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Women's Club of Lehigh University

Identifier: SC MS 0302

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of meeting minutes, manuscript notebooks, newspaper clippings, programs, membership directories, correspondence and a brief history of the Club by Mrs. Elmer Clark Bratt. Because of the lack in continuity of years, this collection is incomplete. In the early years, the Club can be considered more social because of no serious record keeping. By the 1970s, the Club began a more serious pattern of record keeping until the mid 1990s where the records have not come to Special Collections. Impossible to know who has the records from 1995 to 2010.


  • Creation: 1906-2010

Conditions Governing Access

Collection housed remotely. Users need to contact 24 hours in advance.

Conditions Governing Use

Collection is open for research. Please inquire about copyright information.

Biographical / Historical

The idea of a Lehigh University Women’s Club is believed to have occurred informally in March 1906 among a group of faculty wives including Mrs. William Esty, Mrs. John L. Stewart, Mrs. Charles L. Thornburg, Mrs. Winter L. Wilson and Mrs. Alpha A. Diefenderfer. These ladies knew of such clubs at other institutions and saw no reason that Lehigh University should not have such a club as well. The group went to the President’s wife, Mrs. Henry Drinker to talk over the plan. She thought favorably of the idea and proposed her home, The President’s House, as a meeting place. Mrs. Drinker proposed Wednesday afternoons once a month for tea. Thereby, the wife of Lehigh’s president held the office as Honorary President of the Club. The first formal meeting was held November 6, 1907 however there is debate if the year was 1906 or 1907. Upon the completion of Drown Hall in 1908, the group arranged to meet there and relieved Mrs. Drinker of the responsibilities of entertaining the group and until World War II years the group’s meetings were held in Drown Hall on the second floor. During World War I, the Women’s Club involved themselves in Red Cross activities wrapping bandages, sew and knit. In 1920 Mrs. John Stewart is reported to have written an early history of the Club (not available). By 1922 the third Tuesday of each month was established firmly as club meeting day. In the 1920’s the Club had opened itself to admitting men. The Club’s activities included dramatic and musical performances so the husbands were encouraged to involve themselves in their wives’ Club. So, the social activities involved more than a tea social helping faculty wives adjust to the new surroundings of their husbands’ faculty position in predominantly male atmosphere at Lehigh. In 1922 Lehigh’s new President was Charles R. Richards. Mrs. Richards felt that there should be more social activities for the faculty wives than just once a month. She became famous for her “at homes” always held on the first Tuesday of the month. These meetings became “command performances” and during the 1920s and 30s membership in the Lehigh Women’s Club was obligatory. By the late 1930’s some of the faculty wives rebelled hating to pay the membership dues of $1. During the War, the Club met off campus at the D.A.R. house on First Avenue, Bethlehem. At the end of the War membership was no longer obligatory. Times had changed. The meeting room in Drown was moved to the first floor and special parties in Grace Hall. When the Student Center was completed in 1958, the meetings were moved to that building and the Club could no longer provide their own refreshments but obliged to use the University catering service. This move destroyed the need for the committee get-togethers to plan social events and encourage the Lehigh spirit. In1966, Bertha (Mrs. Elmer C.) Bratt wrote another history of the Club (included in this collection). The Bratt history of the Women’s Club noted celebrating their 60th anniversary which indicates 1906 as the founding date of the Club. Just as the confusion of the founding year there also is the interchangeable use of Woman’s or Women’s. The 1922 Constitution notes the spelling as Woman’s but in later years the spelling became “Women’s”. The Club provided help to the newcomers whether faculty, staff or their spouses, visiting researchers and international students to encourage closer fellowship and service to better get acquainted. But times changed and by 2010 Lehigh University had a female president so the honorary position in the Women’s Club became problematic and the Club was told to disband. In Spring 2010, Lehigh University Women’s Club had its farewell social.


2 Linear Feet (2 cartons)

Language of Materials



A social history of faculty wives’ activities within Lehigh University’s history as an all- male school when socialization for women outside the home was not a common event is reflected in this collection. Gender, social and economic changes occurred to break down the class system in place among the faculty and their wives. The Club changed as women’s economical and career paths took them outside the home and beyond their faculty husbands’ own career.


Whenever possible an attempt was made to arrange chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Material was acquired at various times but the largest amount was donated by W. Beall Fowler, professor of Physics in 2015. His wife, Marlene “Linny” was a member of the Lehigh University Women’s Club. With the Fowler donation the assorted collections of Women’s Club material was consolidated into a format and chronological arrangement. The various aspects of the material were formerly identified as: L 378 M W872m Lehigh University. Woman’s Club. Minutes. Sept. 15, 1915-v. 22-27 cm. Manuscript notebooks, clippings, photographs, programs, etc. tipped in. 2je58 Sept. 1915-Feb. 1924; Mr. 1924-Apr. 1932: May 1932-Mar. 1943; Apr. 1943-May 1952; Je. 1952-May 1961; Oct. 1963-Apr. 1972: SC LVF L531/3 Lehigh University Women’s Club: Unmarked Fowler Collection.

Related Materials

Women’s Club vertical files Women’s Club – calendars – L 378 M W872c Women’s Club Minutes – L 378 M W872m

Ilhan Citak and Eleanor Nothelfer
November 10, 2015
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Lehigh University Special Collections Repository

Lehigh University
Linderman Library
30 Library Drive
Bethlehem PA 18045 USA
610-758-6091 (Fax)