Eden Juron Pearlman and Lori Osborne at the Evanston History Center

ongoing women's history work assured through endowment fund

The Joan Barr Smith Endowment for Women's History of the Evanston History Center was established as an outgrowth of the work started through the Evanston Women's History Project.

The stories of women in Evanston are the stories of Evanston’s history. The scope of these stories goes far beyond what anyone understood or expected when the Evanston Women’s History Project launched. 

from an idea to an extensive project

Ten years ago, two visionary donors launched the Evanston Women’s History Project (EWHP) at the Evanston Community Foundation. With the support of other donors and the leadership of Lori Osborne acting as project director, EWHP pulled together a three-year collaborative effort of nonprofits, volunteers, and donors to research and document the extraordinary history of women in Evanston. EWHP ultimately came to a permanent home at the Evanston History Center.

Evanston History Center executive director, Eden Juron Pearlman explained “It is amazing what you can do with support. The reason we took on the project was because we had the support. We had a concept and idea that there were an interesting group of women in Evanston’s history. At that time we didn’t understand the total connectedness of the stories."

the Foundation's resources

“It was not just money. The Community Foundation mobilized its connections, its networks…and provided financial management in the early years. And it provided leadership and advice. It’s a great example of the Community Foundation giving its resources, not to do something itself but to make something happen. The Foundation was responding to community need and community interest and saying we’ll mobilize our resources to help make it work” remarked Lori Osborne, Evanston History Center’s Director of Archives & Outreach and Director of the EWHP. “The research component grew much bigger than we thought. How we tell the stories and how we deploy stories became bigger than we expected too.”

establishing the fund

EWHP is a permanent part of the Evanston History Center. The relatively new Joan Barr Smith Endowment for Women’s History of the Evanston History Center was recently moved to the Foundation, where the History Center hopes the fund will grow to support the ongoing women’s history work including annual lectures, walking tours, collecting women’s stories through interviewing, assembling archival materials, and an internship program. The establishment of the endowment happened organically with Joan Barr Smith, herself a part of Evanston women’s history as Evanston’s first female mayor. Barr Smith, who passed away eighteen months after the fund was established, actively solicited donations to build the fund. Pearlman summarized, “She helped us have a bigger picture. It all fit together. The focus on this work started at the Foundation, and we’ve come full circle to have the Endowment held at the Foundation.“

women's stories and history

Gearing up for 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment giving U.S. women the right to vote, the History Center is working in partnership with the Frances Willard Historical Association to plan to honor the moment. All while creating opportunities for the Evanston community to learn and experience its rich history, including the story of suffrage activist Catharine Waugh McCulloch, who Lori Osborne talks about in the accompanying video. Osborne reflected, ”Now people in Evanston know there’s a lot of women’s history in town. Temperance and women’s suffrage are deeply tied together. We [Evanston] have that story and no one else has it. What’s constant in Evanston is that women are in leadership, making things happen, taking charge.”