Collection ID: MSS009
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Altrusa International
Altrusa International, Inc. is an international service organization for professional and executive business women with membership on a limited classification basis. The National Association of Altrusa Clubs, founded in 1917 as Altrusa Institute, was the first national organization of business and professional women. In 1935 Altrusa became international and the name was changed to International Association of Altrusa Clubs, Inc. The organization's name was changed again in June 1947, to Altrusa International, Inc. The Indianapolis Altrusa Club was formed in April 1917. Its programs and activities have included vocational education and guidance, senior citizens programs, civic service and community service projects, financial assistance for graduate women from other countries and literacy related programs. The organization's objectives are to cultivate friendly relationships and solidarity among business and professional women to encourage mutual helpfulness; to provide vocational information and service to women of all ages; to encourage members to actively participate in community, national and international affairs, and to promote educational and cultural training. The records consist of legal documents, board and committee records, meeting files, financial records, correspondence, publications, special event materials, scrapbooks, news clippings and photographs.
3.7 cubic feet (3 cartons, 1 document box, and 1 pamphlet box)
Materials are in English .
Preferred citation:

Cite as: Altrusa International, Inc. of Indianapolis Records, 1917-1997, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.


Biographical / Historical:

Altrusa International, Inc. is an international service organization for professional and executive business women with membership on a limited classification basis. The first Altrusa Club was organized in Nashville, Tennessee on April 11, 1917 by Dr. Alfred Durham, an ostheopatic physician, who had been organizing clubs for Kiwanis. He organized the first five clubs, which were Nashville, Louisville, Indianapolis, Dayton, and the first Chicago Club. His original idea was a national club for business and professional women, principally to have forums to study various phases of business and professional life. The altruism was expressed in helping younger business women. The National Association of Altrusa Clubs, originally founded as the Altrusa Institute, was incorporated under the laws of Indiana on August 21, 1917, and was the first national organization of business and professional women. The first convention was held in Indianapolis in May 1918. At this time Durham accepted the contract relinquishing all rights as an organizer.

At the 1930 Convention the clubs were divided into ten districts, administered by a governor, who served as a part of the national governing body. Indianapolis was in District 5 until 1955 when it was changed to District 6.

At the 16th National Convention held in Chicago in June 1935, Altrusa became international, and a new name International Association of Alrusa Clubs, Inc. was given. In 1936 the first Classification Guide was adopted. The organization's name was again changed to Altrusa International, Inc. during the convention at Banff, Alberta, Canada, in June 1947.

Altrusa was organized primarily to encourage women to take a more active and varied role in community, national and international affairs. The organization's objectives, which have changed very little throughout its history, are: to cultivate friendly relationships and foster solidarity among business and professional women; to encourage high ethical standards of business and professional conduct; to provide vocational information and service to both young and mature women; to encourage participation in community and public, national and international affairs; to promote educational and cultural training.

Altrusa has pioneered in sponsoring career conferences for youth; job forums for the mature workers; services to the aged; assistance to the mentally and physically handicapped and safety programs. The projects are administered by the Altrusa International Foundation, established in 1962, to receive and administer funds donated by Altrusans and interested members of the general public for the support exclusively of educational, scientific, literary and charitable projects of Altrusa International, Inc. Altrusa is known for two major projects: Founders Fund Vocational Aid, the unique program of assistance for women of all ages to become self-supporting, established by Altrusa in 1952, and Grants-in-Aid project, established in 1945 to provide assistance for graduate women from other countries who are in need of emergency funds to complete their graduate work. These programs became models for the other targeted assistance programs organized by later agencies and organizations.

Every Altrusa Club is affiliated with Altrusa International. Clubs are grouped geographically into districts. Altrusa holds annual District Conferences and biennial International Conventions. International activities are directed from and co-ordinated by Altrusa Headquarters under the supervision of the Executive Committee. The National Headquarters is in Chicago, Illinois.

Indianapolis Altrusa Club was the fourth club organized (April 28, 1917). The first Indianapolis Altrusa president was Mamie L. Bass, who also served as the first national president. The Indianapolis Altrusa Club was fully involved in the formation of the National Association of Altrusa Clubs. In 1923 Indianapolis was the first Club to publish a weekly bulletin called The Altrusan to keep members and others informed. The current monthly publication is called the Altrusa Flash.

The major projects of Indianapolis Altrusa were vocational education and guidance, senior citizens programs, civic service and community service projects. The major community service projects included the elderly women, the homeless, the handicapped, unprivileged children, and individuals needing medical care. For instance, Altrusa members donated money and time to the Salvation Army, Indianapolis Zoo and other agencies, and was committed and involved with the residents of the John J. Barton Hi-Rise Apartments (one of the long standing local projects). Besides monthly bingo parties and an annual holiday party, club members contribute to a health fund which provides non-prescriptive drugs and health supplies. Altrusans have also sponsored parties for the children at LaRue Carter Hospital. The support for these projects and others are obtained from an annual spring style show and periodic sale of various items.

In 1966 Altrusa formed ASTRA (Ability, Service, Training, Responsibility and Achievement) youth groups as a part of their community service program. These were designed to introduce the benefits of community service to girls ages 13-25. The idea originated in a national vocational guidance program established in 1924 to provide practical direction for young college women. Each spring Altrusa of Indianapolis recognizes the outstanding high school junior girl from the Indianapolis public high schools (Annual Merit Awards).

