Skip to content

Woman’s Club of Albany: Helping the total community

April 1, 2011

by Dana Lenseth

The Woman’s Club of Albany at 725 Madison Avenue (Dana Lenseth)

Members of the 100-year-old Woman’s Club of Albany pride themselves on improving their community from their historic headquarters on Madison just west of Lake Avenue.

Tonight and tomorrow, the ladies of the Woman’s Club are hosting a craft fair to benefit a breast cancer survivor group. Hope in the Boat will receive 10 percent of the proceeds from the Club’s fourth annual fair.

People join at all steps of the breast cancer journey, said Sheila Platt, president of Hope in the Boat. Hope in the Boat is the first local dragon boat team for breast cancer survivors and was founded by Lucille Freeman in 2007. In ancient China boats were decorated with dragons to encourage a bountiful harvest.

When a Canadian doctor proved in 1995 that upper body exercise was suitable for women with breast cancer,  he advocated for women with breast cancer to take up dragon boating.

Freeman learned about dragon boat teams during her treatments and made an effort to find out more from teams located in Buffalo and Philadelphia. Twenty paddlers, a drummer, and a caller who makes the rowers aware of their position, comprise the teams on 40 foot dragon boats. Paddlers move their canoe forward in rhythm set by a drummer in the boat with them. Now in their fourth season on the water, Freeman said it “very healing to be on the water with other women who have shared the experience of breast cancer.”

Platt said they are extremely grateful for the proceeds from the Club’s craft fair, but more than that, she hopes this will be an opportunity for Hope in a Boat’s message to spread. Dragon boating “helps make a breast cancer survivor feel empowered,” said Platt, and she just wants women to know they’re out there and available.

Along with spreading their message, Freeman hopes the proceeds will contribute to scholarships to help send their paddlers to their competitions. And Platt said the money could help go towards their second boat, a trailer for the boat they have now, or a chase boat that will help them train better.

Inscape, September 24, 1981

Last month, Women’s History Month, the Woman’s Club sponsored a series of presentations specifically geared toward women’s issues. One night featured a presentation on the Underground Railroad, on another a SUNY professor spoke about women’s efforts in non-governmental organizations to advance women’s interests globally.

Programs designed for women and to help women date back to decades ago in the neighborhood. Thirty years ago in 1981, 30 years ago at The College of Saint Rose, sponsored an Everywoman’s Conference 30 years ago, in 1981, when the mayor proclaimed September 26 as Everywoman’s Day. That event featured panels focused on women, their personal lives, and their professional growth. Today, the Woman’s Club is practicing its efforts to enrich women year round.

“Friendships, camaraderie, the ability to make a difference…” said Fran Altshuler, are all part of the reason she enjoys the group. “It’s the women,” she said simply. Altshuler, a five year member and immediate past president of the Club,  talked extensively about the history of the house, the club’s numerous charitable works, and the benefits of membership.

Altshuler is not alone in her assessment of the club. Sue Hannon, another member and vice president of the Club, said her work there has, “given me as much, if not more, than what I gave to the Club.” Hannon said it expanded her social horizons after she retired from teaching and was looking to fill her spare time.

Today, the club membership has grown to 130, a number that required a concerted effort, Altshuler said. Only three members were active just eight years ago when the house was in danger of being sold. Altshuler attributes a party for a local restaurant, El Loco, to the revitalization of the club. After the party, membership grew and the Woman’s Club began its revival.

The Woman’s Club building was erected in 1895 as a wedding present from a father to his daughter.  The house was deeded

Historic Albany Foundation plaque on the front of the Woman’s Club of Albany. (Dana Lenseth)

to the Club in 1919 and in March the Club received support from the state Environmental Protective Fund for preservation. According to Hannon, the Woman’s Club of Albany is one of only three other woman’s clubs in New York who own their own house.

The house was built for teas, said Altshuler, who gestured around the handsome dining room, complete with a built in sideboard and shining chandelier. During the holidays, the Club hosts an event called Teas and Trees and donates proceeds from those events to groups such as the

Women’s Employment Center and Girls Inc. Another event called Teas to Tasting benefited the scholarship foundation for the Black Women’s Association.

Altshuler barely had enough time to talk about all of the charitable works the Club is responsible for. From raising money for scholarships, to book drives, to Friday’s Craft Fair for breast cancer survivors.  “We try to do a combination of fundraising, programming, that kind of thing,” Altshuler said. The Woman’s Club has donated to Equinox, the Battered Women Shelter, the Regional Food Bank, and a local dance school’s scholarship fund. The club spreads its charitable donations around to a number of organizations, and chooses not to donate always to the same ones.

Tea at the Woman’s Club of Albany. (Courtesy- Charlotte Prior)

Like Hope in the Boat, the Woman’s Club is looking to spread its message to the community, too. Altshuler said, “we’re one of the best kept secrets.” The big mission is not only to get more members, but younger women to join the Club. The Club uses word-of-mouth and events at the house to draw in members, but now the Club is even offering a discount in dues to any members under 30.

It’s all volunteer work at the Woman’s Club, but Hannon said, the members are not “doing it in a vacuum.” In the coming weeks, the Woman’s Club is hosting an annual community celebration called No Hats No Gloves. This event honors members of the Club whose efforts benefited historic preservation and community initiatives. This month, on April 26, the Club is honoring Susan Holland, the executive director of Historic Albany; and Lorraine Weiss, a preservation planner, to recognize their charitable work for the community.

The Club of Albany members participate in many charitable activities themselves, including reading to children at Troy School 2, and planting tulips near Interstate 787 for a celebration of New York in Bloom. The group has hosted public concerts, and is already planning its next charitable event.

The Woman’s Club, said Sue Hannon, is  “women coming together and making a difference in the community” and “improving the total community.” -30-

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: