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Caroline Whiting Rose

Portrait of Caroline Whiting Rose, courtesy of Sewickley Public Library.


Caroline Whiting Rose, more widely known as Mrs. George Phelps Rose, was a Sewickley resident for most of her life. She achieved recognition for her decades of volunteer and charity work, one of her most notable efforts being her fundraising for the Sewickley Valley Hospital.

Born on a farm in Sewickley Heights, she was the daughter of Helena Henry Whiting and Nathan Whiting, a Rhode Island native who had moved to Pittsburgh in 1846 and become a merchant and auctioneer. On her father’s side, she was descended from Asa Whiting, a Massachusetts member of the Colonial militia under Captain Asa Fairbanks, whose company had marched on the alarm at Lexington on April 19, 1775.

As a young girl, Caroline Whiting lived with her parents and sister on Ninth Street in downtown Pittsburgh. At age five, she had a part in a charity stage production at Library Hall, an experience that sparked her lifelong love of theater, of which her father was also fond. She attended the Bishop Bowman Institute, a secondary school for girls.

In 1884, her family moved to Sewickley upon her father’s retirement. The following year, the Whitings moved into a two-story house at 309 Thorn Street. Under the roof of this house, Caroline Whiting would spend the rest of her life. In June 1891, she married George Phelps Rose, an associate at wholesale milliners J.D. Bernd Company on Penn Avenue. Rose later founded an insurance firm. The couple had four children.

Portrait of Mrs. Rose, 1925, courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh Archives.

In addition to raising her family, Mrs. Rose became an active leader in the community affairs of Sewickley. She was one of the earliest members of the Sewickley Dramatic Club, participating as actress, director and wardrobe mistress.
When the Sewickley Valley Hospital was built in 1907, raising funds for the institution became an ongoing effort. Mrs. Rose helped found the Sewickley Hospital Cot Club, which put on benefit stage performances for the hospital. Mrs. Rose was president of the Cot Club for 23 years. She hosted dinners for cast members in her home after benefit performances. She also sat on the hospital’s board of managers from its inception, serving two terms as president, three as vice president and two as secretary.
She served two terms as president of the Sewickley Valley Woman’s Club, was a member of the Allegheny County Committee, Colonial Dames of America, the Sewickley Board of Trade, and vice president of the State Federation of Pennsylvania Women. Along with Mary Roberts Rinehart, she was one of only two women to be inducted as vestrymen at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Sewickley.

Newspaper clippings about Mrs. Rose from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

During World War I, Mrs. Rose headed all war work performed by the women of Sewickley. These efforts were considerable. Mrs. Rose founded the Pittsburgh chapter of the Gray Ladies, women volunteers with the American Red Cross who provided non-medical assistance to American troops. In a Sewickley cottage donated to the cause of Red Cross relief, Mrs. Rose oversaw a group of women volunteers who sewed, knitted and rolled bandages. Her work with the American Red Cross spanned more than three decades.
Mrs. Rose organized the first woman’s auxiliary unit in Allegheny County of the American Legion when Sewickley Valley Post No. 4 was established during the WWI. She was the first president of the Pennsylvania American Legion Auxiliary.
One year after American women gained the right to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment (1920), Mrs. Rose ran for political office, that of delegate from the Thirty-Second Congressional District to the proposed Pennsylvania constitutional convention of 1921. (Ultimately, the citizens of Pennsylvania voted against holding a constitutional convention that year, so no delegates were officially elected.)

Clippings about Mrs. Rose from Index Magazine and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Her charismatic community leadership aside, she was proud of her role as a homemaker, and was referred to as “Mrs. George Phelps Rose” whenever she was mentioned in public affairs. She and her husband were married for fifty-six years until his death in 1947.
After she retired as president of the Sewickley Hospital Cot Club, with 23 years of continuous service to her credit, the grateful members of the club named her president emeritus. She continued to direct the club’s productions for several years after retiring from the office of president.
With the Cot Club, she also promoted literacy efforts in local schools, organizing a traveling library with donated books.
Mrs. Rose was also a member of the Civic Club of Allegheny County, the Woman’s City Club and the Drama League.
She opened a savings account at Dollar Bank in January 1908. 

Dollar Bank account signature of Caroline Whiting Rose.