Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Woman's Club of Schenectady

The Woman's Club of Schenectady drama department during a 1948 parade in Schenectady.
Photograph from the Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.
The Woman’s Club of Schenectady was organized after a discussion between two local university women seeking to form a woman’s club for “mutual improvement.” The first meeting was held at the home of Rebecca Hoffman on the grounds of Union College in 1900. The organization joined the state federation and general federation of women’s clubs that year. The first president of the club was Mrs. Louise H. Westover. The club was incorporated in 1908 and joined the Schenectady City Federation in 1915. 

56 Washington Avenue, the location of the
Woman's Club from 1920-1977. Photo taken 1962.
The club had its home at 238 State Street for many years before purchasing the house at 56 Washington Avenue in 1920. In 1930, under the presidency of Jessie T. Zoller, over $4,000 was raised to pay off the mortgage on the building. The club would remain at 56 Washington Avenue until 1977. Meetings were then briefly moved to the fellowship hall of the Eastern Parkway Methodist Church. The club had moved to its new home at 1309 Rugby Road by 1981, where it would remain until the meeting place was moved to Wynwood Commons, 1786 Union Street. The Woman’s Club celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2000.

From its earliest inception, the Woman’s Club focused on the cultural development of its members as well as projects supporting civic and philanthropic activity in the area. The club organized a number of departments over the years to oversee the group’s activities. Departments have included art, civics, drama, first aid, gardening, history, home economics, junior, music, parliamentary law, philanthropy, physical culture, public health, three S (service, success, and satisfaction), and tourism.

Sheet music for the Woman's Club of Schenectady song, composed by Clara Loyd Jones of Scotia. From the Woman's Club of Schenectady records.  
 In addition to holding frequent social and enrichment activities for its membership, the Woman’s Club of Schenectady also engaged in many charitable and community-improvement projects. The Woman’s Club raised funds for a number of local, national, and international charitable organizations over the years, founded the first supervised children’s playground in the city and advocated for the establishment of night schools. During World War I and World War II, the Woman’s Club raised funds for soldier care packages and war bonds. In 1925, the organization created a scholarship for local girls, which would come to be known as the Jessie T. Zoller Scholarship in later years.

Charter member Josephine Rickard, 
ca. 1920. Photo from Grems-
Doolittle Library Collection.
The Woman’s Club of Schenectady also worked to establish organizations that would be active in the community in their own right. In 1901, the Woman’s Club was instrumental in the formation of the Humane Society for Neglected Children, which would later become part of Northeast Parent and Child Society. The Public Health Association, a city organization, was first formed within the Woman’s Club in 1910. In 1916, the local branch of the Travelers Aid Society was formed under the auspices of the Woman’s Club. 

Woman’s Club mottoes over the years have included: “Service;” “Juncta Juvant” (Joined in fellowship and united in purpose); “To serve the present age;” “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19); “So long as we love, we serve” (Stevenson);  “Let us be such as help the life of the future;” “Here’s to the greater to-morrow that is born of a great to-day;” “In essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity;” “Others;” “Coming together means beginning, bringing together means progress; keeping together means success;” “Together let us beat this ample field, try what the open, what the covert yield” (Pope). A song for the Woman’s Club of Schenectady was written by Clara Loyd Jones.

50-year-member Marjorie
Marco, ca. 1998.
From Woman's Club of
Schenectady records.
The records of the Woman’s Club of Schenectady consist of meeting minutes, year books, scrapbooks, and miscellaneous material including photographs, certificates, and written histories of the club. Ledgers in the collection include meeting minutes and other information pertaining to the club’s drama, home economics, and music departments. Scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings. A finding aid for the records of the Woman's Club of Schenectady can be found here.

Additionally, the library has clippings, documents, and photographs related to the Woman's Club of Schenectady and its members in our general holdings.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Yearbooks are a great source of information for genealogy researchers, as well as for people that are interested in the history of education, social life and customs, graphic design, and local history. Photographs of individual students, administrators, and faculty members and information about student clubs and achievements provide researchers a look into the lives of local people as individuals and as a group.
The student drawings and other design components show us the aesthetics of the period during which they were created. Yearbooks also offer valuable information about local businesses through the advertisements printed in them.

A complete list of our collection of yearbooks can be found here (updated September 2013). Our yearbook collection is slowly growing! We're always looking for more yearbooks from Schenectady County public and private schools, from elementary school through college. Please contact the Librarian, Melissa Tacke, by phone at 518-374-0263, option 3, or by email at, if you are interested in donating yearbooks.

Below are just a few images from yearbooks in our collection.

Central Park Intermediate School yearbook Scrip, January 1925.
The school also published a literary magazine of the same name.
Photograph of the girls' basketball team at Woestina High School in Rotterdam Junction from The Woestinian, 1931.

The Japanese theme of the June 1917 Schenectady High School yearbook (SHUCIS)
differs from the standard cover for other years of the era; covers usually featured a simple
design and image of the school seal. SHUCIS was also the school literary magazine.

