In today’s world, women’s roles in an Episcopal congregation include ordained ministry, election as wardens or members of the vestry and many other kinds of service. While this headline, from an article in the Knickerbocker News of May 18, 1966, is only fifty years old, it describes a St. Paul’s that is some way familiar, yet foreign, one in which women’s part in the new building’s consecration on June 4 consisted of cleaning, decorating, and pouring tea. As was then the custom, the newspaper gives only their husbands’ names; their first names (in brackets) were obtain from other sources.
The entire effort was organized by Mrs. Frederick [Betty Jeanne] Vogel. We see her here with Mrs. William E. [Josephine] Kells arranging furniture and candlesticks.
Decoration of the new building was organized by Mrs. Arthur C. [Ruth] McDowell, the President of Women of St. Paul’s, assisted by Mrs. Roger [Ruth] Aiken, who had the distinction of being the only woman on the building committee. We have seen Mrs. Aiken before, as co-chair of the 1961 Christmas Bazaar and the 1981 Christmas Holiday Festival and Bazaar.
The article particularly mentions two objects that were to be placed in the Fellowship Hall: the grandfather clock and a painting of the Lancaster Street building, donated by Dr. Susan Seabury Smith, associate professor of library science at the State Teachers’ College. We will have more to say about these objects in a later post.
Cleaning and polishing of the church silver were organized by Mrs. John N. [Ismena] Grant, longtime president of the Altar Guild, who also had roles in the 1961 and 1981 Christmas Bazaars. We learn that much of the old silver had been stored for years or decades in the tower of the Lancaster Street building was “pretty black.” Here is the photograph of Mrs. Grant, assisted by Mrs. McDowell and Mrs. Aiken.
For comparison, here is a more recent picture of the flagon and chalices, with the grandfather clock in the background. The silver pieces were donated in 1886 in memory of parishioner Adam Van Allen (1813-1884).
So that everyone would be able to enjoy the event, the dinner after the consecration was to be catered, but the women were to be active as pourers and hostesses. The article mentions a tea set and tea urn that are still used for formal occasions. The tea set was donated by Mrs. William G. Burrill, the tea urn by Pauline Hewson Wilson, who had also given the Wilson Memorial Parish Hall on Jay Street.