To celebrate 125 years of educating and encouraging women’s contributions to the Richmond community, The Woman’s Club (TWC) has increased The Woman’s Club Scholarships to a total of $100,000 this year, inspired by Mary-Cooke Branch Munford, a founding member well known in Virginia for advocating for women’s educational opportunities.
“The increase is a result of an outpouring of support for this initiative among The Woman’s Club members to meaningfully highlight this 125-year anniversary and our mission to empower women,” according to Diane Beirne, Executive Director of TWC.
From the beginning, TWC, located in the historic Bolling Haxall House at 211 E. Franklin St. in downtown Richmond, has placed a high value on education for women, both for members and for scholarship recipients. Club president in 1900, Mary Munford said, “Education has been my deepest interest from my girlhood, beginning with an almost passionate desire for the best in education for myself, which was denied because it was not the custom for girls in my class to receive a college education at that time.”
Munford was one of five women involved in the foundation of the Richmond Education Association and was also successful in convincing the College of William and Mary to open its doors to women in 1918. Recipients of scholarships from The Woman’s Club Scholarship Fund are called Mary Munford Scholars.
Since the inception of the scholarship fund in 1921, over 500 young women have been able to offset the cost of college expenses with help from The Woman’s Club. In the past twelve years, The Woman’s Club Scholarship Fund has awarded 66 scholarships totaling $120,000 according to the Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond which has managed applications and the scholarship endowment for TWC since 2006.
The Woman’s Club was launched in 1894 when 14 charter members led by Jane Crawford Looney Lewis sent invitations to leading women of Richmond encouraging them to join in organizing a club for women “to cultivate music, dramatic performances and literature”, according to the invite. It was difficult for women to become informed in the early days when the club was founded and TWC programs featuring legendary speakers were a way to learn news and information on affairs of the day.
The Woman’s Club kicked off its 125 anniversary year on April 29 with a decade-by-decade fashion show and historical review written and narrated by Sandy Treadway, Librarian of Virginia, TWC member and author of Women of Mark, A History of the Woman’s Club of Richmond, Virginia.