Modern Day Legacies
The Dartmouth Women’s Club of Boston (DWC) is still a successful organization today. In 2021, the DWC had nearly one million dollars in its scholarship fund, which continues to support Dartmouth financial aid. While younger membership has been waning in recent years, which may suggest that Dartmouth women are not as starved for community as they once were, the DWC remains dedicated to Mrs. Maude Hill’s founding values:
“The first thing we always say is that we were formed for community and friendship to create bonds among Dartmouth women. And we define Dartmouth women broadly: you can be an alum, you can be a parent, you can be a spouse...”Ann McNay ’80, Dartmouth Women’s Club of Boston President
Just like in the 1960s, the DWC works to welcome anyone who identifies as a “Dartmouth woman.” They even have a Friendship Committee, which McNay explained reaches out to members during either challenging times or to congratulate them on happy occasions. While McNay asserts that the committee is somewhat of an anachronistic carryover from women’s clubs of old, it nonetheless helps current members foster a sense of community as they consciously consider and seek to address the possible barriers to joining the DWC that women of color and women of differing income brackets may face. Coincidentally, the DWC has contemplated making (another!) cookbook after a small cooking class in which a member shared a recipe she learned growing up in Iran.
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The Centennial Circle of Dartmouth Alumnae is another more recent but increasingly influential women’s fundraising organization. When I spoke with the director of the Centennial Circle, Mindi Laine, she explained that the impetus behind the group came after female members of the Class of 1988 noticed a massive gender giving gap. In 2014, these women joined forces to narrow the gap in time for the 100-year anniversary of the Dartmouth College Fund, with the goal to recruit 100 Dartmouth women to raise $100,000. In less than three months, over 100 women joined the circle and managed to raise nearly $15 million. Today, the Centennial Circle boasts over 250 members, several of whom have also taken on leadership positions on administrative boards across campus, from Thayer to the Hopkins Center.
“We are collectively giving, and we are reaping the benefits of each other. We have created this sustainable community.”
According to members of the Circle, the community aspect of the group is what appeals most to alumnae. Laurel Richie ’81, former Board of Trustees Chair, told the New York Times, “I have sensed impact being really important to this group, not just in terms of the amount raised and the number of scholarships, but in terms of community.” When I spoke to Amie Rappoport McKenna ’94, Co-Chair of Centennial Circle Member Engagement, she echoed Richie’s statement: “We are collectively giving, and we are reaping the benefits of each other. We have created this sustainable community.” Ann McNay ’80, who is a Circle member in addition to the DWC, agrees the community aspect is essential to raising funds from alumnae.
The Centennial Circle represents a new and distinctly female version of philanthropy focused on collective giving and community rather than individual credit. The manifestation of the Circle’s contributions toward the recent Dartmouth Hall renovations exemplifies this idea—every alumna who donates to the project will be recognized on a donor wall inside the building, regardless of how much she donated. The idea of collective credit is unprecedented at a time when many buildings are named after a singular, often male donor.
There are countless Dartmouth women’s organizations I did not cover in this exhibition, but one thing remains clear: women have worked long and hard to establish themselves as organized groups of Dartmouth alumnae on campus. Now that these women have strong community foundations and, at least for Circle members, a strong financial influence over the College, they can and should use their collective voices to speak up about issues affecting undergraduate and faculty women, particularly women of color.