Founded in friendship, the group raised money for scholarships by means of donations and small group social events. The Summit College Club held its first Book Sale in 1935, and it immediately became an annual event. Because of the book sale’s ongoing success and the club’s careful financial stewardship, Summit College Club has awarded nearly a million dollars in scholarships and fellowships.
In 1936, club members voted unanimously to join AAUW, the American Association of University Women. AAUW’s mission is “to advance gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy." As a branch of this national organization, SCC supports and benefits from AAUW programs and initiatives.
SCC has long been a vital force in the community life of Summit and surrounding towns. SCC has, for example, sponsored Creative Arts Festivals, a Science and Technology Fair, Peace Forums, and a benefit for student refugees. It was a Summit College Club study group on gerontology that led to the formation of SAGE. SCC has also done public workshops on subjects of special interest to women, such as sexual harassment in the schools and, most recently, salary negotiation for working women. Our program speakers—including regional and local women’s leaders, politicians, educators, writers, artists, and scientists--offer talks that are open to the public and free of charge.
After the beginning years, membership grew steadily and then soared during the 50s and 60s, when the civil rights and women’s movements held national attention. As more and more women began to work outside the home, however, membership in women’s groups declined nationally. SCC responded by streamlining the number of its Interest Groups, moving most events and meetings to weekends and evenings, and partnering with other local organizations, such as neighboring branches of AAUW and the League of Women Voters, for some programs.
In 2016, a Strategic Planning Committee produced a list of recommendations that revitalized the organization.
In 2020, ambitious centennial plans were underway to celebrate the Club’s 100th anniversary year. Then the global health crisis and ensuing lockdown put many of those plans on hold, including a 100th Anniversary Gala, the 2020 Book Sale, and a trip to the Alice Paul Institute.
A year later, with the U.S. midstream in another covid-19 wave and lockdown, it is difficult to predict when or if these club events will be able to move forward. The nimble Program Committee changed course, and members enjoyed a full schedule of online events in fall, 2020.
Today, 101 years after Tilla Thomas, Summit College Club is still based in friendship and common cause and continues to raise consciousness, support education, and value equity for women and girls.
Summit College Club has a long, proud history in New Jersey. It began simply, more than a century ago, when a teacher of French at Summit High School, Tilla Thomas, gathered some friends with the purpose of supporting education for girls and welcoming newcomers to the community. That happened on February 25, 1920, six months before the 19th Amendment was ratified.