President of Wellesley-in-Pasadena:

During the summer of 2020 when Wellesley Club of Los Angeles (WCLA) gathered to celebrate their 100th anniversary, someone threw out a comment that no one knew the exact date the Club started. That’s all it took to send Avanti Prasanna, Wellesley Class of ’17 and a Software Engineer at Raytheon, on a mission to find out when the WCLA met for the first time. “Out of curiosity, I wondered if I could just Google it,” Prasanna said. “Maybe that’s the millennial in me.”  Instead, digging deep into the Los Angeles Public Library records, she unearthed more than 53 Los Angeles Times and society articles about the Southern California Wellesley Club, dating back to the founding meeting on March 28, 1896. “I eventually sent our president an email of the initial research, basically suggesting we might have our year wrong. And the rest is history…” Prasanna said. 

According to current College Records, the new founding date makes the Southern California Club the eighth oldest Wellesley alumnae club in the country. Articles traced early meetings across the City, from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles to Terminal Island. 

To put things in perspective, 1896 was the year industrialist Griffith J. Griffith donated 3000 acres to the City of Los Angeles, and nearly 25 years before Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment, earning women the right to vote.  Ambitious women, society women, and millionaires’ daughters met to raise money for the college, perform plays, talk politics, and share books they had written. Early Wellesley College alumnae from Southern California include one of the first female doctors in the country, a poet and novelist whose book cover is now part of a collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and one of the nation’s first female police officers.  Many early meetings took place at addresses that no longer exist, but in neighborhoods that still do, in Pasadena, Downtown LA, and San Pedro.

At the time, the club drew from all of Southern California, attracting alums from as far south as San Diego, and as far North as Santa Barbara.  By 1948, the clubs began to split. Today Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Diego and Santa Barbara each have their own clubs. While the original club no longer exists, its legacy is carried on in these four clubs.

From the Wellesley Magazine, Vol. 4, Issue 7, published April 18, 1896:

(This is the link to the the full magazine on the Wellesley College Digital Repository: https://repository.wellesley.edu/object/wellesley3217 ).