Monday May 21, 2007

The Wellesley Hills Women’s Club
One Hundred and Fifteen Years of Active Volunteerism and Generosity

By Mike Miller

This year, three fortunate Wellesley High School graduates benefited from the generosity of the Club by being awarded college scholarships. Shown with Club members Gertrude Dobday (center) and current president Suzanne Frederick (right), is one of this year’s scholarship recipients, Andrea Batchelor (left).

The year is 1889, and Mrs. Gamaliel Bradford is bored. It’s December, another long winter is approaching and with the exception of church meetings, there really isn’t much for Mrs. Bradford and her friends to do in the small, nine-year old town of Wellesley. Boston is a bustling city, but not easily accessible to the working women of Wellesley Hills, most of whom are servants with limited leisure time. Mrs. Bradford decides that the women of Wellesley need an outlet to provide them with social interaction and meaningful ways to give back to the community. From this idea, the Wellesley Hills Women’s Club is created, with the stated purpose “to promote ethical, social and educational culture within the community.”

One hundred and fifteen years later, the women of the Wellesley Hills Women’s Club are still giving back to the town—their largesse made possible by a comfortable endowment established at the organization’s founding. Bridge games, jewelry sales, and other fundraising events—liberally sprinkled with lively sociability—help to provide additional revenue and replenish the Club’s coffers. Some 87 current members are drawn from throughout the Wellesley community, and beyond; in fact, after being sponsored by two members, even someone living outside the Town borders can join up.

While club dues help defray the cost of social functions during the year, most of the members’ efforts are directed outward, into the community. They are a diligent corps of volunteers who provide local, deserving individuals and organizations with “good works,” the acts of kindness and generosity that are the essence of a successful community. Organizations like the Wellesley Veterans Association, Wellesley Historical Society, Friendly Aid, Wellesley Library, and the Wellesley Community Center have all benefited from the efforts—and financial support—of the Wellesley Hills Women’s Club.

This year, three fortunate Wellesley High School graduates also benefited from the generosity of the Club by being awarded college scholarships. According to current president Susan Frederick, the recipients, this year and every year, are carefully screened from a wide pool of candidates. “We form a committee, speak with the Wellesley High School principal and certain teachers, and eventually choose particular students based upon their scholastic aptitude and performance. We like them to have good grades, but to be involved in other areas as well. Of course, we like for them to be well-rounded.”

One of this year’s scholarship recipients, Andrea Batchelor, clearly is the kind of student that admissions directors love to see. Her scholastic abilities earned Andrea acceptance to Brown University, and she is involved in many activities inside and outside of school, as well. She has been a four-year member of the Key Club and a dancer in the Wellesley High School Moving Company. Long hours of volunteer work at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have instilled in her a desire to eventually attend medical school.

That particular interest in neuroscience, however, is of a very personal nature to Andrea, something close to home. “I have an older sister with a mental disability,” she said, “so I want to study neuroscience. I’m not sure exactly what area, but it will probably have to do with how the brain works or maybe research for brain cancer.”
It is difficult to imagine whether or not Mrs. Gamaliel Bradford and the other founding members of the Wellesley Hills Women’s Club knew in 1889 just how much their organization would touch lives very intimately in Wellesley over the years. It is certain, however, that at 115 years old, the Wellesley Hills Women’s Club shows no signs of slowing down, and the “good works” its members provide continue to be appreciated year after year by grateful young people like Andrea and a community worthy of an occasional act of munificence.



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