Historical Note


The Women's Committee evolved from the successful Women's Centennial Executive Committee in 1883, which supported the Philadelphia Museum of Art and its school (formerly known as the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art). Initially known as the Associate Committee of Women until 1961, its achievements were impressive under the distinguished leadership of Mrs. Elizabeth Duane Gillespie, great-granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin. The Committee recognized the multiple needs of the Museum, the School of Industrial Art (now known as the University of the Arts) and the local arts community. Members have generously pooled their resources together and created many philanthropic opportunities.

With the opening of the school, the Women's Committee provided assistance to help the less fortunate attend by sponsoring scholarships, grants, student loans, and even a pension fund for the teachers. The consistent support by the Women's Committee continued through the twentieth century. The art school grew over time, eventually developing a one million dollar budget, and became a separate corporate entity in 1964. Now known as the University of the Arts, the school has become a distinguished institution with a vast array of arts programs.

As of 1925, the Committee had reached nearly a half million dollars in contributions for the school and Museum. Mrs. Gillespie's vision and promotion of women's leadership in nineteenth century America is a compelling legacy that has guided the momentum of the Women's Committee to this day. Through successful events and special projects, this skillful organization is a valuable partner in supporting the Museum community.

Works Consulted

Weimann, Jeanne Madeline. The Fair Women. Chicago: Academy, 1981.

Gillespie, Elizabeth Duane. A book of remembrance. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1901.

Austin, Nancy. Centennial Committee of Rhode Island and the founding of RISD, 1875-1877." Chap. 1 in Ph.D. thesis, Brown University, 2004.