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Tue, 08.25.1908

The Empire States Federation of Women’s Clubs, a story

Annual Meeting, 1913

*On this date in 1908, we celebrate the beginning of the Empire State Federation of Women's Clubs (ESFWC).

Founded in Brooklyn by Alice Wiley Seay, the ESFWC is the umbrella organization of New York State African American women's groups. The organization had two main goals: to do "uplift work among girls and young women" and care for the (then) aging Harriet Tubman and her Auburn, Cayuga County home.  

The last mission ended with Tubman's death in 1913 and the refusal of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church to lease or sell the home to the ESFWC. However, the organization has devoted itself to preserving historic sites associated with African American leaders such as Frederick Douglass in subsequent years. The former mission, performing "uplift work among girls and young women," has shaped the group's activities.

The ESFWC is part of the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs (NACWC), founded in 1896 and rapidly became the largest organization of African American women in the United States. Heavily influenced by its members' staunch Christian faith and commitment to advancing Black women, children, and men and preserving African American history, the NACWC's orientation has closely paralleled that of the ESFWC. In addition to sending funds to the NACWC national offices and delegates to its annual convention, the ESFWC has also been active in the NACWC's regional organization, the Northeastern Federation of Women's Clubs (NFWC), to which it was affiliated in 1910.

The organization consistently contributed to charitable causes and scholarship funds benefiting African American girls and young women. After World War II, they began sponsoring beauty pageants and organizing girls' clubs. The girls' clubs were with the Empire State Federation of Girls' Clubs, established in 1933, and met during the ESFWC's annual conventions.

Throughout its history, the group's efforts to aid African American girls ensure the physical, intellectual, and spiritual well-being of children and adolescents of both sexes and improve the conditions of Blacks and people of all races living, learning, and labor.  The group has staunchly opposed all forms of racial prejudice and supported the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Urban League, and civil rights.

During the postwar period, it became interested in Planned Parenthood and the United Nations, and in the 1960s, devoted increasing attention to healthcare issues. In the 1960s, the ESFWC began assisting in organizing boys' clubs, and in late 1987 or early 1988, the Empire State Federation of Girls' Clubs became the Empire State Federation of Youth Clubs.

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