Women network at the Pewabic-tiled pool inside the Women’s City Club of Detroit building. After the club disbanded, it established a field of interest fund at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan that continues to support women’s causes in our region. Photo credit: Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library
When the Women’s City Club of Detroit was established in 1919, women didn’t have the right to vote in the United States.
The club was part of a wave of women’s organizations that promoted suffrage and higher education opportunities, and later evolved into networking hubs for women. The Women’s City Club of Detroit offered classes, programs, dinners, swimming and a library, as well as a professionally produced monthly magazine. During the 1930s, the Women’s City Club of Detroit was one of the largest women’s clubs in the world.
As women’s rights advanced during the 20th century and traditionally male clubs began to welcome women, membership declined. Eventually, the club stopped operations. But, it left a legacy that has outlived its existence by establishing the Women’s City Club of Detroit Fund at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.
This permanently endowed field of interest fund was created with a $132,000 donation in 1993. Its stated purpose is to “enhance the cultural, educational and/or civic endeavors of women with an interest in the welfare of southeastern Michigan.” Field of interest funds allow donors to support specific areas of interest that improve the vitality of our region.
At the start of 2022, the Women’s City Club of Detroit Fund was valued at $266,000 and had granted approximately $220,000 to 12 projects, demonstrating the power of permanent endowment. Grants have supported a range of causes including professional development for immigrant women, treatment services for female survivors of human trafficking and vocational and literacy programs for economically disadvantaged women.
The fund has leveraged an additional $300,000 — meaning the Community Foundation has pooled money from this fund with money from similar field of interest funds to make larger grants than any of them could grant alone.
Thirty years after the Women’s City Club of Detroit Fund was established, women have continued to make progress in many sectors. But, disparities remain. Women in 2021 earned 82 cents to every dollar earned by men (with an even wider gap for women of color), the United States has never had a female president and less than 2% of U.S. charitable giving goes to women’s and girls’ organizations.
Visit cfsem.org/women to make a positive impact and support women’s causes in southeastern Michigan.
This story first appeared in the Spring 2023 REPORT Newsletter