The Cal Poly Women’s Club can look back almos 100 years of history. First known as The Ladies’ Faculty Club, the group was formed in September 1924. Cal Poly President’s wife, Mrs. B.R. Crandall served as the Club’s first president. The original 20 members, all faculty wives, met in homes until 1928 when the ladies held their first meeting on campus in the newly completed Crandall Gym. Faculty women joined the wives in 1929 and meetings were moved from the gym. The gym was considered something of a sacred sanctum of the male athletes and not opened willingly to groups of the female persuasion! The year 1929 also saw women students banned from classes, not to return until 1956.
The Club drafted its first Bylaws in 1940 and changed its name to California Polytechnic Women’s Club (CPWC). Membership eligibility was expanded to include all women connected with faculty and staff. For a brief period between 1976 and 1979, the name was changed to California Polytechnic Wives’ Club in compliance with Title IX that stated “there must be no discrimination by sex.” Campus lawyers felt the name change was proper, and men employed as Cal Poly faculty and staff were invited to join. With a relaxation in campus rulings, the name was reinstated in 1979 to California Polytechnic Women’s Club.
The Club held its first “function” in 1931, a Christmas party for children of Cal Poly families. This became a tradition for several years. Interest sections were formed in 1937 to provide cultural and social activities for members. The first section, Books, was soon followed by Home Economics in 1940 and Music in 1941. Over the years, there have been a wide variety of sections including specialized interests, such as folk dancing, choral and travel. The numbers and types of sections fluctuate yearly according to member interest.
During its 92-year history, CPWC has met in several places both on and off campus; however, a special bond developed between CPWC and the Music Department during Harold P. Davidson’s tenure at Cal Poly. Quarters were shared with the Music Dept. in 3 campus locations from 1936 to 1973 when Mr. Davidson retired. Club members were honored yearly by performances of the various student musical groups; the first such event being at the 1936 CPWC card party. Just after WWII, the Men’s Glee Club was preparing for a 15-day tour and each student needed one white shirt per day. A plea for old or outgrown shirts went out and CPWC donated 75 shirts. For 25 years, the Glee Club presented a dress rehearsal performance to our Club members before beginning its Spring Concert Tour. In 1971, on the 25th anniversary performance, Mr. Davidson was made CPWC’s first and only male honorary member.
In 1933, the Club took on service to the University and students during “the Great Depression”, and established a Student Loan Fund. The ladies held card parties, style shows, bazaars and rummage sales and sold tickets to both Cal Poly and town communities. Various departments donated such prizes as eggs, cheese, chickens and flowers. One year the members were asked to earn a dollar for the Loan Fund and to relate how the money had been earned. The first of several special “ways and means” projects were held in 1954 at the now long-gone Elmo Theater (which was near the current Granada Hotel). “Wedding Belles” was a glamorized show of wedding gowns and finery modeled by Club members. In 1956, an extravagant variety show, “Bustles and Beaux” was presented at the Veteran’s Memorial Building. A Foreign Fashion Festival was held for two evenings in 1957 at the Veteran’s Memorial Building. Students, faculty, staff, families and townspeople modeled 114 costumes from many foreign countries. A profit of $783 was turned over to the Student Loan Fund. In 1959, a melodrama, “The Land of the Dragon” was produced in the former San Luis Obispo High School auditorium. In 1964, a “hat sale” netted $1,340 for campus services. Five hundred twenty-eight hats were sold on consignment and members appeared at the CPWC May Luncheon in their new finery. Members of the Club worked enthusiastically for months on the many committees necessary to produce these “ways and means” projects.
Various types of loans have been offered to students over the years; i.e., the original long-term loans, short-term loans (1940), and a Veterans Loan Fund (1945). In 1976, the Marie Van Asperen Loan Fund was established. There is also a Cal Poly Women’s Club Scholarship. All students are eligible to apply for this scholarship, however special consideration is given to members of the CPWC or their relatives. In the past 33 years, over 50 students have been awarded scholarships totaling more than $33,900.
In 1963, a scholarship committee was formed to select 2 women students in each class in recognition of their high scholastic achievements and participation in campus activities. Recipients received a gift of money and were honored at the annual CPWC May Luncheon. Today both male and female students are eligible for academic scholarships funded by the Club and selected by the University Financial Aid Office. In 2005, the CPWC established a $10,000 Endowment with the University Foundation to help fund the student scholarships. Additional funds have been added and today private donations are still encouraged. The endowment augments scholarship funds held at the University Financial Aid Office. Between 1996 and 2016, the Club also has awarded over $8,000 in financial aid toward tuition for the children of needy student families at the Orfalea Family and ASI Children’s Center on the Cal Poly campus.
There are several other ways that CPWC has served the University and its students. At one time, Cal Poly had a large foreign student enrollment. In 1956, CPWC established social ties with 157 foreign students representing 37 countries. Host families dined and entertained students in their homes, provided refreshments in their campus lounge areas, and organized several activities for the students. By 1959, the foreign student population had grown to 450. The mid-70’s saw a decline in foreign student enrollment and service was discontinued in 1979.
In 1949, the CPWC sponsored the Student Wive’s Club, a very active organization for several years. A Blood Bank Committee and a Hospital Auxiliary Committee were organized in the 1960’s. Members worked as volunteers in the Student Health Center donating time, and small items for students and assisting confined patients. Volunteers contacted faculty and gathered classroom assignments for these students. This service was discontinued in 1987 when the Health Center no longer kept students overnight.
Cal Poly campus accommodates several conferences during the Summer months. In the early 1960’s, CPWC hosted coffees for wives of high school agriculture teachers and P.E. coaches, as well as wives of Farm Bureau conference attendees. In 1994, the CPWC donated $5,000 to help fund construction of the Performing Arts Center.
For the Club members, it is not “all work and no play.” The academic year begins with a Fall Reception to welcome returning and new members to Cal Poly. Members gather mid-year for a holiday party with spouses, significant others and guests. General meetings keep members abreast of CPWC activities and, of course, entertainment is included. With shared pride in their accomplishments, members meet in May for a luncheon, entertainment and installation of officers for the coming year. Farewells and wishes for a happy summer holiday are shared at the June Coffee.
May the Club continue to live up to its purpose!