In 1898, Ina Law Robertson, an Oregon schoolteacher who came to Chicago to study at the University of Chicago, founded a residence for single working women. That residence became the "Eleanor Club", the first of several residences designed to provide both an affordable home and a mutually supportive environment for single young working women new to the city.
The name "Eleanor" was selected by early Club residents because it means "light". Robertson agreed that light-giving represented the gift these women brought to their new city. By 1909, there were five residences; at the organization’s peak, there were six residences located throughout the city as well as a camp in Lake Geneva. The last residence, the North Dearborn Parkway building is to be sold. It was constructed in 1956 and has served thousands of women since then.
In June of this year, the 103 year-old organization announced that it would move in a new direction to provide a substantial new source of funds for tens of thousands of Chicago women and girls needing assistance; proceeds of the sale of the Dearborn Parkway facility and endowment will be used to capitalize a new grant making program.
Susan Leinwohl, Executive Director of the foundation and a resident of the Dearborn facility in the 1960’s, commented: "As a former resident and as the director of this women’s organization today, I am acutely aware of the needs of today’s women and girls. I am looking forward to this opportunity to collaborate with other women’s organizations to serve the entire Chicago women’s community in the ways that are most needed."
I lived in the Eleanor Club in 1985-86 while working towards my master's degree.
The building has since been sold, but I thought this history was fascinating!
I remember having to fill out a long application to get in, and I recall that I met some interesting women while living there. I still have some Christmas ornaments made by another resident that I use on my tree every year.
They had a nice dining room facility, and a mirrored workout room where I used to do aerobics to Duran Duran.