History of the Cleveland Women's City Club Foundation

The Cleveland Women's City Club Foundation was established in 1948 by the Women's City Club of Cleveland, Ohio. Initially funded by a bequest from Katherine Ward Burrell, the foundation supported research relating to the problems of women. The mission was broadly defined and included support for education, public affairs, and effective government administration. The first president of the foundation was Verda L. Stewart, a former president of the Women's City Club. From the first board meeting, discussions and debate concerning the relationship between the Women's City Club and the Foundation ensued. This issue and the mission of the foundation itself were enduring topics until the Women's City Club terminated operations in 2005.

Early projects included a study of the conditions at the Women's Division at the House of Correction and a project to direct the development of "the Normal Child." During the 1950s, the foundation dedicated the Roberta Holden Bole Memorial Fund and redecorated the White Cottage at the Cleveland State Hospital. Other projects in the 1950s included classes for gifted children, a television series for older people, a speaker's series, and a remodeled kitchen at the House of Correction. Aside from bequests occasional gifts, the Foundation earned income through annual membership solicitations at a variety of giving levels and with varying degrees of success. During the 1960s, the foundation established the Lulu Diehl Memorial Fund and supported organizations such as the Camp Fire Girls, Council on Human Relations, the Welfare Federation of Cleveland, the Ohio Consumer's League, and the Girls in Crisis Conference. The foundation also created a beautification project on the North side of Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland, Ohio, and promoted music therapy for emotionally disturbed children. In 1961, the foundation established the Cleveland Arts Prize in order to recognize local talent in the arts. During the 1970s, the foundation supported the DePaul Maternity and Infant Home, sponsored a seminar on pollution, and funded preservation initiatives of the Cleveland Landmarks Commission. Significant support was given to arts and culture organizations during this decade, including the Ballet Guild, the Cleveland Playhouse, Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, the Cleveland Board of Education Bicentennial Arts Program, Cleveland Heritage Park, and West Shore Concerts. The decade of the 1980s saw the foundation supporting efforts to support family development. Projects that promoted family budget counseling and parent education were funded. Support for arts and culture initiatives continued with grants to the Cleveland Orchestra and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Additionally, Martha Joseph led a successful drive to raise $100,000 to endow the Cleveland Arts Prize. Throughout the 1960s-1980s, the Women's City Club experienced declining membership, and its leaders reacted with increased time commitments to strengthen the organization. Since most foundation leaders were leaders in the Women's City Club, the work of the foundation became more reactive in nature as its leaders had less time to devote to new foundation initiatives. During the late 1980s, the relationship between the Club and the Foundation were strained as they tried to define their relationship to each other, and in 1990 the president and several board members of the Foundation resigned. Led by Maxine Goodman Levin, the Club and the Foundation began to work toward a formal, conciliatory relationship. The two organizations united around a joint project for the Betty Ott Garden for the Blind at the City Greenhouse at Cleveland's Rockefeller Cultural Garden. The project was a success, and the relationship between the Club and Foundation was repaired. During the 1990s, the Foundation's endowment had grown due to professional asset management, but its annual giving continued to be modest since the overall size of the endowment was still quite small. Until the late 1960s, annual giving did not exceed $4,000, and during the 1970s through the 1990s annual giving did not exceed $20,000. The Foundation supported a wide variety of community arts initiatives, women's programs, heath projects, and social service organizations.

click here to view the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History entry for the Women's City Club of Cleveland