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Charlotte Schmidlapp Fund has helped women since 1907

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Contributed by Danielle Jones 

Fifth Third Bank 

The year was 1907. Women were making 66 cents a day in factories—when they could find work. Opportunities for higher education were too expensive for many and the prospects of a long-term career were slim.  

Jacob G. Schmidlapp, president of Union Savings Bank & Trust Co., saw the need to “help young women play a vital role in society if they were given an opportunity to better themselves through educational pursuits.”  

Using $250,000 of his own money, he established the Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Fund, the first privately-financed charitable fund in the United States dedicated solely to helping young women pursue education and employment.  

The Fund stemmed from personal tragedy. On September 20, 1906, Schmidlapp’s daughter, Charlotte, was killed in an automobile accident in France. Heartbroken over the death of his 19-year-old “Little Rose,” Schmidlapp transformed his grief into an innovative philanthropic “loan-fund.”  

The Fund was established to help women have the same opportunities in life that he would have afforded to Charlotte. In his “Letter of Gift,” Schmidlapp wrote that the Fund was to be used “to ennoble, to uplift, and to strengthen the lives of young women who are compelled to be self-supporting.”  

When the Fund launched in 1907, hundreds of young women applied for interest-free loans. The loans could be paid back if recipients were able to do so but repayment was never mandatory.  

In the early decades of the Fund, women pursued higher education or sought additional training in the arts, business or nursing. Over time, the Fund grew exponentially and adjusted its goals to fit the ever-changing needs of women.  

Today, the Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Fund, Fifth Third Bank, Trustee, has grown to almost $30 million in assets and continues to empower women and support scholarships at the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges, Miami University, Ohio Northern University, The Cincinnati Scholarship Fund and others.  

Additionally, the Fund supports numerous organizations including: The Women’s Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation; Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center; The YWCA; College of Mount Saint Joseph; Every Child Succeeds and many, many more.  

The Fifth Third Bank Museum, located on Fountain Square, explores how the Bank has left its signature on the people and places of Cincinnati. Discover how Fifth Third has evolved through interactive exhibits, visual storytelling and unique artifacts.

People who visit the museum will find connections to well-known Cincinnatians, fun facts about the Bank, and some suprising firsts in the company’s history.

The museum is free and open to the public, M – F, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. or by appointment. For more information or to schedule a guided tour, email FifthThirdMuseum@ 53.com. To learn more about the Charlotte R. Schmidlapp Fund, email Jamie.Carr@53.com.

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