Register of the Records of the
LADIES PENNSYLVANIA SLOVAK CATHOLIC UNION RECORDS
Carla B. Zimmerman
The acquisition of this collection was made possible in part by a grant from the Division of Research Programs of the National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent Federal agency.
The Ladies Pennsylvania Slovak Catholic Union was founded in 1898 in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, by a group of Slovak immigrant women who saw the need to organize a fraternal society to provide financial protection for those who could not obtain commercial life insurance. As stated in its 1964 constitution and by-laws, the purpose of the L.P.S.C.U. is "to promote moral, spiritual, and material welfare of all Slavonians of the Catholic Faith, either of the Roman or Greek rite." The society received its charter in 1900 as the Women's Pennsylvania Slovak Roman and Greek Catholic Union. In 1948 the name was shortened to Ladies Pennsylvania Slovak Catholic Union. Head-quartered in WilkesBarre, Pennsylvania, the organization had 159,783 members as of 31 December 1983. It has branches in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, New Jersey, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, West Virginia, New York, and Colorado.
In the early years, members paid twentyfive cents per month for a $300.00 death benefit and a $150.00 benefit if the member's husband died. Orphan's accounts were established in the necessary cases, and the benefits were held in trust until the child came of age.
While lead by women immigrants with no formal training or experience in the insurance business, the L.P.S.C.U. prevailed through the difficult periods of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic and the Great Depression, which contributed to the loss of thousands of members. To stay solvent during the epidemic, members were assessed at a rate of fifteen cents per hundred dollars of insurance for a specified number of months. In later years, sound investments in stocks and bonds added to the society's solid financial grounding. Mortgage loans were also financed to members and nonmembers, which added to the company's income.
Members reaching the age of 80 automatically become paid members and are relieved of dues payment. Juvenile members can apply for college scholarships. Disaster relief is also provided to members who suffer financial loss, as was necessary in the 1972 floods of Hurricane Agnes. The society contributes to religious and charitable institutions, exemplified in their $50,000 donation to the Slovak Institute in Rome in 1963 for the education and training of Slovaks in the priesthood. Finally, the organization has its own publication, Zornica (Morning Star), first issued in 1938, which provides news of the society.
The Ladies Pennsylvania Slovak Catholic Union Records were donated to the Balch Institute in 1986 by the organization. The records were arranged and described by Carla Zimmerman in the summer of 1989.
Photographs and negatives were separated to Photo Group 241. Printed materials were separated to the library, the ephemeral items into Special Print Collection 339. Artifacts were separated to the Balch Institute's museum.
Accession # M8651.
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The Ladies Pennsylvania Slovak Catholic Union Records, 1905-1984, contain 177 linear feet of materials documenting much of the operations of this fraternal benefit society. The types of records include constitutions, correspondence, minutes, ledgers, annual statements, annual reports, certificates, and death claims. Much of the material dating prior to 1950 is in Slovak.
The administrative files in Series I make up 90% of the collection. The largest portion of the records of the organization's operations are the certificates and death claims (141 linear feet). The claims and certificates are complete and run from 1916 to 1969 for the Senior Order and 1939 to 1972 for the Junior Order. These records are divided into death claims, expelled members' certificates, and cash surrender certificates. The envelopes containing these items often hold other information, such as the member's application, correspondence, and death certification.
To facilitate access to the claims and certificates there are registers of certificates, claims, and cancellation by lapses, and claim ledgers. There are alphabetical indexes of members in some of these registers and ledgers, but not all. To locate the members' records easily, the number of the certificate or claim or the date the certificate or claim was filed must be known.
The second largest portion of the administrative records in Series I is the correspondence between the branch secretaries and the supreme secretary. These files bulk between 1950 and 1972 and contain information regarding changes in membership, complaints, and local and personal news. Secretaries often included information regarding the Junior Order members with their correspondence about senior members, which helps explain the sparse amount of correspondence for the junior branches. (See Appendix B for a list of senior and junior branches and their locations.)
Finally, Series I contains extensive runs of the minutes of the meetings of the Supreme Officers, the Finance Committee, and the annual board meetings. Most of this material is on microfilm and is in Slovak. (See Appendix A for the microfilm index.)
Series II, Financial Records, contains substantive information about the business operations of the society. Although there is little information regarding finances before 1940, the Depression period is documented by two audit reports; ledgers of expenses, incomes, and cash disbursements; and a few bond investment registers and correspondence. The bulk of the material covers the 1940s through the 1960s and includes ledgers for general operations, income and expenses for Adult and Juvenile Divisions, and cash disbursements to these divisions and to the orphans' accounts.
The records of the organization's investments in stocks and bonds in Series II show the means of perpetuating the financial foundations of the L.P.S.C.U. The investments, made through brokers, were mainly in railroad and utility companies. Other financial records in Series II include notes for annual statements and published versions, trial balances, and monthly reports, all of which cover limited periods of time.
Series III, Legal Records, and Series IV, Local Branch Records, contain a minimal amount of information. The legal files are few but exemplify typical issues regarding claims that arise in the insurance business. The local branch records are very limited, although the meeting minutes of Senior Branch 30, in Scotch Hill, Pennsylvania, may be of interest.
The Ladies Pennsylvania Slovak Catholic Union Records are organized into 4 series which reflect the types of records. The series are: Administrative Records, Financial Records, Legal Records, and Local Branch Records. Arrangement within each series varies according to record type and is described below.
SERIES I: ADMINISTRATIVE RECORDS, 1905-1980, 153 linear ft. (170 boxes, 17 volumes). Arrangement: Files are grouped according to subject and relative importance. Items in the correspondence files are arranged chronologically, with related materials grouped together.
This series contains information on the organizational operation of the society. Types of records include constitutions, bylaws, amendments and resolutions, annual reports, minutes of the meetings, materials regarding conventions, correspondence, society branch registers, claims and certificates, and registers for these.
SERIES II: FINANCIAL RECORDS, 1924-1984, 23.5 linear ft. (26 boxes, 11 volumes). Arrangement: Files are arranged according to subject and relative importance.
Records for the financial activity of the society are limited in years and scope. Included are audit reports, annual statements, trial balances, monthly reports, ledgers, and stocks and bond investments records.
SERIES III: LEGAL RECORDS, 1922-1940, 2.5 inches (1/2 box). Arrangement: Files are arranged according to subject and relative importance.
This small group of records document some of the legal issues with members of the society (mostly regarding claims and beneficiaries) and with one officer in particular, Elizabeth Halupka, supreme financial secretary, charged with selling bonds at a higher rate than market value.
SERIES IV: LOCAL BRANCH RECORDS, 1914-1980, 5 inches (1 box). Arrangement: Files are arranged according to branch number.
This series contains meeting minutes and financial records of two senior branches in Pennsylvania.
The box list of the register of the records of the Ladies Pennsylvania Slovak
Catholic Union is twelve pages long.