1400 Washington AveAlbanyNY
1400 Washington AveAlbanyNY

Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs Records

1938-1991

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Abstract

These records document the activities and membership of the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs (ESFWC) - the umbrella organization of New York State African-American women's groups - from 1938-1991. The collection also includes records from affiliated organizations: the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC) and the Northeast Federation of Women's Clubs (NFWC).

Summary

Creator:
Empire State Federation Of Women's Clubs
Date Coverage:
1938-1991
Quantity:
3.46 cubic ft.

Founded in Brooklyn in 1908 by Alice Wiley Seay, the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs (ESFWC) is the umbrella organization of New York State African-American women's groups.

The women who started the ESFWC had two main goals: to do "uplift work among girls and young women" and to care for the aged Harriet Tubman and her Auburn, Cayuga County home. Narrowly speaking, the latter mission ended with Tubman's death in 1913 and the refusal of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which owned her property, to lease or sell it to the ESFWC; however, in subsequent years the organization has devoted itself to preserving historic sites associated with African-American leaders such as Frederick Douglass.

The former mission, performing "uplift work among girls and young women," has shaped the group's activities throughout the entirety of its existence. The organization consistently contributed to charitable causes and scholarship funds benefiting African-American girls and young women, and after the Second World War began sponsoring beauty pageants and organizing girls' clubs. The girls' clubs were affiliated with the Empire State Federation of Girls' Clubs, which was established in 1933 and met during the ESFWC's annual conventions. In the 1960's, the ESFWC began assisting in the organizing of boys' clubs, and in late 1987 or early 1988 the Empire State Federation of Girls' Clubs became the Empire State Federation of Youth Clubs.

Throughout its history, the group's efforts to aid African-American girls have been rooted in larger goals: ensuring the physical, intellectual and spiritual well-being of children and adolescents of both sexes and improving the conditions in which African-Americans and people of all races live, learn, and labor. The group has staunchly opposed all forms of racial prejudice and supported the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Urban League, and the civil rights movement. During the postwar period, it became interested in the work of Planned Parenthood and the United Nations, and in the 1960's devoted increasing attention to health care issues.

The ESFWC has long been affiliated to the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC), which was founded in 1896 and rapidly became the largest organization of African-American women in the United States. Heavily influenced by its members' staunch Christian faith and committed to the advancement of African-American women, children, and men and the preservation of African-American history, the NACWC's orientation has closely paralleled that of the ESFWC. In addition to sending funds to the NACWC national offices and delegates to its annual convention, the ESFWC has also been active in the NACWC's regional organization, the Northeastern Federation of Women's Clubs (NFWC), to which it affiliated in 1910.

The ESFWC is headed by a president and an executive board elected at the organization's annual conventions. Seated on the executive board are the board chairman/person, first and second vice-presidents, recording secretary, corresponding secretary, treasurer, financial secretary, parliamentarian, auditor, chaplain, the presidents of each of the ESFWC's regional subdivisions, and the presidents of all of the ESFWC's constituent clubs. Until the late 1970's, the board met once immediately before or during the organization's July annual convention and once during the early autumn or early winter. After that time, the board began meeting immediately before and after the annual convention in July and during each quarter of the year. Special committees charged with planning the convention, investigating various issues, and performing other work are appointed by the president.

These records document the activities and membership of the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs (ESFWC) from 1939-1991. Materials in the collection include meeting minutes, annual convention programs and ephemera, account books, correspondence, and materials concerning the ESFWC's constituent organizations, the Northeastern Federation of Women's Clubs (NFWC) and the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC). Records span from 1938-1991, but the bulk of them were generated in 1939-44, 1946-64, and 1968-1991.

The Executive Board and Annual Convention Minutes document in detail the membership levels and financial status of the organization and its political, charitable, and social activities. Some highlights include discussion of letters sent to presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman concerning racial discrimination in the armed forces, defense industries and federal housing programs and to the mayor of Albany, Georgia concerning the treatment of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy. Unfortunately, materials documenting the ESFWC's reaction to and support for the upsurge of African-American activism in the 1960's are scarce; the meeting minutes from 1964-68 are missing, and the surviving documents created in the 1960's and early 1970's typically concern internal administrative affairs.

