We joined the ladies of the Upper St. Clair Coterie on Thursday afternoon for the luncheon which kicked off their 2011-12 club year. Scores of club members showed up at the South Hills Country Club to enjoy lunch, tea and a speaker presentation, and to learn more about other club events scheduled to occur over the next several months.
Entering its 50th anniversary year, the Coterie is a social group that meets monthly for luncheons designed around a particular theme. Its luncheons take place on the second Thursday of each month September through April.
Additionally, special events are held throughout the term, and activity groups meet according to their own schedules. Activity groups focus on interests like bridge, bowling, golf and dining, among others.
One of the club’s founding mothers, Maxine Brunwasser, was on hand at the event. She told us that the group started in 1962 as a response to the Upper St. Clair Newcomers’ restrictions on membership.
At that time, Brunwasser said, the Newcomers group was open only to women who were new to Upper St. Clair and was later closed to them after they lived in the area for two years, as they were no longer considered “newcomers” then.
According to Brunswasser, she and her friends Sidney Brandon and Marie Smith set up the Coterie so that women who lived in Upper St. Clair Township for more than two years could have a social club. Indeed, these were the Coterie’s initial restrictions: members had to be women, had to live in Upper St. Clair Township and had to have lived there for at least two years.
As interest and membership grew in the club over the years, these restrictions were lifted in due time. The Coterie currently accepts members from not only Upper St. Clair but also from its surrounding areas in the South Hills, regardless of how long they’ve lived there.
Also, membership is now open to men, though the body of the club still primarily consists of women. Lois Griffith, Publicity Chair for the Coterie, remarked that most of the men are spouses of female members and don’t typically come out to luncheons unless the theme includes a male speaker or topic of male interest.
Even if the men don’t turn up all that often, the women sure do. Thursday’s event saw 109 club members, a turnout with which Coterie President Lorrie Wolstoncroft was pleased.
This club year marks Wolstoncroft’s first year as president. Her previous posts included one term as Vice President and three terms as Membership Chair, during which time her efforts grew club membership from 139 to 209 members.
In her address to the group, Wolstoncroft, who is also the Vice President of the Giant Oaks Garden Club, lamented the decline of ladies’ social clubs and emphasized how important and worthwhile it is for the club’s diverse collection of intelligent women to get together to socialize and be entertained.
Griffith agreed with this sentiment, as she told us the club gives her and its other members the opportunity to broaden their horizons and achieve enrichment in several meaningful ways, including socially and intellectually.
Intellectual enrichment is garnered through the themes of the Coterie luncheons, which contain an educational component such as special speakers or demonstrators.
For example, the theme of Thursday’s luncheon was “Back in Time - Victorian Tea.” presented information on the history of tea and tea time and shared her own personal history and love for tea. She also discussed her business, Victorian Teas, which provides elegant tea services to clients who visit her Dormont home.
Other noteworthy luncheon themes throughout the club year include “Love & Wine: A Perfect Pair,” “Pittsburgh and It’s People - Heartwarming Stories,” and “The Experience of Cuisine.”
Wolstoncroft invites anyone interested in learning more about the Coterie or its upcoming events to call her at 412-833-4461 or email her at Ldwhsw@aol.com for more information.