Descendants of WCA Home founder to be welcomed at Anniversary Tea
Descendants of a founder of the WCA Home for Aged Women on Temple Street will be visiting Fredonia to attend an Anniversary Tea on Sunday, Oct. 15, in honor of the home’s establishment 125 years ago. SUNY Fredonia President Virginia Horvath will welcome 90-year old Alice Albro Meyer and family along with the public at the event in the Lanford House from 2 to 4 p.m. Tea, light snacks, dessert and live music and presentations by Fredonia students will be featured, along with raffle prizes and auctions to benefit the WCA Home. Tickets to the event are $20 for adults and $10 for students and children under the age of 18 with all proceeds going to benefit The WCA Home.
Honored guest Mrs. Meyer lives near Pittsburgh and is the grand-daughter of Clara Morris Albro, who, in 1882, hosted in her home several of the first meetings held by the women who formed the Woman’s Christian Association in order to manage a home for aged and indigent women in the region.
Mrs. Meyer will be joined by family members including her husband Dr. Kenneth K. Meyer; two daughters, Claire Meyer Kaufman and Angel Meyer Jaap; her niece Katherine Albro Houpt, VMD & Ph.D., and Dr. Houpt’s son Charles E. Houpt.
Fredonia’s Morris and Albro families were closely connected to the progress of the Fredonia Normal School in the latter 19th century, as well as the startup of the WCA Home.
The first benefactor of the WCA Home was Marion H. Morris, who was married to Lorenzo Morris, an attorney who was president of the Fredonia Normal School board of trustees. Mrs. Albro was the daughter of Lorenzo Morris and his first wife Fanny Strong Morris, and grew up in their home at 67 East Main St., Fredonia. She married Samuel H. Albro, a professor at the Fredonia Normal School who was later named president of the Mansfield State Normal School in Pennsylvania. The Albros lived at 300 Central Ave. in Fredonia for many years and it was here that some of the first meetings of the WCA were held.
It was Mrs. Albro’s stepmother, Mrs. Morris, who organized the group of women in the village to create the WCA Home for Aged Women. Although she died five years after her vision was realized and the home opened its doors, Mrs. Morris left a bequest that ensured its robust beginnings and immediate viability. Her two step-daughters, Mrs. Albro and Emily Morris Russell, were both active on the board and served as officers after Mrs. Morris died. As younger women, both Morris daughters signed the list of crusaders of the Fredonia Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1873 after a speech at the Fredonia Baptist Church.
The special anniversary of the WCA Home coincides with the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage in the state of New York.
The importance of the WCA Home extends well beyond its work today. Since its inception 125 years ago, grassroots efforts of local women associated with the home fought for political equality through compassionate social advocacy, ultimately earning suffrage for women in New York State in 1917 — three years before national suffrage was achieved.
The lives and histories of these women will be on display at the tea party, telling the story of their work at the home and towards political equality for women.
“Whether born in New England or in Fredonia, our founders had many of the same life experiences: most had reached the middle class and built the beautiful homes that still exist on our village streets. They were the sisters and wives of Civil War Union soldiers,” said Christine Davis Mantai, president of the WCA Home board of directors. “They were well-off and yet about half experienced the death of a child due to disease. Both old and young were temperance women and believed in giving women the vote. They were devoted to the local Protestant churches, and some had teaching diplomas. None worked outside the home unless they were involved in their husbands’ businesses.”
The rich history of the WCA Home, as well as the history of the women’s suffrage campaign in Chautauqua County, is being highlighted by students in Associate Professor of English Emily VanDette’s Senior Seminar.
“Many people pass the home on Temple Street and wonder what it is and why it’s there, so this research will answer that question in a big way,” Mantai said. “The home wouldn’t exist without a unique group of women of Fredonia’s horse and buggy days. Their names will be familiar to Fredonia history buffs, but those names have never been connected to the WCA Home before. Nor is it realized how much of themselves they put into the project.”
Dr. VanDette said she is delighted that her students have the opportunity to collaborate with the WCA Home and other local community partners to shine a light on local women’s history. “The dual occasions of the WCA Home’s 125-year anniversary and the centennial of women’s suffrage in New York give us plenty to commemorate in the local community, especially given the large role Chautauqua County women played in the these grassroots efforts in the 19th century,” she added.
More information about the tea party can be found online at the WCA Home web site or by calling the WCA Home at 672-7961.