Alumnae Raise Awareness About the Twentieth Century Club

Ellis alumna Abby WILSON ’98 believes there is a need for a physical place for women to gather in Pittsburgh. As an Ellis graduate, she is well-versed in how powerful these spaces can be and is eager to find somewhere adult women can connect across careers, life experiences, and communities. A place where they can gather, share ideas, support each other, and form strong personal and professional networks. 
After doing some initial research, Abby learned that Pittsburgh actually already had a women’s club, the Twentieth Century Club. Originally built in 1894, the Twentieth Century Club was founded as a private club for women. It has since served as a place for women to network, cowork, enjoy lectures, and attend events. Unfortunately, when Abby applied for membership in June 2019, she learned the club’s days were numbered and that the building was up for sale. 

“My guess is that people had no idea it was even there,” Abby shared. “Let alone that it's an architecturally significant, historic club that exists to advance women’s work, thought, and action.”

To bring awareness to the historical and cultural significance of the club, Abby teamed up with friend and fellow Ellis alumna Mary BARENSFELD ’97 to write an op-ed for NEXT Pittsburgh about the institution. A local architect, Mary brought her knowledge, expertise, and experience to the table.

“The Twentieth Century Club is a perfect storm of architecture, landscape, and women’s issues,” Mary said. “It is literally a billboard for the work that women have done in the area.”

Although the sale of the building seems to be finalized, both alumnae wanted their piece to serve as something that inspires other women. Their time at Ellis, and the women in their lives, taught them to be fearless in using their voices and to be proud of speaking up. They hope that the op-ed empowers women—and especially other Ellis women—to use their voices to write, research, and publish their thoughts and stand up for what they believe in. 

“If I learned anything from writing this, it’s that I need to be bolder,” said Mary.


Photo by Leeann Marie Photography

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