The minutes do detail the ESFWC's position on a broad array of social issues. The organization has vocally opposed all forms of racial prejudice. It condemned lynching (1943, 1947) and discrimination in the armed forces, defense industries, and federal housing programs (1942-43, 1946), and the punitive attitude of some local officials who disbursed Aid to Families with Dependent Children (1961) benefits. It supported the civil rights struggle that took place in the South during the 1950's and 1960's; however, it apparently had little use for the black-power movement (1973). The ESFWC also took interest in a number of issues that affect women. It discussed the Equal Rights Amendment in 1944 and in the 1970's urged its ratification. It was interested in the work of Planned Parenthood (1947, 1950) and in the issue of abortion (1970; see also ESFWC Annual Convention Materials, 1975). Although its relations with white women's organizations are hard to determine, in 1963 it decided to allow white women to become members.

The minutes also document the ESFWC's interest in education and world peace. It urged the New York State Education Department to include African-American history in school curricula (1964) and evidently opposed the increasing acceptance of "black English" (1973). At least some of its members wanted Governor Hugh Carey to explain why the monies generated by the state lottery were not sufficient to prevent teacher layoffs and school budget cutbacks (see ESFWC Annual Convention Materials, 1975). As of 1938, the organization had a Peace Council and remained keenly interested in averting armed conflict (1962). The organization took an active interest in the United Nations (1950), and members apparently toured United Nations headquarters whenever an ESFWC convention was held in New York City.

Information about the organization's finances is scattered throughout the Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes. However, financial records generated during the 1960's and early 1970's are contained largely in the Subject Files of the Financial Secretary and the Subject Files of the Treasurer. Many of these records were apparently created and compiled by Ruth Hurd Inman, who served as the financial secretary (1962-66) and treasurer (1966-c.1970) during these years. In keeping with the organization's rules, Inman seems to have passed them on to Virginia Poyer, who served as financial secretary (1968-73) and added to them.

Records documenting the ESFWC's links to the NFWC and the NACWC are contained largely within the General Subject Files. However, the Correspondence of the President and the correspondence contained in the Subject Files of the Financial Secretary also shed light upon the relations of the ESFWC to its parent organizations. ESFWC officers sometimes served on the executive boards of the NFWC and the NACWC, and some of the letters they received concerned their work on behalf of these organizations.

Materials documenting the activities of constituent clubs and biographical information about ESFWC members and officers are relatively sparse, but information about some clubs and clubwomen is contained in the Correspondence of the President, the ESFWC Subject Files, the correspondence contained in the Subject Files of the Financial Secretary, the Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes. The 1980 annual convention minutes, which consist largely of manuscript reports of constituent clubs' activities, are especially detailed. The NACWC Per Capita Tax Reports contained within the Subject Files of the Financial Secretary are also of particular interest: they list the name and address of every woman who belonged to the ESFWC between 1961 and 1972.

Some of the older documents in the collection are fragile and should be handled carefully. In a few instances, documents have been photocopied for preservation purposes; pencilled notations appear on all photocopied materials. The records were in some instances clearly out of order and were thus rearranged to facilitate use; however, the original order has been respected whenever possible. The subject files concerning the ESFWC's administrative and social service activities and the work of organizations in which the ESFWC took an active interest are the most extensively reconstructed.

The collection is organized into the following series:

Series 1-3 are arranged chronologically. Series 4 is arranged alphabetically. Series 5-7 are arranged alphabetically by subject.

Some of the items in this collection were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, by the M.C. Lawton Civic and Cultural Club, of Albany, NY, on 17 April 1990. Others were donated on 16 November 1990 by Virginia Poyer, Buenia Brown, and Isabell Harris of the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs.

Processed by: Geoffrey A. Huth, Bonita L. Weddle

Collection record created by: This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on

Published: 2017-04-14 10:07:39 -0400

Encoded in EAD by Elizabeth Kerr, 2012

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Copyright Statement

The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs Records, 1938-1991. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as [shortened name]).

