A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WHITE PLAINS WOMAN’S CLUB
In 1904, fifteen women gathered together in a button factory at 52 Orawaupum Street in White Plains, and called themselves The Fortnightly Literary Club. In 1916, it evolved into the Contemporary Club and is now known as The Woman’s Club of White Plains. From this modest beginning grew one of the largest Woman’s Clubs in the United States; which at one time boasted a membership of 900. Currently, we still enjoy one of the largest enrollments in our area.
Through savvy fundraising and investing, members were able to purchase what was originally the C.V. Rich mansion in 1931. Built in 1911, it was originally situated on over 40 acres of land. Presently, the clubhouse remains the centerpiece of a 3-acre plot. The carriage house is now a private home on Ridgeway Circle.
With increased membership of what was then known as “The Contemporary Club,” the addition of an auditorium/ballroom became necessary. Completed in 1932, plans originally incorporated a full balcony – hence the high ceilings. The art deco sconces are original and in working order. Even though our location at that time was considered to be “ in the country,” this venue attracted well-known entertainers of the era, including Tallulah Bankhead, Ethel Barrymore, and Cora Witherspoon.
The history of the Woman’s Club of White Plains is one of caring and dedication by its members. Even a casual observer can discern how attention is given to the details around our lovely clubhouse, which is maintained appropriately for a home of its era, and updated tastefully. For instance, we now enjoy air conditioning in these century old rooms!
The mission of our Club is specifically devoted to the promotion of civic and educational programs in the community. Throughout the year, the Club’s philanthropy committee and members are busy planning and performing community service, and conduct wide ranging events to support local charities. We emphasize giving back to the community, both financially and “in kind,” and are always open to suggestion for future deserving applicants. Virtually all of White Plains has benefited at one time or another from our fund raising efforts, including the library, the scholarship committee at the high school, the YWCA, outreach to battered women, homeless families, the waiting room at the Courthouse, and many others. Our members become informed by these efforts, and have the result of producing a “snowball effect,” as members continue to reach out to these local organizations.
While the Club enriches White Plains in general, members do enjoy their own social functions and the companionship of their fellow members. The year is marked by many opportunities to socialize with one another and guests. These include craft fairs, gala dinner dances, film nights, casual dinners, the annual Holdiday Tea for members and their guests and speakers, entertainers and lecturers covering a wide range of topics.
The White Plains Woman’s Club remains proud of its history and traditions, which is well illustrated by it members of the past 100 years. We hope to continue our mission well into the 21st century, incorporating the needs of the coming generations while remaining true to our roots.