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MC 178; M-145

New England Women's Club. Records of the New England Women's Club, 1843-1970: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.
April 1997

© 1997 President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 178; M-145
Repository: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
Creator: New England Women's Club
Title: Records of the New England Women's Club, 1843-1970
Quantity: 7.75 linear feet (5 cartons, 2 file boxes, 2 folio boxes) plus 4 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 1 folio photograph folder
Location: Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Minutes, correspondence, reports, etc., of the New England Women's Club, one of the oldest women's clubs in the United States.

Processing Information:

Reprocessed: April 1997
By: Bert Hartry

Acquisition Information:

Accession number: 72-21
The records of the New England Women's Club were given to the Schlesinger Library by the club in 1972.


Access. Originals are closed; use microfilm (M-145).

Use Restrictions:

Copyright. Copyright is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred citation for publication:

New England Women's Club Records, 1843-1970; item description, dates. MC 178, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


The New England Women's Club, one of the oldest women's clubs in the United States, had its beginnings in February 1868 at a meeting at the house of Dr. Harriot K. Hunt. The first public meeting, which officially initiated the life of the club, was held on May 30, 1868. Caroline M. Severance (the first president) and Julia Ward Howe explained the purposes of the club as providing a meeting-place for women outside their homes, giving them new knowledge and inspiration for their work at home and outside, and uniting their efforts in various social causes. Beginning that autumn, the club held weekly meetings from November to May, with speakers on subjects in literature, history, music or art, or on such topics of current interest as suffrage, needy children, industrial schools, homes for the poor, and cooperative kitchens. Speakers included both club members (Ednah Dow Cheney, Julia Ward Howe, Mary Peabody Mann, Elizabeth P. Peabody, et al.) and such prominent contemporaries as William Henry Channing, James Freeman Clarke, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and Henry and William James. Men, including some of those named, were associate members, but the club was managed entirely by women, at a time when it was radical for women to meet outside the home or even to call their association a club.
Among the early projects of the club or its committees were a report on needlewomen in Boston; a Friendly Evenings Association, which provided a comfortable meeting-place for working women for about a year, when the project was taken over by the newly-established Women's Educational and Industrial Union; a Horticultural School for Women; the Dress Reform Rooms established and run by the Dress Reform Committee to make and sell "hygienic" garments for women; and work by the Education Committee that led to the election of four women to the Boston School Committee in 1874.
On the cultural side there were, in addition to the many lectures, "poetical picnics," with contributions by members; annual lunches to honor astronomer Maria Mitchell; celebrations of Margaret Fuller's birthday; dramatic performances; and regular classes in English literature, botany, physiology, and languages. The club's history of cultural and philanthropic activities has continued to the present.


The New England Women's Club records are divided into five sections:


The collection provides a detailed record of board, annual and social meetings, 1868-1963; biographical information on some of the leading members; lists of members and officers; programs, calendars, financial records (1891-1963), and reports of officers, committees and classes, for many of the years of the club's existence; a small amount of correspondence; some documentation of the difficulties encountered by the Dress Reform Committee (#73-75) and of the financial crisis of 1899 (25v); and papers on the relationship of the New England Women's Club to the Massachusetts Federation of Women's Clubs from the latter's founding in 1893 (#119).
Series I, History (#1v-21f), consists of the following in the order listed: regulations, bylaws, and constitution; lists of officers, nominations, and ballots; yearbooks, 1880-1970; Historian's records, and other historical information; and photographs.
Series II, Secretaries' records (#22-57), includes the recording secretary's minutes (Board of Directors, annual, and Monday afternoon meetings) and annual reports, and reports of the corresponding secretary. The records of the recording secretary also contain membership, committee, and class information, and financial reports: e.g. treasurer's, auditor's, Reserve Fund.
Series III, Programs (#58-120), includes four sections: committee reports; class reports; projects, which include papers read to the club, programs for performances, meeting announcements, original charades, book and travel talks, and the Horticultural School for Women; and correspondence, reports, etc., re: New England Women's Club's relations with other women's organizations.
The meetings arranged by the Discussion Committee (#70-72) covered a variety of topics: e.g. cycling for women, literature, foreign travel, manners, crime, politics, suffrage, immigration, public education, education for girls, and paid work for women. Some of the committee's annual reports give a cursory description of topics discussed, others are more detailed.
Papers read to the club (#106-108) also cover a variety of topics and they include "Legal condition of women in Massachusetts" by Lucy Stone. Those by Julia Ward Howe include one about the Department of Woman's Work at the World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition (New Orleans, 1884-85); most of the rest are about the New England Women's Club and the women's club movement.
Series IV, Membership (#121-144), contains, in the following order: membership lists, membership proposals and applications, each section arranged chronologically; and a section of documents by and about individual members. This last section is arranged alphabetically.
Series V, Financial records (#145-177), includes three sections: treasurer's records which consist of the following five sub-sections (each arranged chronologically): reports (multi-year, annual, and monthly), receipt and expenditure ledgers, checks and checkbooks, budgets, donations made by New England Women's Club; auditor's reports; Reserve Fund which consist of the following three sub-sections (each arranged chronologically): reports, bank records, and correspondence.
There are also financial records in the yearbooks (series I), the secretary's records (series II), and in the finance committee papers (series III).
Researchers following up on names or subjects listed in the added entries should be aware that much of the relevant documentation can be found in the board, annual, and regular meeting minutes and in committee reports.
Many file units listed as volumes in the 1973 inventory of these records have now been placed in folders for preservation purposes, and are numbered accordingly.


