The Woman's National Democratic Club, founded in 1922, purchased the Whittemore House, located at the corner of Q and New Hampshire, in 1927. The now-demolished Leiter House on Dupont Circle is in the background of this 1900 photograph.
The Whittemore House, designed by architect Harvey L. Page for opera singer Sarah Adams Whittemore in 1892, is on the National Register for Historic Places as “one of the finest English-inspired Arts and Crafts exteriors in the city.” It is noted for its fine brickwork and “undulating roof” as well as the Brutalist-style addition to the rear of the building,
Following the enactment of the 19th Amendment, prominent suffragists, including Daisy Harriman founded the Woman's National Democratic Club in 1922 recognizing that their work was only beginning: women needed tools, knowledge, and relationships to engage in national politics. Co-founder Emily Blair, a suffragist from Missouri, moved to Washington with a question that drove her: “What shall we do with it? The ballot, of course! We have it! Now what?”
Eleanor Roosevelt, the first national member of WNDC, and Edith S. Sampson, the first African-American national member, served together as delegates to the United Nations in September 1950.
The WNDC was the first formal meeting place for Democratic Women in the Capital and their members were among the first to enter party politics as organizers, appointees, and leaders. One hundred years of activism and WNDC’s motto today—"From the right to vote . . . the power to lead”—are their answers to Blair’s question.
Blair led the establishment of more than 1000 Democratic women’s organizations across the country, many of them affiliated with WNDC. During a 1935 national meeting, WNDC and their affiliated members were invited to a tea at the White House by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (above).
Esther Peterson, Assistant Secretary of Labor, Vice Chairman of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, and WNDC President (1969), presents the Commission’s report to President Kennedy on October 11, 1963 together with other Commission members.
Club member Jewell Fenzi and historian Allida Black published Democratic Women, An Oral History of the Woman's National Democratic Club in honor of our 75th anniversary.
Secretary Hillary Clinton visits WNDC for a post-election book tour reception in the fall of 2017.
WNDC has presented two programs a week on an extraordinarily wide range of issues of concern for nearly one hundred years. It also honors women and other leaders with awards including Democratic Woman of the Year (above, Maxine Waters who received the award and was honored by Representative John Lewis.) Previous awardees (below) including Representative Barbara Jordan, Ambassador Pamela Harriman; Vice Presidential Candidate Geraldine Ferraro, OMB Director Alice Rivlin, and DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
WNDC members remain highly engaged in political activities, “getting out the vote,” and policy initiatives including the environment, gun violence prevention, and statehood.
Established in 1991, the nonpartisan WNDC Educational Foundation promotes the understanding of women’s history and civic engagement—for example with a 2021 calendar on the history of “Women of Color and the Fight for the Vote.”