Contents of Collection

Quantity: 0.73 cubic ft.
Arranged chronologically.
This series consists chiefly of minutes of the meetings of the ESFWC executive board (1939-1944, 1946-1964, 1968, 1970-1971, 1973-1976, 1979, 1982-1983, 1985-1986, 1988-1989) and annual convention (1939-1944, 1946-1964, 1970-1971, 1973-1976, 1980, 1982, 1983-1990). Between 1939-1944 and 1946-1964, the minutes were recorded in bound ledgers. From 1968 onward, they consist of loose manuscript or typescript materials. Information concerning the financial affairs of the organization is scattered throughout. From 1968 onward, routine correspondence that was discussed at meetings is also included; these materials, which were generated by the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs and other organizations, were inserted into the minutes by ESFWC officers and have thus been kept in place. The minutes detail the ESFWC's position on a broad array of social issues, including lynching (1943, 1947), discrimination in the armed forces, defense industries, and federal housing programs (1942-43, 1946), and the punitive attitude of some local officials who disbursed Aid to Families with Dependent Children benefits (1961). The minutes also document the EFSWC's support for the civil rights struggle that took place in the South during the 1950's and 1960's and its apparent dislike of the black-power movement (1973). In addition, the minutes chronicle the organization's interest in the Equal Rights Amendment (1944; 1970's), the work of Planned Parenthood (1947, 1950), the issue of abortion (1970; see also ESFWC Annual Convention Materials, 1975), and its decision to allow white women to become members (1963). Other topics discussed include education (1964, 1973; see also ESFWC Annual Convention Materials, 1975), peace (1930's, 1962), and the work of the United Nations (1950's).
BoxFolderContentsDate

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1 1Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1938-1956

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1 2Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1957-1964

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1 3Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1961-1968

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1 4Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1961-1964

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1 5Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1968-1971

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1 6Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1973

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1 7Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1974

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1 8Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1975

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1 9Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1976

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1 10Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1978-1980

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1 11Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1981-1982

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2 1Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1983

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2 2Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1984

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2 3Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1985

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2 4Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1986

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2 5Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1987-1988

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2 6Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1989-1990
Quantity: 0.4 cubic ft.
Arranged chronologically.
This series consists of convention programs and souvenir journals (1944, 1955-1956, 1958, 1961, 1965-1966, 1968-1969, 1974, 1977-1978, 1984, 1986-1988, 1990-1991), fliers encouraging clubwomen to attend conventions, drafts of resolutions to be forwarded at conventions, and ephemera. Some of the programs detail meeting agendas and the results of officer elections; most of the souvenir journals consist largely of advertisements taken out by the group's members and supporters. The resolutions, which often concern broad public-policy initiatives, are of particular interest (1975).
BoxFolderContentsDate

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1 1Annual Convention Materials1944

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1 2Annual Convention Materials1955

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1 3Annual Convention Materials1956

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1 4Annual Convention Materials1958

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1 5Annual Convention Materials1959

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1 6Annual Convention Materials1961

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1 7Annual Convention Materials1961

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1 8Annual Convention Materials1963

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1 9Annual Convention Materials1964

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1 10Annual Convention Materials1965

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1 11Annual Convention Materials1966

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1 12Annual Convention Materials1968

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1 13Annual Convention Materials1969

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1 14Annual Convention Materials1970

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1 15Annual Convention Materials1971

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1 16Annual Convention Materials1972

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1 17Annual Convention Materials1973

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1 18Annual Convention Materials1974

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1 19Annual Convention Materials1975

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1 20Annual Convention Materials1976

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1 21Annual Convention Materials1977

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1 22Annual Convention Materials1978

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1 23Annual Convention Materials1979

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1 24Annual Convention Materials1980

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1 25Annual Convention Materials1981

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1 26Annual Convention Materials1983

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1 27Annual Convention Materials1984

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1 28Annual Convention Materials1986

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1 29Annual Convention Materials1987

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1 30Annual Convention Materials1988

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1 31Annual Convention Materials1989

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1 32Annual Convention Materials1990

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1 33Annual Convention Materials1991
Quantity: 0.17 cubic ft.
Arranged chronologically.
Most of the materials in this series, which includes letters received by and copies of correspondence written by the president, concern routine organizational business. However, some of the letters shed light on the friendships that helped to sustain club women and the pleasures and frustrations of serving as an ESFWC officer.
BoxFolderContentsDate

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1 1Correspondence of President1954-1969

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1 2Correspondence of President1973-1977

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1 3Correspondence of President1978-1981

