Julia Gaston Club


Philanthropy, Community Service, Racial Uplift


The Julia Gaston Club was one of the “Original Seven” pioneering women’s clubs in the Chicago area. These were among the first to form as part of the National Association of Colored Women. The club’s members were black women and they formed the organization to discuss philanthropy, race, and organization methods, all while implementing service projects in their communities. Named in memory of Julia Gaston, a woman dedicated to the organization of women, the club was founded in 1898 by Mary McDowell and Kizzie Bell (who was also its first President). Other known members were Lola Downs, Emma Howland, Celia Webb Hill, Carrie Evans, and Mary Richie.


Beyond its committment to the community of Evanston through philanthropy, the Julia Gaston Club was a crucial agent in the uniting of black women’s clubs in Chicago and other parts of Illinois. It was an active supporter of initiatives of the National Association of Colored Women. Most notably, the club created a fund in 1899 to support the first kindergarten sponsored by the NACW in Illinois.

Founded: November 1898

Founders: Kizzie Bills (first President), Mary McDowell

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