The papers in this collection presented a challenge to the processor and the microfilmer. Some of the material, particularly in the volumes, was difficult to film, due to such problems as faded ink, creased and brittle newsprint, staining caused by scotch tape, glue, and discolored newsprint, tight bindings that may cause gutter shadow, and, in scrapbooks, glued-in, multi-paged, folded, and overlapping items. It was impossible to film the last or back page of some items, because they were glued to the page.
All dates and other information added by the processor are in square brackets.
Unnumbered volume and notebook pages containing text, and some multipaged letters, were numbered by the processor to aid the microfilmer, the proofreader, and researchers.
Blank volume pages numbered by the printer were filmed only when opposite a page with text.
Loose items found between pages of notebooks or other volumes were filmed where found.
Some reports were handwritten on the reverse side of previously used paper. With a few exceptions only the ms. side was filmed.
Many multipaged letters conclude at the top or sides of page one, or another page that is not the last. The page with the ending was not refilmed, so researchers must return to the pertinent page.
The film was proofread by the Schlesinger Library and corrections made where necessary.
Copies of this microfilm (M-145) may be borrowed on interlibrary loan from the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, 10 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.
  • Folders 1-5: M-145, Reel 1
  • Folders 6-8: M-145, Reel 2
  • Folders f.b. 2 -12: M-145, Reel 3
  • Folders 13-22: M-145, Reel 4
  • Folders 23-26: M-145, Reel 5
  • Folders 27-29: M-145, Reel 6
  • Folders 30-32: M-145, Reel 7
  • Folders 33-39: M-145, Reel 8
  • Folders 40-44: M-145, Reel 9
  • Folders 45-48: M-145, Reel 10
  • Folders 49: M-145, Reel 11
  • Folders 50-55: M-145, Reel 12
  • Folders 56-73: M-145, Reel 13
  • Folders 74-93: M-145, Reel 14
  • Folders 94-114: M-145, Reel 15
  • Folders 115-142: M-145, Reel 16
  • Folders 143-159: M-145, Reel 17
  • Folders 160-177: M-145, Reel 18


    This index includes the names of selected writers and recipients. Information about persons and subjects is not indexed. Authors listed under additional catalog entries who were not correspondents are not included. See inventory to the collection.
    Key: No symbol = Writer; * = Writer and recipient; ~ = Recipient; fb2 = Folio box 2
    The numbers refer to the folders.

    Additional catalog entries

    The following catalog entries represent persons, organizations, and topics documented in this collection. An entry for each appears in the Harvard On Line Library Information System (HOLLIS) and other automated bibliographic databases. THIS IS NOT AN INDEX.
    African Americans--Suffrage--United States
    Alcott, Louisa May, 1832-1888
    Anagnos, Julia Romana Howe, 1844-1886
    Annual reports
    Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs
    Channing, W. H. (William Henry), 1810-1884
    Cheney, Ednah Dow Littlehale, 1824-1904
    Clarke, James Freeman, 1810-1888
    Clothing and dress
    Crocker, Lucretia, 1829-1886
    Cycling for women
    Diaz, Abby Morton, 1821-1904
    Dunning, Mary Parker
    Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 1803-1882
    Field, Kate, 1838-1896
    Gardner, Isabella Stewart, 1840-1924
    Garrison, William Lloyd, 1805-1879
    Garrison, William Lloyd, 1838-1909
    General Federation of Women's Clubs
    Higginson, Thomas Wentworth, 1823-1911
    Horticulture--Study and teaching--Massachusetts
    Howe, Julia Ward, 1819-1910
    Hunt, Harriot Kezia, 1805-1875
    James, Henry, 1843-1916
    James, William, 1842-1910
    Ladd, Mary Holman
    Massachusetts State Federation of Women's Clubs
    May, Abby W. (Abby Williams), 1829-1888
    Mitchell, Maria, 1818-1889
    Moulton, Louise Chandler, 1835-1908
    Parsons, Anna Quincy Thaxter
    Peabody, Elizabeth Palmer, 1804-1894
    Peabody, Lucia M., 1828-1919
    Perry, Olive A.
    Read, Anne Lauriat, 1856-1939
    Ripley, George, 1802-1880
    Severance, Caroline M. Seymour (Caroline Maria Seymour), 1820-1914
    Sprague, Julia A.
    Stantial, Edna Lamprey
    Stone, Lucy, 1818-1893
    Thoreau, Henry David, 1817-1862
    Ward, May Alden, 1853-1918
    Wells, Kate Gannett, 1838-1911
    Whittier, Helen Augusta, 1846-1925
    Whittier, John Greenleaf, 1807-1892
    Women--Intellectual life
    Women--Social conditions
    Women--Societies and clubs
    Women volunteers in social service--Massachusetts
    Working-women's clubs--Massachusetts
    World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition (1884-1885 : New Orleans, La.)
    Zakrzewska, Marie E. (Marie Elizabeth), 1829-1902