Stand By–Smith

January 13, 2012

Fundraising campaigns are never easy, and when a college begins a campaign within an economic recession, the chances are it won’t receive as much money as it does in times of more economic stability.  However, give Smith women a challenge and they more than rise to it!

In 1919 Smith College entered a new phase of fundraising.  President William A. Neilson announced plans to enhance its $4 Million Campaign.  In order to make the campaign happen, and encourage complete participation of its alumna, the College split its Alumnae Association group into 59 sectors, covering the world.  No area was left untouched.  Volunteer alumnae served as directors of the fundraising effort.  In the fall, the Alumnae Service School took place at Smith, and these volunteers were trained in organizing and other techniques that were deployed for the benefit of the campaign for the College.

Alumnae Service School, 1919

The Smith College Club system churned out numerous intriguing and creative ways to make money and identify individuals to pledge their support.  Fathers, husbands and brothers were employed, among others, to give pep talks about Smith to potential donors.  Among the many projects were ‘Bridget Smith’ parties: card parties (primarily bridge), where individuals would pay a certain amount to play at an alumna’s home, as well as pledge to give all her winnings to Smith; in New York City two Smith alumna baked apple and cherry pies and sold them to the men’s clubs in the city, for a profit.  These women were part of the Home Express Club

Home Express Club

that helped Smith alumna prepare meals in their homes.  A catering service with a twist!  The New Haven, CT club had a very active group of women willing to do this type of work–for a price, which was then sent to Northampton as a contribution to the Fund.  Another group of Smith alumnae purchased 590 straw hats from the Philippines through a Smith connection, sold them at a 5th Avenue store front location (currently a Fendi Store).  They sold out their supply in 6 days and were all the rage.  They made back the $5,000 investment, and then some.  The extra was contributed to the Smith College Fund.

Straw hats for sale in NYC for the Smith Club Fund, 1920

The Smith Fund adopted a baby camel named ‘Sophia Smith’ at the Bronx Zoo, seen here with her mother and 2 Smith canvassers.  Visitors could get an in-depth look at the animals, and access to the zoo for parties and other events.  It was one of the more intriguing activities of the $4 Million Campaign.

Baby camel, Sophia Smith, and her mother at the Bronx Zoo, 1920

The campaign was a huge success in the limited time it ran.  By the summer the coffers tipped over the $4 million mark.  The announcement of the successful campaign took place at Reunions.  Alumnae, students, administrators and faculty were all very proud of the accomplishment.

To learn more about the $4 Million campaign and other moments in Smith history, come visit the Smith College Archives!