Published on July 8, 2021
New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs of GFWC: Establishing a new college for the women in the State of New Jersey back in the time of 1910 wasn’t easy. It seemed logical that Rutgers, as a land-grant university receiving state and federal funds, would be the right place for a new women’s college in New Jersey. But women had not yet been granted the right to vote, and Rutgers had to be persuaded that women deserved a college education along with men.
Led by the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs of GFWC (the Federation) and the head of its College Committee, Mabel Smith Douglass, the push began to establish a college. Rutgers President James Demarest demurred from integrating women into the University, but eventually supported the establishment of an affiliated women’s college “if adequate funds were provided” and Rutgers did not have to support it financially. The Federation got funding from both the City of New Brunswick and the Women’s Club, won over the editor of the local newspaper and several key landholders and established a relationship with several members of the Rutgers Board of Trustees. Their persistence paid off when, on April 12, 1918, The Trustees officially established “a women’s College as a department of the State University of New Jersey.” Thus was born the New Jersey College for Women (NJC). Mabel Smith Douglass, a graduate of Barnard College, was named its Dean in May of that year.
In the century that followed, the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs became integral to the growth and success of NJC, initially serving on the Board of Managers of the young college. The NJSFW leadership and its members raised funds, secured land and supported the new venture as it grew and helped sustain it in times of financial hardship, working hand-in-hand with the young Associate Alumnae of New Jersey College for Women, now known as the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College and affectionately referred to as the AADC, to support NJC.
Through the years, the Federation has become a close friend and partner of the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College, providing leadership, vision and support to the AADC and our diverse alumnae sisterhood through its generosity and dedication. The NJSFWC has been a major force in the state, advocating on behalf of women’s education, the environment, public libraries, health and many other issues through its history of community service and activism. The Federation is now in its second century of community service on the local, state, national and international levels.
The AADC would not exist without the ground-breaking work done by the Federation in founding the New Jersey College for Women in 1918. They propelled women’s higher education from its beginning through generations of women in the State and beyond. Douglass women have passed through the halls of NJC, Douglass College and Douglass Residential College as its name changed through the years. They have all benefited from the foresight and strength of the women of the Federation. As alumnae, we continue to benefit from the Federation’s partnership with the AADC. The Federation showed its support of the AADC in 2015 during the Save AADC Campaign, advocating on behalf of the importance and value of our alumnae association. We thank the NJSFWC for their consistent support of the AADC Annual Appeal. They help ensure the strength of the AADC for generations to come.
Over the years, the Federation established scholarships for Douglass students. The Federation also funds Fellowships through the AADC that benefit Douglass alumnae pursuing post-graduate education. Their efforts contribute to the AADC’s growth and development. They host the Annual Women of Achievement Awards, presented by the Federation and Douglass Residential College, to recognize contributions to the State of New Jersey from women in all fields. Many Douglass alumnae have been honored with this distinguished award.
For the organization’s support and dedication to the AADC and our alumnae sisterhood, the AADC awarded the 2018 AADC Medal to New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs of GFWC. We are grateful for their historic work and we treasure the bonds we continue to share.