Internationally, the club contributes to the Altrusa International Foundation with emphasis on literacy-related programs. To help clubs channel their community service focus towards literacy, the Foundation established ABC Literacy Grant programs to tangibly advance its mission to improve literacy worldwide and to address identified unmet community literacy needs. For its literacy project, the Indianapolis club initiated a reading program for the K through third grade children at IPS School 70, for which the club received District Six recognition.

Scope and Content:

The collection consists of records of the Altrusa International, Inc. of Indianapolis, 1917-1997. These records were presented to the archives by Carol D. Nathan, past president, in six parts from 1993-1997. All of the records were combined to create one institutional archives for Altrusa International, Inc. of Indianapolis.

There are many gaps existing in the collection. The Board of Directors minutes are incomplete. There are gaps in meeting and conference files, as well as in financial and correspondence files. There is no single newsletter issue prior to 1950, although the weekly bulletin was published since 1923. However, through the existing records such as minutes, yearbooks, publications and history files, the Indianapolis Altrusa club development and achievements may be partially reconstructed.

The records have been divided into eleven series: Legal Documents, Board of Directors Files, Committee Files, Meeting Files, Correspondence Files, Financial Records, Project Files, Publications, Special Event Materials, Publicity and Photographs.

Legal Documents, 1923-1997, contain Articles of Incorporation, Constitution, By-Laws and Policies of Altrusa International, Inc. of Indianapolis. The series also includes the Altrusa Standing Rules and 1923 Certificate of Affiliation. These documents reflect the structure , functions and policies of the organization.

Board of Directors Files, 1917-1995, contain the board minutes with related documents from regular monthly and special meetings, award diplomas, history files and OMNI Club annual activity reports. Although the minutes series is incomplete, it reflects the process of Altrusa development, the decisions of the governing body, programs and policies.

The history files, an important source of information for researchers, contain histories of Indianapolis Altrusa Club such as: Altrusa Club of Indianapolis Chronicle, 1917-1962, Volume I, Altrusa-its history, its organization, its ethical principles, membership by Educational Committee, 1931-32; yearly archives reports containing the major events (1958-64), list of Altrusa civic projects arranged chronologically, and the Altrusa Objectives and Organization through decades, 1917-58.

Committee Files, 1927-1995, consist primarily of reports and minutes from the following committees: Ad Hoc Planing Committee, Community Service, Hi-Rise, Information, International Relations, Literacy, Membership and Classification, Program, Nominating, Public Affairs, Vocational, Ways and Means, and Convention Committee files which consist of minutes and correspondence regarding the Altrusa National Convention held in Indianapolis in May 1928. The committee files are fragmentary, although they give some details related to committee operations.

Meeting/Conference Files, 1931-1995, include minutes and related documents from membership (regular and special) and annual meetings. This series also contains meeting notes from membership luncheons, orientation meetings, and District Six Area Leadership Workshop program brochures.

Financial Records, 1930-1991, contain monthly and year ending treasurer's reports and comparative statements, proposed budgets and IRS Tax documents. This series also includes one folder with letters regarding the Mamie Bass Scholarship Loan Fund, 1949-50. The financial records give a basic understanding of the Altrusa financial background.

Correspondence File, 1950-1995, contains membership letters (resignation and welcome letters and meeting announcements), District letters, Altrusa International correspondence and periodic mailings, and general correspondence (incoming and outgoing letters). The files also consist of president Carol Nathan's general correspondence.

Project Files, 1943-1989 and n.d., consist of materials related to Altrusa civic projects: war service and literacy projects, news releases, a few news clippings, thank you letters, and expenditures for 1954-55 projects.

Special Event Materials, 1931-1995 and n.d., include materials related to Altrusa club special events such as: birthday and Christmas parties, luncheons and fashion shows, officer installation ceremonies, memorial services, Merit Award and 1995 Altrusa International Award Program, Indianapolis Professional Women of the Year Program, and others. Materials include: programs, party announcements and letters dealing with anniversary celebrations, invocations, campaign stunts, obituaries and tributes, news clippings, and devotional services materials.

Publications, 1940-1995 and n.d., contain Altrusa yearbooks, Altrusa Flash newsletter, the Altrusa Encyclopedia, handbooks, membership and ASTRA Clubs manuals, Altrusa District Six and International directories, Altrusa general information brochures, and 1987-88 Altrusa International Annual Report. Although there are many gaps in this series (for instance, there is no single issue of the weekly bulletin The Altrusan, published since 1923), the existing publications contain valuable information on Altrusa Club operations, programs and membership. Publications are arranged by categories, then chronologically.

Publicity, 1917-1991 , includes scrapbooks and news clippings. Scrapbooks (1928-1935) contain mostly news clippings that are related to Indianapolis Altrusa Club activities, members, meeting guests and speakers. Some program brochures from 1938 are also included. News clippings (1917-1991) contain the very first articles on Altrusa organization and activities, articles on members and obituaries.

Photographs, 1950s-1990s and n.d., contain group photos from Altrusa annual birthday parties, fashion shows, and other activities and meetings. Photos include also 1992 presidential campaign photos.

Acquisition information:
Presented by Altrusa International, Inc. of Indianapolis (via Carol D. Nathan, former president and member), May 1993-April 1997. A1993-028, A1994-062, A1995-017, A1995-019, A1996-003, and A1997-008.
Rules or conventions:
DACS-Describing Archives: A Content Standard
General note:

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Cite as: Altrusa International, Inc. of Indianapolis Records, 1917-1997, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.

University Library
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