Altrusa’s classification system of selective recruitment of women leaders proved its point by attracting top echelon members.
Eleanor Roosevelt is one whose name became a household word. An active member of the Altrusa Club of New York City, she was classified under Furniture, as owner of a factory, and maintained her active interest right on up to the White House, when she became First Lady with the election of her husband, Franklin, as President of the United States. When he was Governor of New York, Eleanor helped organize the Altrusa Club of Albany by inviting prospects to dinner at the executive mansion to finalize plans with the national field representative; the documents were signed with the Governor’s pen in his private sitting room.
Among countless early Altrusans who had risen to high places considered unusual for women are the following selected at random from early issues of the Altrusa magazine. Notable in their careers, they were notable influencers in their Altrusa clubs as well, in developing needed service projects with scope. Behind their job titles can be appreciated the pioneering that they had to do in their 1920’s time frame:
Dr. Lillian Gilbreth, charter member, Altrusa Club of New York City; internationally known personnel management engineer, first woman professor of management engineering, Purdue University; and the mother in Cheaper By The Dozen.
Julia Hindman, first president of the Altrusa Club of Nashville, Tennessee; insurance agency owner and dean of business women.
Natalie Gabriel, a charter member, Altrusa Club of Nashville, Tennessee, bank executive.
Belle Benchley, Altrusa Club of San Diego, California, only woman zoo director.
Mary Grossman, Altrusa Club of Cleveland, Ohio, judge of the municipal court.
Katherine Giles, Altrusa Club of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, only woman cotton statistician in the United States.
IDA Wilcox, Altrusa Club of Salt Lake City, Utah, foremost portrait photographer in the West.
Nellie Tayloe Ross, Altrusa Club of Cheyenne, succeeded her husband as Governor of Wyoming, upon his death in 1923; ten years later became the first woman director of the United States Mint.
Edith Jarvis Alden, Altrusa Club of Chicago, Illinois, as secretary/treasurer of the Burlington Railroad was the first woman in American rail history to be given a top position with a major railroad.
Ruth St.Denis, Altrusa Club of New York City, foremost interpreter of dances of the Orient.
Bess Streeter Aldrich, Altrusa Club of Lincoln, Nebraska, novelist.
Hattie Green Lockett, Altrusa Club of Phoenix, Arizona, owner-manager of an extensive sheep-raising operation; named “Sheep Queen” by the National Wool Growers’ Association.
Elizabeth Gilmer, Altrusa of New Orleans, Louisiana, more famous under the column pen name of “Dorothy Dix.”
Dr. Sara Jordan, Altrusa Club of Boston, Massachusetts, foremost woman surgeon.
Margaret Wheeler, Altrusa Club of Boston, Massachusetts, curator of Egyptology, Boston Museum of Art.
Margaret McGill, Altrusa Club of Boston, Massachusetts, president of the Women’s Industrial and Educational Union.
Teresa Fitzpatrick, Altrusa Club of Boston, Massachusetts, general manager of the Atlantic Monthly.
Margaret Park, Altrusa Club of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, official of National Bank of Philadelphia.
Mary Dam, Altrusa Club of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, curator of education, University of Philadelphia Art Museum.
Jean Crawford, Altrusa Club of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, women’s director, University of Pennsylvania.
May Middleton, Altrusa Club of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, superintendent of Methodist Hospital.
Dorothy Grafly, Altrusa of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Ledger art page editor & daughter of Sculptor Charles Grafly.
Soester L Anthon, Altrusa Club of Yakima, Washington, managing editor, Yakima Daily Republic.
Mary Barber, Altrusa Club of Battle Creek, Michigan, home economics director of the Kellogg Company.
Alva Ellisor, Altrusa Club of Houston, Texas, consulting geologist and paleontologist, Humble Oil Company.
Gladys Pyle, Altrusa Club of Huron, South Dakota, Secretary of State.
Margaret Cheney, Altrusa Club of Lafayette, Indiana, only woman head of a bank in the United States.
Katherine Fisher, Altrusa of New York City, Good Housekeeping Magazine’s director of the Good Housekeeping Institute.
Angela Morgan, Altrusa Club of New York City, poet.
Ruth Pratt, Altrusa Club of New York City, the city’s only woman alderman.
Gertrude Lane, Altrusa Club of New York City, editor of the Woman’s Home Companion.
Lucille Hecht, Chicago, Illinois, an Altrusan since 1944 and was editor of the International Altrusan for over three decades beginning in 1977. She is a past president of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association and was their “Woman of the Year” in 1973.
Joella Terrell Butler, Wichita Falls, Texas, was a wildcatter and an independent oil producer. Time Frame: 1950’s – 1960’s
Lena Clauve, charter member of the Altrusa Club of Albuquerque, New Mexico, composed the fight song for the University of New Mexico in 1930.
Bonnie Cone, PhD, Charlotte, North Carolina, was one of the founders of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1965.
Ray K. Daily, MD, Houston, Texas, an ophthalmologist who served on the Board of Directors that formed the University of Houston. She was also noted for her work with the Independent School District in Houston. Time Frame: 1940’s
Zada Haws, Ogden, Utah, was the first president of Utah Association of Adult Education and Community Continuing Education in 1989.
