The State College Woman’s Club is a philanthropic organization that since its founding in 1894 has donated more than $700,000 to charitable organizations that support health, education, arts, and other causes.
Frances Atherton, the wife of Penn State President George W. Atherton, invited a group of women to her home in 1894 to discuss organizing a woman’s literary club. The women, most of whom were the wives of faculty members, agreed to meet the first and third Tuesdays of each month.
The objective of the Woman’s Literary Society was to discuss “the questions of the day, social, political, literary, and artistic.” It had 36 charter members and dues were $1 a year. The group later changed its name to the State College Woman’s Club.
One of the club’s first service projects was purchasing a set of encyclopedias for the State College town library, and later members spearheaded the expansion of the library into donated space at the home of Charles Schlow on West College Avenue. Other early projects were the placement of trash receptacles along local streets, and funding the installation of a public drinking fountain with levels for animals and people.
The education of women was important to members, and in 1907 they petitioned for a Home Economics Department at Penn State to address the needs of female students. The club still sponsors college scholarships for two local students.
During the 1920s, the club established a “Rummage Room” for needy families, which was the forerunner of the Thrift Shop that is still in operation today. Initially, the room was in the basement of a building on College Avenue and during the next three decades moved several times.
In 1959, the club purchased property at 902 South Allen Street for a clubhouse. The three-bedroom home was remodeled and the carport enclosed for the Thrift Shop. Sales at the new shop increased so much that more space was needed. Three years later, the home was enlarged to increase the size of the shop and the construction of an auditorium.
For decades the club has included various interest groups that include literature, drama, art, music, bridge, and crafts. The Junior Woman’s Club of State College began as the junior department of the club and was active for many years.
By the time, the club held its 100th anniversary in 1994 it helping more than fifty local groups annually. In recent years, membership has declined and the Thrift Shop was forced to close for several months during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the club continues to provide financial support to local organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, Schlow Centre Region Library, Centre Volunteers in Medicine, and the Mid-State Literacy Council.
Burck, Jodi. “Celebrating 100 years, the State College Woman’s Club is still going strong,” Centre Daily Times, March 14, 1994.
Moore, Winona Morgan. History of the State College Woman’s Club, 1894-1895.
Shincovich, Susan Shank. “127 Years of Filling Needs,” Highlands Civic Association. https://statecollegehighlands.org/hearts-in-the-highlands (Accessed July 30, 2022).
First Published: August 8, 2022
Last Modified: September 25, 2022