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Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Records

Identifier: WCR

Scope and Contents

In the collection, the minute books of the monthly and annual meetings dating from 1883 to 1970 document the direction the Committee took on major concerns and issues. It is possible to trace the evolution of an agenda item to special committees being appointed by their area of expertise. The members addressed such needs as starting the volunteer programs to entertaining the most prominent families of Philadelphia.

With special event planning, the strategies unfold to reveal the expertise of the Women's Committee to meet the necessary funding needs. One of the first events documented in the records is the "The World of Porcelain," in 1969, which raised funds to support the Volunteer guides and Park House tour guides. The van Gogh Dinner plans in 1970, include facsimile correspondence from Dr. V.W. van Gogh, Vincent's nephew, which displays his enthusiasm in being invited to the festivities at the Museum.

In 1974, the success of the first national craft show, "A Touch of Gold" proved to be an important precedent for the annual Philadelphia Craft Show. The Women's Committee's ongoing dedication in promoting American artistic talent is evident by records of the process for this prestigious event. This theme is also used in the widely successful Art Sales and Rental Gallery at the Museum. Starting in 1965, local artisans have displayed a diverse selection of creations in the shop for sale. The Gallery also runs a profitable corporate rental service.

The Women's Committee sponsored special projects. In 1989, the Women's Committee proposed the idea to publish a unique cookbook, one that displayed the artwork of the museum with the recipes. The fundraising project demonstrated effective planning and marketing abilities, and received favorable sales of one hundred thousand dollars in 1990 one year after the cookbook was published. The records show the many resources that were used in the marketing of the cookbook.

Other projects include volunteer and docent programs needed for museum and Park House tours that have become popular over the years. The records show how the Women's Committee teamed with other museums at local and national conferences and learned how to better support and promote the museum. Ledgers, cashbooks, and audits show attention to details as the organization recorded its monetary history according to best business practice.


  • 1883-1989, undated


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research. Series VI "Financial Records" may only be consulted at the discretion of the Archivist.

Conditions Governing Use

The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Records is the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes where stated.

Biographical / Historical

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

  1. Chicago: Academy, 1981. Weimann, Jeanne Madeline The Fair Women.
  2. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1901. Gillespie, Elizabeth Duane A book of remembrance.
  3. Chap. 1 in Ph.D. thesis, Brown University, 2004. Austin, Nancy Centennial Committee of Rhode Island and the founding of RISD, 1875-1877."


14.5 linear feet

Language of Materials



The collection documents the role of the Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in support of the museum, its affiliates, and the Philadelphia arts community. The records illustrate approximately one hundred and twenty five years of various events and programs. The collection consists of minute books, scrapbooks, financial records, reports, and plans of events, marketing strategies, public relations, and special projects such as publishing a cookbook.


The collection has been arranged into six series in original order. They are "Administrative," "Events Planning," "Special Projects," "Programs," "Alternate Format," and "Financial Records."

Custodial History

Materials in the collection have been generated or collected by members of The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They are currently being held by the museum Archives.

Processing Information

These materials were arranged and described by Deborah DelCollo. Funded by a grant from The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Guide to the Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Records
Finding aid prepared by Deborah DelCollo
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Funded by a grant from Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Repository Details

Part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives Repository

Philadelphia Museum of Art
PO Box 7646
Philadelphia PA 19101-7646 United States