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March 28, 2014

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Gwinn Girls

In preparation for the March 1967 retirement of Evelyn Svoboda, Assistant to the Comptroller, the Gwinn Girls was formed. Comprised of women administrators, executive aides, secretaries and other non-academic staff of WRU, the group came together to have fun several times a year, holding their functions at Gwinn Estate in Bratenahl. Thirty-eight women attended the first party. Dinner was $5.00, dinner with cocktails was $6.50. The ladies donated $39.00 for a retirement gift. Hough Caterers did not charge for the bartender or for gratuities for personnel, “consequently , the ‘treasury’ had an unexpected balance” of $39.10.

The original “Volunteer Committee” consisted of Matilda Jameson, Administration Assistant in the President’s Office; Ethel A. Oster, Executive Secretary to the Vice President for Finance; Thya Johnson, Secretary to the Dean of the Graduate School; Rose Psenicka, Secretary to Secretary of the University; and Julia Scofield, Secretary to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The Gwinn Girls quickly held another retirement party in June 1967 and the group was off and running. The women who had worked at Case Institute of Technology were invited to join after Federation. This included women such as Helen Stankard. As women retired they suggested their replacements be invited to join, and sometimes they stayed members themselves. They tried to have every building represented in the membership. A different woman was the hostess for each party and made all the arrangements.

In 1970 they started calling their events “meetings” instead of parties since Gwinn was only to be used for meetings. In 1974 they had a record attendance of 73 and discovered that the limit for dinner at Gwinn was 60 and they had to start capping attendance. Speakers were sometimes invited to address the group. This included our own Ruth Helmuth, University Archivist. (Mrs. Helmuth was also a Gwinn Girl and regularly attended events.)

The significance of such a network should not be overlooked. These women knew who to contact for any situation and had relationships set up across campus. It could only aid in the smooth flow of the day job at the university.

The last documented event the University Archives has of the Gwinn Girls was May 31, 1979. In 1997 Rose Psenicka, one of the founders, visited the Archives and dropped off the Gwinn Girls records with a note: “This is how it all began. Evelyn Svoboda worked for a long time in the Controller’s Office. We had such a success we did it again & again. (That is partied.)”

See other Women's History Month entries from 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Posted by hxy2 at March 28, 2014 05:18 PM

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