In 1883, The Associate Committee of Women whose mission was to support the new Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art evolved from the success of the 1876 Women’s Centennial Executive Committee.
The Committee’s 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 and the local arts community.
With the opening of the school, the Associate Committee of Women provided financial support through scholarships, grants, student loans, and even a pension fund for the teachers. The consistent support of The Women’s Committee continued as the art school grew and became in 1964 a separate corporate entity, now known as the University of the Arts.
In 1893, the Department of Textiles, Lace and Embroidery was organized to serve as a design and technical resource for textile students at the school. Its first exhibition in 1894, showcased the collection of the Countess de Brazza, acquired for the museum by the Associate Committee of Women. This collection illustrated the history of lace manufacturing and became the nucleus of the department’s lace collection.
By 1925, the Committee had reached nearly a half million dollars in contributions for the school and the museum. Mrs. Gillespie’s vision and promotion of women’s leadership in nineteenth century America are a compelling legacy that has guided the momentum of The Women’s Committee to this day.
In 1961, the name was changed to The Women’s Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and currently has 45 active members and 26 sustaining members.
A variety of fund-raising projects over the years include:
- 2018 to present – Partnered with the museum to produce The Philadelphia Show
- 2015 to present – Became a sponsor of CraftNOW to provide support to the Philadelphia’s craft community
- 2010-2014 – Coordinated the biennial PMA Photography Portfolio Competition
- 1999-2011 – Produced Small Indulgences, an annual boutique shopping event
- 1998-2001 – Organized the Holiday Greeting Card project, an annual juried competition and sale
- 1989 – Published a cookbook entitled The Fine Art of Cooking
- 1971-1986 – Participated in Super Sunday, a joint project of the cultural institutions along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
- 1977 to present – Established the Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show
- 1976 – Hosted Queen Elizabeth II at gala dinner at the museum during her visit to Philadelphia
- 1974 – Organized A Touch of Gold, the first exhibition and sale of handmade jewelry by invited craftspeople
- 1965-2009 – Established and ran the Art Sales and Rental Gallery, later known as ArtWorks