Ladies' Physiological Institute (Boston, Mass.). Records of the Ladies' Physiological
Institute, 1848-1996: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe
Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
This collection was processed under a grant from the National Historical Publications
and Records Commission.
Call No.: MC 236
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe
Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Ladies' Physiological Institute (Boston, Mass.)
Title: Records of the Ladies' Physiological Institute, 1848-1996
Quantity: 2 linear feet (2 + 1/2 file boxes, 1 folio box)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Minutes, financial records, annual reports, correspondence, scrapbook, etc., of the
Ladies' Physiological Institute, which sponsored lectures on health, physiology, and
Accession numbers: 76-3, 81-M188, 97-M139
The records of the Ladies' Physiological Institute were given to the Schlesinger Library
by the Ladies' Physiological Institute between January 1976 and October 1997.
Processed: November 1976
By: Katherine Gray Kraft
Updated: April 2014
By: Anne Engelhart
Access. Collection is open for research.
Copyright. Copyright in the records created by Ladies' Physiological Institute 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.
Ladies' Physiological Institute Records, 1848-1996; item description, dates. MC 236,
folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge,
The Ladies' Physiological Institute was an outgrowth of five years of meetings (1843-1848)
on women's physiology led by one of Boston's first women physicians, Harriot K. Hunt.
In 1848 Professor Charles P. Bronson announced a course of lectures for women "who
should form themselves into a society for the promotion of useful knowledge among
their own sex," offering to present such a group with his medical apparatus if they
could raise $1000. Hunt's group met, adopted a constitution, and chose Eunice H. Cobb
to receive Professor Bronson's donation, which consisted of a full size model of a
woman; other anatomical models; bones; and French engravings. As none of the women
was prepared to defy public opinion by serving as president of the new club, Professor
Bronson filled that office for the first two years. Within a year of its formation,
the Ladies' Physiological Institute had 454 members, in spite of the prevailing view
that it was immodest and disgraceful for women to talk about the human body.
On May 6, 1850, the Institute was incorporated in Massachusetts stating its purpose
as "promoting among women a knowledge of the human system, the laws of life and health,
[and] the means of relieving sickness and suffering." Eunice Cobb, called "Mother
Cobb," was elected president. The Institute held weekly lectures, covering such topics
as "Physiology and Hygiene of Women in Middle Life," "Dress Reform and Physical Development,"
and "Development of Character in Schools." In 1895, the Ladies' Physiological Institute
joined the Massachusetts State Federation of Women's Clubs, and in 1906 the General
Federation of Women's Clubs. Over the years the scope of topics broadened, reflecting
the more general interests of women's clubs in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
This collection contains Institute and Executive Board minutes for 1850-1857, 1937-1946,
and 1994, and Institute minutes for 1881-1886. Included in the minutes are annual
reports which summarize the year's activities, lecture topics, lists of officers and
Board members, and also occasional committee reports. Financial records are complete
only for the years 1848-1859 and 1954-1966. The only financial documentation for the
years between 1859 and 1930 consists of treasurer's reports in the 1881-1886 minutes;
financial records between 1930 and 1954 are scattered. The earliest handbook in the
collection is for the year 1910; other years are represented, the last being 1995.
Lists of members, officers, and past presidents, as well as the Constitution and By-Laws,
and a brief history of the club are included in each handbook; the centennial handbook
of 1948 contains a longer, more thorough history. There are also announcements of
meetings; material on membership and committees; non-financial correspondence; printed
material by and about the Institute; photographs, citations, and memorabilia.
In April 2014, correspondence, handbooks, newsletters, citations, and a scrapbook
were added to the collection. These records are found in Box 3 and Folio box 4.
- Box 1: 1v-20v
- Box 2: 21-30, M1-M7
- Box 3: 31-40
- Folio Box 4: 41v
- 1v. Institute and Executive Board meetings, secretary's annual reports, January 1850 -
- 2v. Executive Board meetings, January 1851 - April 1857.
- 3v. Institute meetings and secretary's annual reports, January 1851 - May 1854.
- 4v. Institute meetings, secretary's annual reports, May 1854 - May 1857. Also, Inaugural
Address of President Eunice Cobb (May 9, 1855), and reports of Committee on Books
(October 26, 1855) and Committee on Festivals (November 2, 1855).
- 5v. Institute meetings, annual reports [no reports for 1886], May 1881 - April 1886. Also,
Inaugural Address of President H. B. Leary (May 8, 1884).
- 6v. Institute and Executive Board meetings, and secretary's annual reports, October 1937
- April 1946.
- 7v. Treasurer's cash book, April 1848 - May 1859.
- 8v. Bank deposit books: Boston Five Cents Savings Bank, 1933-1960, 2 books; and Home Savings
Bank, 1942-1954, 2 books.
- 9v. Financial statements for 1930-1931, and information on legacies to Ladies' Physiological
- 10v. Financial statements, 1937-1942. [Removed from 6v.]
- 11v. Treasurer's reports, April 1954 - April 1957.
- 12v. Treasurer's reports and monthly statements, 1957-1964.
- 13v. Treasurer's reports, April 1964 - March 1966. Also, bank statement of March 31, 1966.
- 14v. List of receipts and disbursements, April 1954 - June 1958.
- 15v. Record of checks, December 1954 - April 1961.
- 16v. Record of checks, May 1961 - February 1962.
- 17v. Financial correspondence, general, 1954-1965.
