The dark wooden eagle stands, wings spread wide open as it’s perched upon a ball, the focal point of a beautiful ornate podium.
This podium was used for years by the New Century Club of Chester. It was donated to the Delaware County Historical Society by Theresa Scavicchio of Brookhaven.
The New Century Club was founded in 1893 by Mrs. Frederick Preston, who was the wife of a prominent physician and one of Chester’s leaders of cultural and civic activities at the time. She had been a guest at the Philadelphia and Wilmington clubs and was impressed by what a group of women could accomplish working together.
So, on Nov. 16 of that year, 40 women gathered to learn more and by a week later, 87 women were enrolled as charter members. The purpose of the club was to promote and support civic, educational and cultural activities in the community. Its motto was “Always Tending Toward A Noble End.”
They met in several locations including the Sunday School room of the Emmanuel Baptist Church at 15th and Potter streets, the old Masonic Hall and the Library Hall.
By November 1926, they had their own home at 400 E. 15th St., at the corner of 15th and Upland streets in Chester. Each member brought a chair, a knife, a fork, a spoon, a cup and saucer and plate.
Over the years, the club initiated several programs such as opening a free kindergarten in 1895 for the children of working mothers. That grew into the Chester Day Nursery.
They also arranged for the first visiting nurse in the city, an effort that grew into the Child Health Centers.
Trees were planted in Chester Park and on the Chester Hospital grounds and the first public playgrounds were opened and supervised by club women.
They formed Leagues of Good Citizenship clubs in four schools for children, who then placed wicker trash baskets at street corners in the city.
The ladies were also active in war efforts.
During World War I, they collected more than 2,000 garments and 225 pairs of shoes for the National Emergency Aid Program.
During World War II, they sold war bonds at bookstores in the city and they made afghans for soldiers in the hospitals at Valley Forge, the Philadelphia Naval Hospital and the Government Convalescent Hospital in Swarthmore. They also sent clothing and more than 1,800 books to servicemen.
They also made annual contributions to Camp Sunshine and the Blind Association and gifts were sent to inmates.
In 1976, under chairwoman Clarence R. Moll, the club established a $1,000 nursing scholarship that was given each year to a student at Widener University and an art award.
Club members also participated in the 300th reenactment of William Penn’s landing in Chester and the burying of a time capsule at the Media courthouse in 1983.
In 1993, the club celebrated its 100th anniversary with a luncheon program at the Springhaven Country Club in Wallingford.
The podium and other Women’s Clubs artifacts can be seen at Delaware County Historical Society Museum, Library & Research Center. The museum is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and Friday; 1 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The museum’s telephone number is 610-872-0502. Parking is free on the society lot behind the building or across the street in the municipal lot.
Membership in the Delaware County Historical Society ranges from $10 for students, $27 for individuals to $250 at the patron level. It includes free admission to the society’s Chester museum and library at 408 Avenue of the States, the society newsletter and preferred reservations and discounts for lectures and events. To join, please visit www.padelcohistory.org or call 610-359-0832.
The podium of the New Century Club of Chester is part of the Delaware County Historical Society collection.