At the Scarsdale (NY) Woman’s Club, Talking Suffragents

March 13, 2019

What a delight to be back in Westchester to talk about The Suffragents. Last time was just shy of a year ago, for a March 25 address (Women’s History Month and all) to the  League of Women Voters Voters of Westchester County, also in Scarsdale.

The Scarsdale Woman’s Club building is grand and stately—a popular wedding and event venue, I’m told, and you can readily see why. In 2008, it was declared a national historic landmark and the New York Times wrote about it. It has a grand staircase and an authentic Delft fireplace that my host and inviter, Carol Sarcinella, told me was discovered and restored from under layers upon layers of black paint. Best for me was the copy of the Scarsdale Inquirer, which the club bought in 1919, owned for about 40 years, and then sold to buy the current club house. All this is mentioned in the Times article along with the club’s strong suffrage history:

Formed during World War I by women who were part of the suffragist movement, the club has a history of bringing together progressive women to promote philanthropy, community and culture, said Genevieve Johnson, a member of the club’s board.

In 1919, the Scarsdale Woman’s Club (which, despite its name, draws members from throughout Westchester) bought and ran the local newspaper, The Scarsdale Inquirer, because the members wanted a credible town paper, Ms. Johnson said. A copy of the first edition hangs on the clubhouse walls.

The women subsequently used the profits from the paper, which the club sold about 40 years later, to help buy the Lang home as a clubhouse. It cost $84,000. They also ran a tearoom to help pay off the mortgage.

I went looking for some scholarly sources on this fascinating episode in newspaperdom, but only found a paragraph in an article about a local Scarsdale public school controversy (“The Scarsdale Story,” by Kenneth M. Gould, in the January 1952 Humanist). It described the newspaper as

owned outright by the Scarsdale Woman’s Club and its entire personall is composed of women, including its editor Mrs. Ruth Nash Chalmers, an able intelligent and public-spirited journalist. From the beginning its coverage of the activities of the Committee of Ten [a controversy of the moment; the point of the Gould article] has been complete, as unbiased as humanly possible, and devoted to the highest standards of free speech and a free press. . . .

At the club, I took a few photos to remember what was an exceptionally lovely event.

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  • My inviter and hostess, Carol Sarcinella

For National History Day contestantsUpcoming — January 30:  Iona College. February 4: Sagamore Hill. March 27: Ephemera Society of America. March 30: TBA April 4: Avon-on-Sea Public Library, Avon CT June 4-6: “Métiers et professions des médias (XVIIIe-XXIe siècles),”  Université de Lausanne. Link to past appearances.

Coming March 2020: Front Pages, Front Lines: Media and the Fight for Women’s Suffrage, Linda Steiner, Carolyn Kitch, Brooke Kroeger, eds.