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1 4Correspondence of President1986-1990
Quantity: 1.0 cubic ft.
Arranged alphabetically.
This series consists of records created or maintained by the ESFWC financial secretary. Materials include annual convention forms (1960, 1962, 1964), annual convention registration lists (c.1964-1967) and an executive board meeting registration list (1966) showing fees paid, correspondence (1961, 1962-1967, 1969), and financial records pertaining to the Empire State Association of Girls (1962, 1964-1966). Ledgers (1948-1967) and financial reports (1965-1966, 1969-1972, 1978-1981) detailing receipts and disbursements and forms documenting constituent club members' payment of dues to the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs or, in a few instances, Northeast Federation of Women's Clubs (1961-1971) dominate the series. Other records include financial reports concerning the ESFWC's annual Miss Empire State Contest (1962, 1969) and member contributions to Negro Braille magazine (c. 1969) and to the Victoria Earle Matthews Scholarship Fund for African-American girls (c. 1969, 1972).
BoxFolderContentsDate

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1 2Annual Convention Credential Forms1960

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1 2Annual Convention Credential Forms1962

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1 3Annual Convention Credential Forms1964

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1 5Annual Convention Registration1965-1967

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1 6Bank Statements and Banking Documentsca. 1965-1985

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1 7Budgets and Reports of Budget Commitee1971-ca. 1980

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1 8Club Woman of the Year Contest1970

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1 9Correspondence1961

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1 10Correspondence1963

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1 11Correspondence1964

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1 12Correspondence1965

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1 13Correspondence1966

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1 14Correspondence1967

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1 15Correspondence1969

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1 16Correspondence1970-1973

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1 17Empire State Association of Girls' Clubs Reports and NACWC Per Capita Tax Reports1964-1966

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1 18Executive Board Meeting Registration1966-ca. 1970

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1 19Financial Reports1965-1981

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1 20Ledger1948-1962

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1 21Ledger1963-1965

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1 22Ledger1963-1966

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1 23Ledger1964-1967

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1 24Mink Stole Committee Report1972

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1 25Miss Empire State Contest1962-1969

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1 26NACWC Per Capita Tax Reports1961-1962

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1 27NACWC Per Capita Tax Reports1963

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1 28NACWC Per Capita Tax Reports1964

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1 29NACWC Per Capita Tax Reports1965

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1 30NACWC Per Capita Tax Reports1966

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1 31NACWC Per Capita Tax Reports1967

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1 32NACWC Per Capita Tax Reports1968

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1 33NACWC Per Capita Tax Reports1969

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1 34NACWC Per Capita Tax Reports1970

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1 35NACWC Per Capita Tax Reports1971

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1 36NACWC Per Capita Tax Reports1972

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1 37Negro Braille Magazine Contributionsca. 1969

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1 38Reports of Auditor1966-1971

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1 39Reports of Ways and Means Commitee1970-1971

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1 40Victoria Earle Matthews Scholarship Fund Contributions1969-1972
Quantity: 0.20 cubic ft.
Arranged alphabetically by subject.
This series consists of materials generated or maintained by the ESFWC treasurer. Materials include correspondence (1960), financial reports (1964-1968, 1970-1972, 1977), ledgers (1958-1961, 1967-1968) detailing receipts and disbursements, miscellaneous receipts (1966, 1969-1973) that were not listed or not itemized in financial reports drafted by the treasurer or the financial secretary, a photocopy of the passbook of the Newburgh Savings Bank savings account used to fund the ESFWC's special projects (1938-1964) and documents relating to the account, and a report from the ESFWC Raffle Committee (1969). Also included in this series are the expense reports (1966-1976) turned in by other ESFWC. NB: although the treasurer was customarily responsible for reimbursing officers, the ledgers and reports created by the financial secretary reveal that the financial secretary occasionally performed this task.
BoxFolderContentsDate

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1 1Correspondence1960

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1 2Expense Reports of Officers and Committees1966-1981

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1 3Financial Reports1964-1977

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1 4Ledger1958-1961

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1 5Ledger1967-1968

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1 6Miscellaneous Receipts1966-1973

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1 7Newburgh Project Fund Account Passbook and Trust Account Card1938-1964