- 18v. Financial correspondence between Ladies' Physiological Institute members, 1956-1964.
- 19v. Financial correspondence with Massachusetts State Federation of Women's Clubs re:
Ladies' Physiological Institute donations and dues, 1958-1965.
- 20v. Miscellaneous financial, 1960-1961, re: dress sales, bazaar, etc.
- 21. Handbooks: 1910; 1919, 2 copies, includes reports of secretary and treasurer; 1922-1923;
1925-1926; 1928-1929;1932; 1935-1936, includes pictures of Charles Bronson, Eunice
Cobb, Viola Walker (President, Massachusetts State Federation of Women's Clubs), and
members at 85th anniversary re-enacting early meeting; ca.1941; 1948, includes long
history, picture of Dr. Elizabeth Briggs (Ladies' Physiological Institute President,
1932-1948), and proceedings of first annual meeting (May 7, 1849); 1953; 1960.
- 22. Meeting announcements, October 1937 - February 1942 [removed from 6v]; 1960-1963.
- 23. Reports of Hospitality Committee, Lecture Committee, and Corresponding Secretary,
1938-1942; 2 official ballots; 1 typed letter, signed Alice Salome Merritt Cole to
members of Ladies' Physiological Institute, January 1938. [Removed from 6v.]
- 24. Membership papers: number of members by year, 1954-1965, as listed on Massachusetts
State Federation of Women's Clubs receipts; membership list, 1956; 1 letter re: membership
list, May 3, 1957; 2 letters of resignation, 1963; 3 membership cards, 1964
- 25. Newsletter and list of officers for 1955-1956; newsletters of September 22, 1958,
- 26. Correspondence re location of original Ladies' Physiological Institute charter, December
1963 - March 1964.
- 27. Other correspondence: 1 typed letter, signed from Gertrude and Mary Mahoney (Boston Globe Clubs Editor) to Ladies' Physiological Institute President Phyllis Macalaster, August
5, 1956; 1 autograph letter, signed from Mahoney to Macalaster, December 12, 1956
- 28. Photographs:
FILED WITH PHOTOGRAPHS.
- Ladies' Physiological Institute garden party, September 9, 1940, Lexington, Massachusetts
- 2 copies of Mrs. Calvin Gardner, Mrs. Horace Knight, and Mrs. John J. Wakefield in
1848 costumes for 100th anniversary of Ladies' Physiological Institute
- 1 photograph of 4 unidentified women with book, ca.1950s.
- 29. Printed material by and about Ladies' Physiological Institute:
- Article re: 25th anniversary of Ladies' Physiological Institute, Boston Herald, January 16, 1873, typed transcript
- Poem, "Santa Claus Day at the Ladies' Physiological Institute, December 18, 1924,"
by Myra M. Smith; Invitation to Ladies' Physiological Institute Guest Day, n.d.
- Newsclipping picture of Dr. DeWitt Wilcox and great-grandchildren, December 21, 1947
- Article re: 100th anniversary of Ladies' Physiological Institute, Federation Topics, January 1949
- Newsclipping obituary of Grace Sanborn, n.d.
- 30. Citations:
- Community Improvement Program (General Federation of Women's Clubs - Sears-Roebuck
- Massachusetts State Federation of Women's Clubs, May 12, 1964
- Diamond Jubilee Service Certificate, General Federation of Women's Clubs - CARE, 1964-1966
- Community Improvement Program (General Federation of Women's Clubs - Sears), 1964-1966
- CARE Golden Rule Award, n.d.
- M-1. Copper photographic plate of Charles P. Bronson.
- M-2. Copper photographic plate of Eunice Cobb.
- M-3. Copper photographic plate of Salome Merritt.
- M-4. Copper photographic plate of Elizabeth Briggs.
- M-5 - M-6. 2 printing seals of Ladies' Physiological Institute
- 31. Clippings and articles re: Ladies' Physiological Institute, Eunice Cobb, etc., 1944-1990;
lists of records created by Ladies' Physiological Institute, 1996, n.d.
- 32. Correspondence, 1949-1975; includes lists of members, 1964
- 33. Correspondence, meeting announcements, etc., 1981-1989
- 34. Correspondence, meeting announcements, etc., 1990-1992
- 35. Correspondence, meeting announcements, etc., 1993
- 36. Presidential and annual reports, 1964-1974; includes revised by-laws, 1964
- 37. Board minutes, 1994; regular meeting minutes, 1994; budget, 1993-1994; annual report
of treasurer, 1966; Ladies' Physiological Institute club song
- 38. Printed handbooks with board members, lists of members, programs, etc., 1953-1995
- 39. Newsletters, 1954/1955-1955/1956
- 40. Massachusetts State Federation of Women's Clubs and General Federation of Women's
Clubs citations to Ladies' Physiological Institute, 1974-1993; Ladies' Physiological
Institute entries in Massachusetts State Federation of Women's Clubs manual, 1951/1952-1967/1968
- 41v. Scrapbook containing letters, histories, reports, book catalog, clippings, minutes,
constitution, by-laws, photographs, programs, announcements, ballots, etc., 1849-1948
Boston (Mass.)--Social life and customs
Women--Health and hygiene
Women--Physiology--Study and teaching
Women--Societies and clubs
Bronson, C. P. (Charles P.)
Cobb, Eunice Hale, 1803-1880
Hunt, Harriot Kezia, 1805-1875