Renilda Hilkemeyer, Houston, Texas, pioneer in the field of Oncology Nursing. Time Frame: 1950’s.
Carol Haberman Knight-Sheen, San Antonio, Texas, was the first female District Judge in Bexar County Texas. She was appointed by Governor Dolph Briscoe in 1977. Virginia Morriss, Sherman, Texas, was the first woman Mayor of Sherman in 1979.
Jacqueline Noonan, MD, Lexington, Kentucky, was one of the founding faculty members of the University of Kentucky. She was also the first person to describe Noonan’s Syndrome, a genetic multiple malformation syndrome that affects one in 1,500 infants. Time Frame: 1960’s.
To this small sampling of notable influencers in Altrusa’s formative years must be added the National and International presidents presented here, with the positions they held at the time of their presidencies, and whose devoted leadership has made Altrusa International, Inc. what it is today.
ALTRUSA HALL OF FAME
The past presidents, where they lived, and the positions they held at the time.
1917-18: *Mamie L. Bass, Indianapolis, Indiana, architectural firm business Administrator
1918-19: *Morna Hickham Knipe, Kokomo, Indiana, director, women’s division, U.S. Employment Service
1919-21: *Bessie D. Moore, Dayton, Ohio, attorney
1921-22: *Mary M. Buehler, Indianapolis, lumber company vice president
1922-24: *Anna H. Settle, Louisville, Kentucky, attorney
1924-25: *Dr. Gillette Hayden, Columbus, Ohio, dentist
1925-27: *Amanda H. Heppner, Lincoln, dean of women, University of Nebraska
1927-28: *Margaret Turner, Lexington, Kentucky, bank executive
1928-30: *Dr. Helen Johnston, Des Moines, Iowa, physician
1930-31: *Elizabeth F. Gardner, Austin, Texas, automobile agency owner
1931-33: *Janette B. Briggs, Kalamazoo, Michigan, drug company co-owner
1933-37: *Chase Going Woodhouse, New London, Connecticut, director, institute, women’s professional relations
1937-39: *Hariette Quisenberry, El Paso, Texas, department store public relations director
1939-41: *Dessalee Ryan Dudley, Battle Creek, Michigan, assistant superintendent of schools
1941-45: *Dr. Nina Fay Calhoun, Dallas, Texas, dermatologist
1945-47: *Mamie D. Larsh, Indianapolis, Indiana, attorney
1947-49: *Corinne V. Loomis, Boston, Massachusetts, executive, John Hancock Insurance Company
1949-51: *Ruth Kramer, Marion, Ohio, sanatorium purchasing agent
1951-53: *Lena C. Clauve, Albuquerque, dean of women, University of New Mexico
1953-55: *Gretchen Vanderschmidt, St. Louis, Missouri, secretarial school owner
1955-56: *Erma B. Christy, Muncie, Indiana, supervisor and vocational guidance expert, public schools
1956-57: *Marjorie Lamb, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, founder-head, The Alert Service
1957-59: *Edith Wood Nelson, Richmond, Virginia, real estate executive
1959-61: *Dr. Viva Boothe, Columbus, Ohio, director, Bureau of Business Research, Ohio State
1961-63: *Ernestine C. Milner, Greensboro, North Carolina, head, psychology department, Guilford
1963-65: *Edith DeBusk, Dallas, Texas, attorney
1965-67: *Lucille S. Alexander, Jacksonville, Florida, senior reviewer, IRS audit division, Jacksonville
1967-69: *Mary S. Resh, Washington, D.C., deputy assistant manpower administrator, U.S.
Department of Labor
1969-71: *Joella Terrill Butler, Wichita Falls, Texas, independent oil producer
1971-73: Ethel Boyle Blanco, Springfield, IL, asst. state purchasing agent, Dept. of General Services,
State of Illinois
1973-75: *Muriel Mawer, Seattle, Washington, attorney
1975-77: *LaVora E. Conklin, Detroit, Michigan, probate court analyst
1977-79: *Letha H. Brown, San Diego, California, corporate secretary, Ratner Corporation
1979-81: *Jen Henson, Carlsbad, New Mexico, co-owner of a silver and turquoise jewelry
1981-83: Marie Knuebel-Colantino, Ashtabula, Ohio, capital investments
1983-85: *Verona M. Bordok, Barstow, California, principal, Barstow High School
1985-87: *Norma Jean Najim, Springfield, Illinois, controller
1987-89: Stella T. J. Nyhan, Dublin, Ireland, executive, Irish clothing industry
1989-91: Barbara Ann Hughes, Ph.D., R.D., Raleigh, North Carolina, registered dietitian
1991-93: Norma Hiner, Ashland, Ohio, pharmacist
1993-95: Joyce Delabar, Lexington, KY, director of graduate education, University of Kentucky School of
1995-97: Margaret Inch, Wellington, New Zealand, director, Strand Natural Fibers. Ltd.
1997-99: Dr. Alexinia Y. Baldwin, Ph.D., Mansfield Center, Connecticut, education/professor
1999-01: Barbara J. Chinn, Eugene, Oregon, family community/leadership trainer
2001-03 Phyllis J. Corman, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, banking executive
2003-05 Judy Atkinson, Enterprise, Alabama, insurance executive
2005-07 Linda Nichols, Austin, Texas, chief operating officer American Lung Association of Texas