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Tilton, Elizabeth, 1869-1950. Papers of Elizabeth Tilton, 1914-1949: 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

The collection was processed under a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (RC-0051-79-1260).

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: A-52
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Elizabeth Tilton, 1869-1950
Title: Papers of Elizabeth Tilton, 1914-1949
Date(s): 1914-1949
Quantity: 7.51 linear feet (18 file boxes) plus 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder, 2 reels of microfilm (M-59, reels 993-994, no. M30)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Diaries, drafts of autobiographical and family history books, correspondence, etc., of Elizabeth Tilton, temperance crusader, feminist, and writer.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 50-3, 54-30 348, 952
The papers of Elizabeth (Hewes) Tilton were given to the Schlesinger Library in January 1950 by Henry J. Cadbury, in 1953 and August 1961 by Edna Lamprey Stantial, and in 1965 by Henry Hewes.

Processing Information:

Reprocessed: December 1980
By: Madeleine Bagwell Perez

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted with the exception of #5v-8v, 12v, 14-18, and 22-23, which are closed; use microfilm M-59, reels 993-994.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Elizabeth Tilton as well as 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:

Elizabeth Tilton Papers, 1914-1949; item description, dates. A-52, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


The following items have been removed from the collection and added to the Library's subject files, January 1981:
The following items have been removed from the collection and added to the Library's book collection, 1965:
Three books (from acc. no. 952):


Elizabeth (Hewes) Tilton, Unitarian feminist and temperance crusader, was born on March 13, 1869, in Salem, Massachusetts, the daughter of Eleanor Fox (Jewett) and James Tracy Hewes. She attended Radcliffe College in 1887-1888. On January 10, 1911 she married William F. Tilton of Cambridge. She died on March 17, 1950, after a long illness, at her winter home in Winter Park, Florida.
Beginning in 1911 and until failing health curtailed her activities in the mid-'30's, Tilton devoted much of her time and energy to the causes of woman suffrage, peace, education, and prohibition. From 1911 to 1913 she and other volunteers of the Boston Associated Charities worked with a group of physicians led by Dr. Charles Putnam and Dr. John W. Elliott on a "poster campaign against alcohol." Until this time advertising had been little used by private organizations. As director of the Unitarian Temperance Society (1913-1914), Tilton took part in a survey of various liquor experiments being tried in the United States and Europe; it was at this time that she became firmly committed to the cause of prohibition. Notable among the many positions Tilton held were the following: organization chairman of the Massachusetts Woman's Suffrage Association (1916-1918); chairman, Women's Division of the Massachusetts Anti-Saloon League (1917); chairman of the legislation committee of the National Congress of Parents and Teachers (1921-1931); and organizer and chairman of the Women's National Committee for Education Against Alcohol. She was the author of Turning off the Spigot (1914) and Save America (1924); contributed to the Woman's Journal, Current History, and other publications; and was one of Boston's busiest writers of "letters to the editor."
Tilton was a hard-hitting protagonist who never hesitated to engage an opponent; she opposed presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith in 1928 largely because of his views on the return of legalized liquor. Though she readily assumed leadership in temperance and other organizations, when Massachusetts religious and temperance leaders urged her to run for the United States Senate in 1930 she refused. Even after illness ended her active participation in the temperance movement, she continued to write letters and articles in favor of prohibition.


The collection is arranged in four series:


The papers of Elizabeth (Hewes) Tilton were initially processed in the early 1960s. They have been re-processed to include the 1965 gift of her nephew, Henry Hewes, which consisted of additional diaries, writings, and correspondence.
During the processing of the original collection, clippings, printed material and other items pinned to or folded between pages of the diaries were removed. Those pertaining to Tilton were kept and filed elsewhere in the collection; those pertaining to the prohibition movement in general or to her other interests were moved to the Library's vertical files or discarded. This procedure was continued in the re-processing.
The papers in this collection pertain to Tilton's activities in education and in the suffrage, peace, and prohibition movements from 1914 until the mid-1930s. There is a small amount of biographical and genealogical material, but, except in the autobiographical writings, there is no documentation of Tilton's childhood, youth, or family relationships.
Series I, Personal, is composed mainly of diaries, with one folder of biographical and genealogical material and one folder of photographs. The diaries (4v-25v) are nearly complete for the years 1918-1934 and detail Tilton's temperance activities. Typed transcripts of many diary pages will be found among the drafts of and miscellaneous notes for Tilton's autobiographies.
Series II, Writings, contains drafts of books (29-119), most of which are autobiographies or family histories; and manuscript, typescript, and printed versions of articles and stories (120-212). Most of the latter concern prohibition, though some are concerned with childhood education and others may be parts of Tilton's autobiographical writings. Also included are letters to the editor (213 - 219); correspondence about her writings (221); and a folder of miscellaneous notes and unidentified pages (220).
Series III, Health and Education, details Tilton's involvement with the National Congress of Parents and Teachers. The National Congress of Parents and Teachers was organized on February 17, 1897 as the National Congress of Mothers. In 1908 the name was changed to the National Congress of Mothers and Parent-Teacher Associations; the change to National Congress of Parents and Teachers was made in 1924.
These National Congress of Parents and Teachers files are not complete. They include minutes and reports of the Board of Managers and the Executive Committee (222 - 232); reports of the Legislative Committee, of which Tilton was national chairman (233-241); correspondence, most concerning Tilton's activities (244-253); publications (242); and subject files (254-268), which contain primarily printed material of interest to Tilton and the National Congress of Parents and Teachers and which are arranged alphabetically.
Series IV, Prohibition, concerns Tilton's primary interest; her diaries and writings (Series I and II) show her to have been a tireless temperance leader.
This series contains correspondence (269-305); speeches, statements, and news releases (306-309); subject files (310-343); and clippings (344-351). The subject files include printed material and some correspondence with or about organizations with which Tilton was associated.



An index of writers of letters. Information about individuals is not indexed; nor are subjects.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Child labor
Child welfare
Health education
Manuscripts (for publication)
Public health
Temperance--Societies, etc.
Women--Social conditions
Abbott, Grace, 1878-1939
Addams, Jane, 1860-1935
Anti-saloon League of America
Blackwell, Alice Stone, 1857-1950
Brewer, Mary Grey
Brookings, Martha N.
Brown, Dorothy Kirchwey, 1888-1981
Codman, Julian
Crane, Ruth M.
Family Welfare Society (Boston, Mass.)
Hocker, Mary B.
Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964
Houchins, Essie Mae
King, Delcevare
Lindley, Laura
Lord, Alice B.
Marrs, Ina Caddell
McCormick, Katherine Raynolds
National Congress of Parents and Teachers
Nicholson, Mollie Davis
Park, Maud Wood, 1871-1955
Peabody, Lucy Whitehead McGill Waterbury, 1861-1949
Sabin, Pauling Morton, 1887-1955
Stoddard, Cora Frances, 1872-1936
Unitarian Temperance Society
Urquhart, Augusta W.
Wald, Lillian D., 1867-1940
Watkins, Florence J.
Women's National Committee for Law Enforcement