Advertisements from the Schenectady Savings Bank, Walker's Pharmacy, Tilly, and the Alling
Rubber Company from the 1911 Schenectady High School SHUCIS. Both the literary magazine
and the yearbook contain several pages of advertisements.
Whimsical drawings related to students at Schenectady Vocational High School printed in The Anvo, 1938.
These drawings, attributed to "JL," were drawn by James Lemmie, a student in the commercial art course of the school.
Photograph of the editorial staff of the 1905 SHUCIS.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Celebrating St. Patrick's Day and Irish-American Heritage in Schenectady

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Postcard from Larry Hart Collection.

Over the years, St. Patrick's Day has been celebrated in Schenectady in a variety of ways. Newspaper clippings of the 1860s mention special church services and parades. In the early days of the 20th century, dinners, dances, and parties were held, and local merchants such as Barney's sold green carnations. Newspapers of the 1950s featured St. Patrick's Day recipes for home entertaining, and St. Patrick's Day sales were promoted by local businesses.

The celebration of St. Patrick's Day this Saturday also offers an opportunity to highlight the history of Irish-Americans in the city and county. Schenectady's division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), a Catholic, Irish-American organization, was founded in 1880. The organization first met at the Center Street Opera House; the organization first appears in the 1882 city directory, listing Bernard Whyte as President and Martin Kelly as Secretary. The Hibernians met at a number of locations over the years, including the Van Curler Opera House, 729-733 State Street, and their current location at 1746 State Street, where the organization moved in 2000. The Schenectady Ancient Order of Hibernians have been active in promoting the culture, music, and language of Ireland, and have also been an important part of Schenectady's Irish-American community over the years, holding numerous social events including dances, variety shows, parties, communion breakfasts, Celtic Faire, and cocktail parties. As a group, the Schenectady AOH has also donated money to local causes, including scholarships for local high school students and funds for St. Clare's Hospital. The Hibernians have also organized and/or marched in St. Patrick's Day parades in Schenectady and in Albany.

A notice regarding the celebration of St. Patrick's Day in Schenectady in the March 19, 1866 Evening Star shows that imbibing on the holiday is nothing new. Image of newspaper retrieved via

Another organization that was active in annual St. Patrick's Day festivities was the Schenectady chapter of the Society of Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick. During the 1910s, the Friendly Sons hosted large dinners in celebration of the holiday, featuring speakers, songs, and fellowship. A 1911 newspaper clipping describes the celebration at the Vendome Hotel: "Sprigs of genuine shamrock were worn by many of the guests. The menu cards and favors were printed in green and tied with green ribbons and even the menu was tinged with the same color wherever possible, as in the ices, ice cream and punches, which were flavored and colored with pistachio and creme de menthe. Then there were green lights and the green ribbon insignia was displayed across the shirtfront of every guest, running from the northwest to the southeast."

Monsignor John L. Reilly, 1940.
Photograph from Grems-Doolittle
Library Photograph Collection.
One of the speakers who consistently addressed the annual St. Patrick's Day festivities of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick was the Monsignor John L. Reilly. The Rt. Rev. Msgr. John Liguori Reilly was born in 1853 in Albany. He attended Niagara University, where he earned his Bachelor's and Master's degrees. After completing his studies at St. Joseph Provincial Seminary in Troy, he became an ordained priest in 1876. He served as pastor for a few churches in New York State before coming to Schenectady in 1886. He was appointed a Monsignor by Pope Pius in 1904. He served the churches of St. John the Evangelist and St. John the Baptist for nearly 60 years. He often spoke before various organizations on behalf of the welfare of the city, and was recognized for his service in the fight against tuberculosis in the 1920s. He was a chaplain of the Schenectady council Knights of Columbus since its organization and was a charter member of the Schenectady Hospital Association and the Board of Managers of Ellis Hospital, member of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, the Schenectady County Historical Society, the Ingersoll Home, the Rotary Club, and the Schenectady County Humane Society. He received an honorary doctorate degree from Union College in 1943. He died at the age of 91 in 1945; at the time of his death, he was the oldest active priest in the United States. His obituary in the Schenectady Gazette stated that Reilly was "the symbol of Catholicism in Schenectady." He is buried at St. Agnes' Cemetery in Albany.

A ledger book of John Piper shows money sent to people in Ireland. The first page of the ledger reads, "John Piper is my name. Ireland is my nation - John Piper, Schenectady, New York." Image from Alonzo P. Strong Ledgers.

Schenectady Hibernians raise the Irish flag at the
corner of State and Jay Streets on March 17, 1986.
Photograph from Larry Hart Collection.
Monsignor Reilly and other prominent local Irish-Americans were highlighted in a clipping dated March 17, 1906, which included photographs of "Schenectady Irishmen typical of the race." Many of the men were prominent members of the community as well as men who were involved in Irish-American organizations such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Friendly Songs of Saint Patrick. The men featured are: James Devine, Thomas M. Gleason, Patrick B. Kearney, John McDermott, Patrick H. McDermott, James C. McDonald, P.H. McDonough, John McEnroe, Daniel Naylon Sr. and Jr., Michael Nolan, William P. Nolan, and Monsignor John L. Reilly.

