Guide to the Records of the Women's Overseas Service League (WOSL), Pittsburgh Unit, 1919-1996

Digital Research Library, University Library System

Summary Information

Repository
Detre Library & Archives, Heinz History Center
Title
Records of the Women's Overseas Service League (WOSL), Pittsburgh Unit
Creator
Women's Overseas Service League, Pittsburgh Unit
Collection Number
MSS#273
Date [inclusive]
1919-1996
Extent
3.25 cubic feet (5 boxes)
Language of Materials
The material in this collection is in English.
Abstract
The Pittsburgh Unit of the Women's Overseas Service League originated after World War I as the Association of Overseas "Y" Women. In 1923, the organization officially became part of the Women's Overseas Service League. Its goals are to strengthen and continue the ties formed in war work under the YMCA and to assist in carrying on welfare work in times of peace. These records include minutes, financial material, scrapbooks, slides, photo albums, and annual convention proceedings and document the history of the Pittsburgh Unit and annual convention of the Women's Overseas Service League.
Sponsor Note
This finding aid has been encoded as a part of the Historic Pittsburgh project, a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Funding for this portion of the project has been donated by the Hillman Foundation.

Preferred Citation

Records of the Women's Overseas Service League (WOSL), Pittsburgh Unit, 1919-1996, MSS #273, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania.

Return to Table of Contents »


History of the Women's Overseas Service League, 1919-

The Pittsburgh Unit of the Women's Overseas Service League (WOSL) originated shortly after the end of World War I. During the war, about 22 thousand women from the United States served overseas with the armed forces. Except for the nurses, the volunteers, who served in such varied roles as office clerks, ambulance drivers, interpreters, and librarians, were sponsored by the Red Cross, YMCA and YWCA, Salvation Army, American Library Association, Catholic War Council, and Jewish Welfare Board. The YMCA sponsored the Pittsburgh group, and, in spite of the extremely rigorous standards for acceptance, about 200 applicants qualified.

On their return home, these service women, at a luncheon meeting on September 27, 1919, at the Twentieth Century Club, decided to establish an organization of Pittsburgh women who had served overseas. After electing Miss Bertha McCall the first president and Miss Hilda Berkey secretary, the group chose the name Association of Overseas "Y" Women and drafted a constitution which stated the following aims: 1) to strengthen and continue the ties formed in war work under the YMCA and 2) to assist in carrying on welfare work in times of peace. Four years later, on October 10, 1923, in order to provide a broader service program, the local "Y" group modified its by-laws to conform with those of the national WOSL to become the Pittsburgh Unit of the Women's Overseas Service League. Although originally intended to aid women who had served in World War I, the League in 1946 extended membership to World War II service women and, later, to those who had served in Korea, Vietnam, Granada, Panama, Lebanon, and the Persian Gulf War.

Throughout the years of its existence, the Pittsburgh Unit has maintained the WOSL goal "to inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state, and nation." Much of the financial burden of this service has been eased by the Endowment Fund. Started in 1926, the Fund provides loans and grants, without interest, for any woman who served overseas with the armed forces and is in need of financial help. Less tangible services to members include acknowledgments of such personal events as birthdays, illnesses, and hospitalizations. The Unit has shown particular concern for veterans in hospitals and, through the Social Service Emergency Fund, assures that proper attention be given to their needs.

Among other local recipients of Unit aid are the Red Cross, Bethlehem Haven for Homeless Women, Jubilee Kitchen, Pittsburgh Guild for the Blind, Meals on Wheels, Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, and various Christmas projects.

In a broader application of its obligation to serve, the Unit has supported various national and international projects. It has made regular contributions to the Kontum Hospital in Vietnam, UNICEF, and the Youth Awards and Leadership Training at Freedoms Foundation, Valley Forge. It has also supported the Hospitalized Veterans Writing Project and the Cathedral in the Pines, a memorial to Americans killed in all wars.

An indication of the scope of the Pittsburgh Unit involvement in WOSL projects appears in a report issued on the 60th anniversary of the Unit, which states that the Pittsburgh Unit at that time was contributing to 300 different charities and organizations.

Although still in existence (as of 1997) the Pittsburgh Unit has suffered a decline in membership. It has been suggested that the absence of a military base near Pittsburgh, as well as the difficulty in obtaining information from the government about women who served in Vietnam and in subsequent conflicts may be contributing factors in the decline, but no specific reason has been found. The Pittsburgh Unit, however, continues to hold monthly meetings and to perform its traditional service role.

Return to Table of Contents »


Scope and Content Notes

These records include minutes, financial material, scrapbooks, proceedings, and other sundry items. The records contain abundant information on the Pittsburgh Unit of the WOSL. Lacking, however, is significant material documenting the National organization, with the exception of the few annual convention proceedings.

