Women’s Club to celebrate major anniversary with ‘something for everyone’

Amanda Mainguy | Staff Photographer
Students of Chautauqua’s Schools of Fine and Performing Arts who have received Women’s Club scholarships mingle with members at their annual dinner.

Women have been influencing Chautauqua Institution’s development since it was founded in 1874.

By 1882, they were convening every morning to study and confer on topics of shared interest. Seven years later, the Woman’s Club was established and presided over by its first president, Northwestern University professor and administrator Emily Huntington Miller.

From 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday at its Club House, the CWC and its 26th president, Nancy Griffin Shadd, will hold its 125th Anniversary Celebration and Fair.

Outdoor fun, games and music begin at 1:30 p.m. There will be juggling, face painting and craft projects, as well as cupcakes and lemonade.

Tours of the newly renovated Women’s Club house, which was originally dedicated on July 3, 1929, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, will run throughout the afternoon. At 4:30 p.m., a special celebration will be held indoors for the Women’s Club’s eldest member, Mary Jane Shank, in honor of her 100th birthday on July 15.

The Women’s Club’s first video will play continuously. Thanks to the Brown/Griffin Family Fund, the seven-minute historical and contemporary film will bring celebrants up to date with the CWC’s first 125 years. In part, it shows the importance of the Women’s Club and Anna J. H. Pennybacker, who served as its president from 1917 to 1937, to the Institution’s survival during the Great Depression.

The film, “And the Beat Goes On,” will be accessible via the CWC’s website. It will also be shown on July 29 at the Hall of Christ as part of the Chautauqua Archives’ 2014 Heritage Lecture Series. The program for Week Six will include a reenactment of the 1892 suffrage debate at Chautauqua, during which reference was made to the CWC.

Barbara Vackar discovered the need for a CWC video during her six-year term as president.

“It was hard to explain the influence of the Women’s Club,” she said. “Many people have no idea of all the things we are doing and have no idea of the shoulders of giants we are standing on.”

With assistance from Chautauqua archivist Jon Schmitz, Vackar conducted the research last summer. She said she told photographer Torrey Johnson what to film, Betsy P. Martin wrote the script, Barbara Miller narrated the video, and Johnson edited it. Unable to complete it by the end of the 2013 season, Vackar, Martin and Miller — each of whom resides in Austin during the off-season — went to a recording studio there and finished it Oct. 1.

This summer, Vackar brought much of the material she used for the video to Smith Memorial Library for a season-long exhibit on the Women’s Club. It is on display on the library’s second floor.

Another highlight of the 125th anniversary celebration will be a Silent Auction organized by Gail Gamble.

“In past years we had a giant annual flea market, which just became too difficult to manage,” Gamble said. “Last year, we had a smaller silent auction instead and this year we expanded on it for the 125th anniversary. There will be something for everybody at Sunday’s silent auction and a great opportunity to find a bargain or hidden treasure.”

In keeping with the CWC’s anniversary year, 125 items will be auctioned. They include artwork, antique furniture, baskets filled with items, boating opportunities, children’s items and Trek bicycles, china, dinners, decorative accessories, jewelry, ladies accessories and a mink jacket.

The watercolor that Rita Argen Auerbach created in the Women’s Club house during her Chautauqua Speaks painting demonstration on July 10 will be one of the special items available, as well a painting by a descendant of Lewis Miller.

Shadd, a former trustee of the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House in Rochester, New York, has donated a limited edition Susan B. Anthony alligator “Purse with a Purpose” that was designed for the Museum by Abigail Riggs.

“Susan B. Anthony felt strongly that women should have access to money and specifically used the term ‘purse with a purpose,’ ” she said.

All proceeds from the silent auction and other special CWC events are to be used for the Women’s Club’s student scholarships, its programs and the CWC facility. Organized for charitable and educational purposes, the Women’s Club’s mission is to provide a venue and opportunities for enhancing fellowship, a wide range of programs that advance social, educational and service goals, and scholarships for students in Chautauqua Institution’s schools of fine and performing arts.

Under the leadership of its Scholarship Vice Chair Judy Oliver, the Women’s Club has raised $86,000 and awarded 56 scholarships for the 2014 season. Music School Festival Orchestra members have received eight. The remaining 48 were awarded to instrumentalists (brass, strings, piano and woodwind), and students in the dance, theater, visual arts and voice programs.

A national organization with members from all across the world, the Women’s Club is dedicated to enriching the lives of its members and the Chautauqua community. This summer, it is sponsoring more than 200 events and activities, including four season-long lecture series.

The Contemporary Issues Forum brings authors and pundits to the Hall of Philosophy on Saturday afternoons.

The Contemporary Issues Dialogue enables Chautauquans to converse each Wednesday afternoon at the Women’s Club House with one of the week’s morning Amphitheater speakers.

As part of the Chautauqua Speaks series, notable Chautauquans inform the community about their various areas of expertise on Thursday mornings.

On Monday afternoons, the Chautauqua Professional Women’s Network hosts a sample of speakers — mostly women — from a wide range of disciplines and professions to discuss their career paths and share their expertise.

“The Women’s Club’s 125th anniversary celebration and fair is wide-open to all,” Shadd said. “This is not an exclusive, members-only event. There’s something for everyone.”