Many resources are available in the library to help researchers explore the history of St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Schenectady, as well as to trace the history of thr Irish-American community in Schenectady and Irish genealogy. Some materials include clipping files, family files, naturalization records, church records, original documents, books on Irish and Irish-American genealogy, and photographs.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lucia Newell Oliviere

Lucia Newell Oliviere, ca. 1920. Photograph
from Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.
Oliviere was born and named Lucinda Newell in North River, New York, around March 1855. After her father died, she was taken into the home of Rev. Enos Putnam in Johnsburg, an abolitionist who is said to have helped escaped enslaved people on their way to freedom in Canada. She was trained as a teacher at Albany Normal School and went on to teach for twelve years in Peekskill, Elmira, and Chestertown. She married Frank Oliver, and the couple had their first child, Julia, in 1879. Julia went on to be known as Jeanne Robert Foster, a noted poet, model, and journalist. Lucinda and her husband moved to Glens Falls during the 1890s and were living in Schenectady by 1900. Oliviere would continue to live in Schenectady until her death in 1927. After moving to Schenectady, Lucinda changed her name to "Lucia" and the family altered its last name to "Oliviere." In Schenectady, Oliviere became active in the Socialist party and local politics, writing in newspapers such as the Knickerbocker Press and George Lunn's newspaper, The Citizen. She wrote and lectured about a number of topics related to politics and social justice, advocating anti-militarism, socialism, suffrage for women, women's rights, labor rights, education, birth control, and the abolition of child labor and capital punishment.
Election ephemera from Lucia Oliviere Scrapbook. A hand-
written note beneath the card reads: "This card was used on
election day in Schenectady on November 6, 1917 - when
 equal suffrage was won."
Soon after suffrage for women was granted, Oliviere began making appeals to women voters, urging them to support Socialist candidates. In a November 1919 article titled "Women of Schenectady - How Will You Vote?" Oliviere addresses the working-class women of Schenectady, writing "the Democrat and Republican parties having each fought your right to political equality are now persistently seeking to secure your vote in their behalf. They have not changed their ideals - they still believe woman's place is in the home - but they remember that the women of the west turned the scales and elected Woodrow Wilson on the slogan 'he kept us out of war.' . . . You are willing to go out on a strike at much loss to yourself and your family, but you strike against the very conditions which you vote to maintain in November of every year. An ape should have more sense than that."  Throughout her articles, Oliviere addressed the concerns of working women, whether in an article highlighting the story of a female union organizer laid off by General Electric or an article aimed at wealthy families suggesting reforms that might make domestic work more attractive to young women than factory work.

Card promoting Lucia Oliviere, Socialist
Candidate for Supervisor of 8th Ward (1919).
From Lucia Oliviere Scrapbook.
Oliviere commented favorably on the "flapper" phenomenon of the 1920s, observing in a railroad station a young woman in flapper attire, unconcernedly crossing her bared legs while munching on a piece of fruit and reading "A Treatise on Political Economy for Women." Oliviere writes: "the coming woman of which a flapper is the advance guard are determined to have liberty and equality, to wear what they choose, to work at any trade or profession they desire, and the old fogies err if they think this will have any bad effect on public morals . . . the flappers will not forget mother today. They may feel a little sorry for our Victorian ideas." Oliviere also used her poked fun at charity-minded wealthy society ladies, employing a fictional "Mrs. Vanderburger" who offers skim milk to poor women an children as charity while advocating that "rich, creamy milk" be fed to pigs and calves to produce the finest meat for her family.

In addition to her work as a journalist, Oliviere also wrote poetry and fiction, which would occasionally appear printed in the newspaper. Her poem "Steinmetz" was published in the New York Times on January 30, 1923, after Charles' Steinmetz's death on January 26. The Anthology of Modern Poetry included Oliviere's poems "Carillo" and "She Will Go Out and Close the Door." A volume of Oliviere's poetry, titled Old Houses, was edited by Jeanne Robert Foster and published in 1928.

Oliviere was also active in local politics and civic activity. She was active in the fight for women's suffrage, organizing the Schenectady Industrial Suffrage Association and serving as its secretary. Under the Socialist ticket, she ran for the position of Schenectady County clerk in 1918, supervisor of the eighth ward in 1919, and ran twice for state senator, in 1922 and 1926. She was also a member of the Women's International League, the Consumers League, and the Woman's Club of Schenectady.

For those interested in finding out more about Oliviere's life in Schenectady, the Grems-Doolittle Library has a clipping file and photograph file for the surname Oliviere. We also have in our holdings a scrapbook compiled by Oliviere that includes clippings of her articles, poems, and short fiction, family photographs, and election-related ephemera.