Return to Table of Contents »


Administrative Information

Publication Information

Digital Research Library, University Library System Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Summer, 1999

Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
library@hswp.org

Revision Description

 Converted from EAD Version 1.0 to EAD Version 2002 July 1, 2006

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

Restrictions on Use

Property rights reside with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or publish, please contact the curator of the Archives.

Acquisition Information

Acc# 1997.0196 -- Gift of Women's Overseas Service League (Records), 1997.

Processing Information

These records were arranged and the inventory was written by D. Kish and  C. Moore on December 12, 1997.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided by Jennifer Marshall on August 5, 1999.

Return to Table of Contents »


Controlled Access Headings

Subject(s)

  • Clubs, associations, etc -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • Women -- Societies and clubs -- Pennsylvania -- Pittsburgh
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Participation, Female
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Women -- Pennsylvania
  • Women
  • Women's Collection

Return to Table of Contents »


Collection Inventory

Series I Pittsburgh Unit of the WOSL 1919-1996 

Scope and Content Notes

The Pittsburgh Unit records include minutes, financial material, scrapbooks, correspondence, and other sundry items. Six notebooks and one folder contain the secretarial minutes of monthly meetings held either at the Wood Street YMCA or at members' homes. The minutes (dating from 1919 through 1995 with only minor omissions), which include treasurer's reports, various committee reports, and disbursement records, give a comprehensive insight into the business, social, and charitable activities of the organization. The minutes of the first business meeting on September 27, 1919, provide an excellent description of the formation of the Pittsburgh Unit, with the election of temporary officers and a proposed constitution among the topics discussed.

Of the several reports on the financial officers of the Unit from 1919 to 1990, one of the most informative is the notebook of the Endowment Fund Committee, covering the years 1942 to 1983. This record includes information on the income tax status of the Unit, stock and bond holdings, aid to members, contributions to charities, and cash balance.

A number of scrapbooks from 1923 to 1970 provide an abundance of material relating to the functions of the Pittsburgh Unit. Along with news clippings about activities and obituaries of members, the scrapbooks contain convention schedules, programs of anniversary luncheons, various citations and bulletins from the National WOSL.

Among the miscellaneous items that contribute information on the composition and the membership of the organization are the following: six Unit Handbooks, revised 1985; a handbook for Unit Presidents; five booklets of the Constitution and By-Laws and Roster; and three Member Handbooks. In addition, one folder contains brief biographical sketches of members, and another has a history of the Unit, anniversary reports, merit certificates, application forms, and pamphlets describing memorial services.

Unit correspondence (1982-1993) is minimal and relates mainly to announcements from the office of the area director to various units.

Arrangement

The Pittsburgh Unit of the WOSL series is housed in three archival boxes and is arranged alphabetically by folder title.

  boxfolder
Biographical Sketches 1989-1996 11
  folder
Constitution, By-Laws and Rosters 1933-1992 2
  folder
Correspondence 1982-1993 3
Endowment Fund 
  folder
Annual Reports 1983-1993 4
  folder
Committee Reports 1942-1982 5
  folder
Handbooks -- Unit Presidents 1985 6
  folder
Membership Rosters -- Washington Unit 1992-1994 7
Minutes 
  folder
 1919-1930 8
  folder
 1935-1944 9
  boxfolder
 1944-1954 21
  folder
 1954-1964 2
  folder
 1964-1973 3
  boxfolder
 1973-1986 31
  folder
 1990-1995 2
  folder
Miscellaneous 1969-1996 3
Scrapbooks   
 1918-1971 
  folder
 1926-1969 4
 1943-1971 
 1971-1984 
  folder
Treasurer's Book 1919-1936 5
  folder
Treasurer's Reports 1973-1990 6

Return to Table of Contents »


Series II Annual Convention Proceedings 1929-1939 

Scope and Content Notes

This series documents the annual convention proceedings of the National WOSL from 1929 until 1939. Five bound books containing the proceedings provide a detailed insight into the activities of these conventions. Due to the broad scope of the proceedings, however, they have limited value in a study of the Pittsburgh Unit. In addition, the proceedings are not comprehensive and only provide a brief look at some of the conventions.

Arrangement

The second series is housed in two archival boxes and is arranged chronologically.

  boxfolder
9th Annual Convention 1929 41
  folder
11th Annual Convention 1931 2
  folder
14th Annual Convention 1934 3
  folder
16th Annual Convention 1936 4
  boxfolder
19th Annual Convention 1939 51

Return to Table of Contents »