Los Angeles: ca. 1920s. Slight wear to edges. A clean, bright, near-fine set of these rare postcards issued by a charitable organization that aimed to keep young women out of prison. Glossy card stock. 5 in. x 3 in. Item #17008
The Los Angeles Business Girls’ Club was founded in 1921 by Miriam Van Waters (1887-1974) and Orfa Jean Schontz (1876 – 1954). The club provided free housing, education, job training, medical care, psychological evaluation, and career planning to impoverished young women between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one. Twenty percent of the club members were orphans and another thirty-seven percent had one deceased parent; some had no parents in California or in the United States, were children of divorced parents, or came from “unfit homes.” Many of the members supported themselves before entering the club, though they were underpaid and struggling to survive. They stayed with the club until they were fully self-sufficient in reliable employment, at which point they re-entered their communities under “friendly supervision” by the club.
Miriam Van Waters was a prison reformer and philanthropist whose efforts were supported by Eleanor Roosevelt. She served as superintendent for three women’s prisons, where she established educational and artistic programs for inmates and avoided the particularly punitive methods employed by other prisons. She believed that the roots of poverty and crime were in poor social conditions and lack of support, rather than in moral or genetic weakness. The Los Angeles Business Girls Club was only one of many organizations she founded to keep women out of prisons and poverty and to transition former inmates back into their communities. Orfa Jean Schontz was a lawyer, the first woman referee of the Juvenile Court of Los Angeles County, and the first sitting woman judge in California. When she retired in 1920, Van Waters took up her position as the referee. Schontz was also the president of the Business and Professional Woman’s Club, the organization that eventually absorbed the Business Girls’ Club, and a member of the Woman Lawyer’s Club, State Bar Association, and League of Women Vote. Fischer, C.S. The Journal of Juvenile Research, vol. 9 (1925), pp. 238-241.