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History

A Brief History of Wellesley-in-Philadelphia for Our 125th Anniversary


On May 9, 1891, twelve Wellesley College alumnae met at 4110 Spruce Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to found the Philadelphia Wellesley Club. Wellesley College, a liberal arts college for women, was founded just 21 years earlier in Wellesley, Mass. by founders Henry and Pauline Durant to provide educational opportunities to women. The college first opened its doors in 1875 and today continues its mission of educating “women who will make a difference in the world.”


At one of the earliest meetings of the Philadelphia Wellesley Club, Wellesley alumna and
professor Katherine Lee Bates, who would go on to write the lyrics to “America the
Beautiful,” sent her greetings to the newly-formed club. In the 125 years since those early
meetings, the club—since renamed Wellesley-in-Philadelphia (WIP) —has connected
alumnae in Philadelphia and surrounding areas. The original club constitution stated that
“the objects of the club shall be to promote social intercourse among its members and to
maintain their interest in the progress of the college,” and this goal remains true 125 years
later.


Though the club served as a social organization for its members, the club also stayed true
to Wellesley’s motto: Non Ministrari sed Ministrare, “Not to be ministered unto, but to
minister.” From the beginning, the club was dedicated to serving both its alma mater and
its community.


In its first decade, the club raised thousands of dollars for the college, and in 1903, the club
began to recruit young women in Philadelphia to attend Wellesley. Between the turn of the
century and World War I, the club raised funds to provide scholarships for young women in
the region, and the club was also engaged in civic activities in Philadelphia.


By 1914, there were 150 members of WIP; by 1915, there were 199. When a substantial
part of the college campus burned down in 1914, the club raised money to help the college
rebuild. During World War I, the club collected clothing and money for local, national, and
international projects, including the Red Cross, hospitals abroad in France, and the North
China Y.W.C.A. Beyond the home front, Wellesley alumnae and club members were active
in the war effort: in 1918, a club member from the Class of 1913 died in France while
working for the Red Cross.


By the 1920s, the club found a new home at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, in a Class of 1910 alumna and Art Alliance member’s studio. Wellesley President Ellen Fritz Pendleton visited the club for its 35th Anniversary in 1926, and in 1937, Wellesley President Mildred McAfee joined the club for a gala dinner at the Warwick Hotel. During the middle of the century, the club continued to raise scholarship funds to support several Philadelphia-area students attending the college.


In the past fifty years, the club has continued to serve the Philadelphia community and to
advance Wellesley’s mission to educate and empower women. Each year, club members
actively recruit and interview students in the Philadelphia region. In addition, the club
awards a number of Wellesley Book Awards to recognize rising high school seniors in the
area. The club has also been engaged in community service projects and has provided
thousands of alumnae with programming, including lectures, networking events, and
museum visits.

2016 marked the 125th anniversary of Wellesley-in-Philadelphia. We celebrated this
milestone with a party on Monday, July 25th at Independence Beer Garden. At this event, we will welcomed Wellesley alumnae in town for the Democratic National Convention and toasted Hillary Rodham Clinton ’69, the Wellesley woman who cracked the highest, hardest glass ceiling when she was officially nominated for President of the United States right here in Philadelphia.
 
Prepared by Hayley Lenahan ‘12, Kieran Pechter ‘04, and Erin Slattery ‘99 based on an essay in the Wellesley-in-Philadelphia Seventy-fifth Anniversary Directory written by Sidney
Marshall in 1965-1966.