San Francisco Women Artists (SFWA) is one of California's oldest arts organizations, dating its founding to 1887 as the Sketch Club. At that time, members met monthly to share and critique one another's work and to travel together on sketching trips. After the great earthquake in 1906 destroyed the club's headquarters, the group floundered and reorganized and merged with other organizations that also included men. By 1925, however, a core group of women broke away and formed the San Francisco Society of Women Artists. The SFWA's founding mission was "... the study and furtherance of all interests common to the arts both graphic and plastic … and to support causes neglected by other art organizations in the Bay Area." Early members include Alice B. Chittenden, Helen Hyde, Matilda Lotz, Clara Taggart McChesney, M. Evelyn McCormick, Dora Williams, and Eva Almond Withrow. Other members included Marcelle Labaudt, Dorr Bothwell, Claire Falkenstein, Ruth Asawa, Nell Sinton, Imogen Cunningham, Eleanor Dickenson, Jo Hansen, Emmy Lou Packard, Eleanore Rappe, Ruth Armer, Barbara Spring, Beth Van Hoesen and Dorothy Winslade.
The Society held its first exhibition in 1926. In 1932, Frida Kahlo's painting, Frieda and Diego Rivera, was shown at the "Sixth Annual Exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists" and was the first public showing of Kahlo's work. In 1946 the organization shortened its name to the San Francisco Women Artists.
In 1976 the SFWA and exective director Marcelle Labaudt were commended in a Senate Resolution for "outstanding contributions to the cultural enhancement of the City of San Francisco." In 1983 the SFWA procured a gallery at 451 Hayes Street, which provided exhibition space for members, as well as an art rental program. In 1985 the gallery moved to 370 Hayes Street. The SFWA celebrated its centennial in 1994 with an exhibition including work of many past members.
This organization continues to host monthly themed juried shows and is dedicated to encouraging and promoting the work of women artists.