Our Founder Ansley Wilcox
Ansley Wilcox was more than a philanthropist; he was a leader in charity work and community involvement. A graduate of Yale, Ansley was a practicing lawyer and member of the Bar Association. He was involved in multiple charities, boards, and social projects, such as the National Civil Service Reform League and Buffalo Association. He organized the Buffalo Remedial Loan Society and sat on the board for Park Country Club and the Buffalo Club. And, as one of the founders of Wanakah Country Club, he was the first to insist that women be allowed on the golf course!
He was passionate about the preservation of Buffalo. He was on the counsel for the commission to acquire Niagara Falls. He fought hard to prevent the widening of Delaware Ave, thus the destruction of all the elm trees lining the street.
Ansley’s interest in law reform fostered his friendship with President Theodore Roosevelt, who was sworn into office at the Wilcox Mansion in Buffalo on September 14, 1901!
Ansley was instrumental in establishing the constitutionality of the Civil Service Law, which created a system of appointment based on merit rather than favoritism. He was nationally recognized, but his heart was in Buffalo. This is where he raised his family and championed his causes. He married the daughters of Dexter Rumsey (does that name ring a bell, history buffs?): Cornelia, who died in childbirth, and afterward Mary Grace. He worked to improve the condition of our city with a passionate belief in “scientific charity,” where charity work could result in an end goal of self-reliance.
In 1877, Ansley founded the first Charity Organization Society in the United States. The COS coordinated the work of local charities and referred people in need to various agencies. Ansley served as the organization’s president for nearly four decades. He and the COS were instrumental in the creation of the Fitch Creche, founded by Maria Love. The Fitch Creche is recognized as our nation’s first daycare center for working mothers.
As you might already know, the Charity Organization Society was one of three organizations that started the United Way. Ansley organized this city’s first committee to fundraise for multiple charities at once. In 1917, he appointed William A. Rogers as the first campaign chairman, and with dozens of other Buffalo businesspeople, they ran our organization’s first campaign from October 30th to November 5th. They called it The Joint Charities Campaign.
From 1919 to 1929, Ansley served as President of our organization. He was not only our founder; he was our leader for ten years. He likely would have stayed involved longer if it weren’t for his decline in health. He passed away on January 26th, 1930, just a day before his 74th birthday.
Special thanks to the Wilcox Mansion, Theodore Roosevelt Inauguration National Historic Site for allowing us access to their records for the UWBEC history project!