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Mothers' Club (Cambridge, Mass.). Records of the Mothers' Club of Cambridge, 1881-1942: 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

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: B-14
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Mothers' Club (Cambridge, Mass.)
Title: Records of the Mothers' Club of Cambridge, 1881-1942
Date(s): 1881-1942
Quantity: .63 linear feet (1 + 1/2 file boxes)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Financial records, minutes, reports, etc., of the Mothers' Club of Cambridge, Massachusetts, established to discuss issues concerning children.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 54-3, 54-23
Gift of The Mothers' Club of Cambridge (acc. no. 54-3) received thru Miss Emily Sibley, 41 Hawthorne St., Cambridge, Massachusetts. Received March 1953. Gift of Mrs. William C. Koch, 9 Waterhouse St. Cambridge, Massachusetts or 787 Goodrich Ave. St. Paul, Minnesota (acc. no. 54-23). Received January 12, 1954.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by the Mothers' Club of Cambridge as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Records may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Mothers' Club of Cambridge Records, 1881-1942; item description, dates. B-14, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


The Mothers' Club of Cambridge was formed by Mrs. Hersey B.Goodwin who, in April 1878, gathered together a small group of "earnest young mothers" with the immediate purpose of discussing problems connected with their own children. The Club, whose membership soon increased from the original 8 to 24, maintained in later years an established group of 40 members. "Mothers in Council", published in 1884 by Harper Bros., shows their activities in early years. This book - with Club members' names disguised, besides covering the family problems which most interested these 19th century mothers, also indicates the working plan which made the Club's 60 years so worthwhile to it's members - a plan which served successfully as a model for later Cambridge groups. Among the first followers was the "Mothers' Discussion Club" started in the 1890s and still active today. Then came the later "Mothers' Circle" with several daughters of the original club who shared in the latter's anniversaries - the 25th and the 50th as mentioned in the records.
The Club always continued the custom of having a program: either a paper by one of the members, usually at the closed meetings, or a talk by an outside speaker at an open meeting, to which members could bring guests. The original emphasis on problems connected with their own children changed almost immediately to include programs of a far wider scope, particularly those concerned with improving the conditions for children in the less privileged sections of Cambridge.
As the accompanying records show, these programs continued to offer varied contributions both by the members themselves and by many outsiders among whom were noted Harvard professors. The Club members are recorded as heartily favoring the new "Annex" with the hope that its influence on Cambridge would be an improving one. Much later, in 1921, Radcliffe's President Comstock addressed the group following her attendance that summer in Honolulu at the highly respected Institute of Pacific Relations. Still later, daughters of Club members also gave their experiences, among these being Radcliffe's Sarah Wambaugh. Over the years the meetings always aimed to provide something of stimulating interest in addition to congenial sociability. This custom, however, required a sizable group, which accounts for the reduction in meetings in the final two years and for the regretful decision in 1942 to suspend meetings "until after the war".
The Mothers' Club, which in 1942 had voted to suspend for the duration of the war, did not resume activities at its close. Their previous membership of 14 had now become even smaller, with several of these in poor health. At this time, owing to the illness of the secretary, the Club records (the book "Mothers in Council", anniversary records and secretary's reports from 1878-1942) were kept by the president, then Mrs. Davis R. Dewey who, at the time of her death, was looking for a permanent home for them.
Now with the Archives not only established in permanent quarters but also eager for material of this nature in the 19th century, the surviving members of the Mothers' Club of Cambridge take great pleasure in presenting to the Radcliffe Archives all existing records of the Club which from 1878 to 1942 had met for over 60 years. (February 25, 1953.)


Records of the Mothers' Club of Cambridge, founded to discuss problems relating to their own children, but later broadened to include programs of a wider scope, such as conditions of the less privileged children of Cambridge, diet kitchens, domestic service, etc.


Container List

Additional Index Terms

Cambridge (Mass.)--Social life and customs
Child rearing
Household employees
Women--Societies and clubs