The Women’s Bar Foundation came into existence in 1966 as the WBAI’s “Bartelme Committee,” designated to awarding scholarships to deserving and qualified women law students in honor of Judge Bartelme and other distinguished women jurists. The Committee, with Esther R. Rothstein as Chairman, gave a $300 scholarship in both 1966 and 1967, with funds contributed by the WBAI and its members.
In 1968, the Committee was reorganized and incorporated as the Women’s Bar Foundation, an Illinois not-for-profit corporation and was in due course granted an exemption from federal income taxes under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, so that contributions to it are deductible for income tax purposes as charitable contributions. The original Board of Directors as listed in the Articles of Incorporation consisted of nine members, including two ex officio members, then WBAI President, Helen Hart Jones and Vice President Elaine Strauschild Blatt, plus WBAI members Helen F. McGillicuddy, Ester Rothstein, Katherine D. Agar, Cary Ann Bechly, Sharon L. King, Mary Ann G. McMorrow and Mary Agerin Pappas. The officers were Helen F. McGillicuddy, President, Esther R. Rothstein, Vice President, and Cary Ann Bechly, Secretary-Treasurer. Esther R. Rothstein remained the Women’s Bar Foundation’s President until her death. The Directors are elected by the WBAI Board for three-year terms, with the terms of approximately one-third of the directors expiring each year.
The Foundation’s stated corporate purpose is to provide scholarships for deserving and qualified women students in accredited Illinois law schools, and to honor the memory of distinguished women lawyers and judges by awarding such scholarships in their name and memory. In accordance with its purposes, the Foundation has awarded scholarships each year throughout its 24 years of operation, first as the Bartelme Committee and then as the Women’s Bar Foundation. It has awarded countless scholarships, with the annual amount increasing from the initial $300 in 1966 to $10,000.00 in 2009. The funds have come from individual contributions, fund-raising events, grants from Kraft, Inc. and Commerce Clearing House, a bequest from former WBAI President Lice M. Chellberg, and an endowment gift from WBAI member Ramona Hayes Healy, who died in 1988. In 1983, the Foundation established an Advisory Council consisting of WBAI members who have shown special interest or been of special help in the Foundation’s activities.