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1 8Raffle Committee Report1969
Quantity: 0.40 cubic ft.
Arranged alphabetically by subject.
This series contains materials detailing the organizational structure and functions of the ESFWC. Records include photocopies of the ESFWC's 1927 certificate of incorporation and the 1987 documents amending its incorporation, annual reports of the president (1974-1975, 1977), the ESFWC constitution and bylaws (c. 1966, 1968, 1978), membership cards (c.1970, 1981), membership directories and club rosters (1963, circa1965, 1966, 1970, 1973-1977, 1983), newsletters (c.1955, 1960, 1965, circa1971, 1974-1976, 1978-80), reports of the Constitution Revision Committee (1976, circa1987), and state programs of action (1980, circa1982). Other materials include the ESFWC song (1971?), a prayer litany (undated), records documenting annual observances of Harriet Tubman Day (1974-1975), and a partial organizational history (1952). Also included are materials documenting the activities of a constituent club, the F. Willia Davis Woman's Club of New Rochelle (1979), and biographical information about several club members (1971, 1973, 1978-1981, 1987).
BoxFolderContentsDate

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1 11927 Certificate of Incorporation and 1987 Certificate of Amendment1927, 1987

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1 2Annual Reports of President1974-1977

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1 3Awards Luncheon and Dinner Programs1970-1990

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1 4Biographical Information About Members1971-1987

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1 5Constitution and Bylawsca. 1966-1978

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1 6Correspondence of Journal Chairman1960

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1 7Electoral ProcedureUndated

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1 9"Family"/"The International Year of the Family"Undated

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1 10F. Willia Davis Woman's Club, Inc.1967-1979

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1 11Harriet Tubman Day1974-1975

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1 12History of Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs1952

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1 13M.C. Lawton Club Fiftieth Anniversary Photograph1969

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1 14Member Addresses1964-ca. 1979

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1 15Membership Application FormsUndated

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1 16Membership Cardsca. 1970-1981

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1 17Membership Directories, Club Rosters, and Lists of Officers1963-1983

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1 18Newslettersca. 1955-1980

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1 19Prayer LitanyUndated

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1 20Press Releases1980

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1 21Reports of Constitution Revision Commitee1976

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1 22Reports to Northeastern Federation of Women's Clubs1975-1981

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1 23State Programs1980-1982

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1 24Stay at Home Tea1966
Quantity: 0.40 cubic ft.
Arranged alphabetically by subject.
This series contains materials generated by the Northeastern Federation of Women and the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs and collected by the ESFWC. Records created by the NFWC include executive board and annual convention minutes (1967, 1981, 1989), programs and other convention materials (1975, 1979, 1981, 1987), and newsletters (1958, 1972, 1974, 1977-1978). Records documenting the activities of the NACWC include a copy of the constitution (undated), convention minutes (1968, 1978, 1980, 1982), programs and other convention materials (1952, 1970, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1988, 1990), periodicals (1972, 1976-1979), and reports of the president (1987). A handful of documents in this series concern the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1980 ?) and the National Urban League (1974, 1979), both of which received funds from the ESFWC. Other materials document social issues and other organizations in which the ESFWC took an interest, among them the Front Royal Educational Fund Committee (c.1959), the New Rochelle Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs (1975), and the Westchester County Section of the National Council of Negro Women (1990).
BoxFolderContentsDate

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1 1Black Entertainment Television, "AIDS in the Black Community"1987

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1 2Front Royal Educational Fund Committeeca. 1959

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1 3Massachusetts State Union of Women's Clubs1959

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1 4National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peopleca. 1980

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1 5National Association of Colored Women's Clubs ConstitutionUndated

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1 6National Association of Colored Women's Clubs Annual Convention Materials1952-1990

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1 7National Association of Colored Women's Clubs Annual Convention Minutes1968-1982

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1 8National Association of Colored Women's Clubs Periodicals1972-1979

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1 9National Association of Colored Women's Clubs President's Report1987

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1 10National Association of Colored Women's Clubs/United Negro College Fund1981

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1 11National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, "Traditionally Black Public Colleges..."1978

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1 12National Urban League1974-1979

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1 13New Jersey State Federation of Women's Clubs1990

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1 14New Rochelle Club, National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Inc.1975

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1 15New Rochelle Community Action Agency, "It's Your Community"1966

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1 16Northeastern Federation of Women's Clubs Annual Convention Materials1975-1987

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1 17Northeastern Federation of Women's Clubs Executive Board and Annual Convention Meeting Minutes1967-1989

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1 18Northeastern Federation of Women's Clubs Lists of Officersca. 1971-ca. 1978

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1 19Northeastern Federation of Women's Clubs Newsletters1958-1978

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1 20Westchester County Section, National Council of Negro Women, Inc.1990