Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: BWH c005

Boston Hospital for Women records


Boston Hospital for Women records, 1926–1983 (inclusive), 1966–1979 (bulk), are the product of the hospital staff’s administrative, fundraising, publication, and public relations activities from 1966 through 1979.


  • 1926–1983 (inclusive),
  • Majority of material found within 1966–1979 .


Conditions Governing Access

Access requires advance notice. Access to unpublished administrative records is restricted for 50 years from creation date. Patient information is restricted indefinitely. Restricted records, except restricted patient photographs, are noted in the finding aid. Researchers may apply for access to restricted material. Consult the Director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library for further information. (email:

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to the Director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library. (email: However, the Brigham and Women’s Hospital does not hold copyright on all the materials in this collection. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Director are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.


5.2 cubic feet (5 standard record cartons and 1 half letter size document box.)

The Boston Hospital for Women records include those created during the time period in which Boston Hospital for Women was a separate record keeping entity—after the merger between its parent hospitals, the Boston Lying-in Hospital and the Free Hospital for Women, in 1966, and before its full integration into the Brigham and Women’s Hospital starting in 1980. There are some photographs and article reprints in the collection that pre-date the 1966 merger, as well as records related to scholarship programs and award programs begun before and continuing past the 1966 merger. After the 1975 merger with the Peter Bent Brigham and the Robert B. Brigham Hospitals, the Boston Hospital for Women operated officially as a division of the Affiliated Hospitals Center, but kept using the Boston Hospital for Women identifier for newsletters, correspondence, board meetings, and fundraising.

The collection includes annual reports and Board of Directors’ correspondence from 1966–1976. Two subject folders on the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), and XYY chromosomes research are included. Public Relations department records comprise the majority of items in the collection. These include newspaper clippings mentioning the hospital, and many photographic prints of various department activities, staff, and events from the 1960s and 1970s.

Historical Notes

Boston Hospital for Women was formed on May 2, 1966 as the result of a merger between two Harvard affiliated teaching hospitals that concentrated on women’s health issues. The Boston Lying-in Hospital, established in 1832, was a facility focusing on obstetrics, and the Free Hospital for Women, organized in 1875, was dedicated to gynecological care and research. (See Boston Lying-in Hospital records and Free Hospital for Women records for historical notes on these two hospitals.)

Merger ideas began in the 1950s at the Free Hospital for Women when a desire for broader study of women’s health, rather than just the study of gynecology alone, affected the choices for training of young medical professionals. In 1951, the Boston Lying-in Hospital and the Free Hospital for Women integrated resident appointments to give applicants three years of the combined training needed for certification by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. This example of cooperation between the two hospitals paralleled a developing urge to consolidate services among several other Harvard teaching hospitals. By 1958 the Free Hospital trustees had approved a plan to pursue joining the Boston Lying-in Hospital, The Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, the Robert Breck Brigham, and the Peter Bent Brigham Hospitals as part of a new “Harvard Medical Center.” In 1960, Lillian Grahn, Free Hospital for Women Administrator, a longtime advocate of combining hospitals, wrote a report detailing the pros and cons of a merger specifically with the Boston Lying-in Hospital. On the basis of this report, the Free Hospital Board of Trustees began feasibility studies.

Concurrently, a project to build a new hospital complex for the future Harvard Medical Center (later known as the Affiliated Hospitals Center) began, but many legal, social, and financial hurdles delayed the construction and consolidation process. In the interim, progress on the merger of the two women’s hospitals was considered a major step forward in the eventual integration of all the Harvard teaching hospitals.

By an act of the Massachusetts legislature in 1965, the two women’s hospitals were authorized to merge and Dr. John G. Freymann was appointed general director of the Boston Lying-in Hospital, Coordinator of the Free Hospital for Women, and General Director-designate for the new Boston Hospital for Women which was officially incorporated in 1966. Though located in separate buildings, the Boston Lying-in Hospital was referred to as the Lying-in Division, and the Free Hospital for Women was referred to as the Parkway Division. In 1975, the Boston Hospital for Women merged with the Peter Bent Brigham and the Robert B. Brigham Hospitals forming the Affiliated Hospitals Center. After the merger of the three hospitals the Boston Hospital for Women was referred to as a division of Affiliated Hospital Center.

In 1980, at the time of the opening of the long-awaited, state-of-the-art facility, the Affiliated Hospitals Center was renamed as Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School. The Lying-in division and the Parkway division patients were relocated from the former facilities into the new merged facilities beginning on July 9, 1980, and the obstetrical services and nurseries were moved at the end of February in 1981.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

  1. Series I. Program Establishment, Development, and Review Records, 1966–1976.
  2. Series II. External Program Relations Records, 1979–1980.
  3. Series III. Special Issues Records, 1948, 1968–1983.
  4. Series IV. Fund Development Records, 1956–1980.
  5. Series V. Visual Records, 1926–1981.
  6. ___ Subseries A. Newspaper Clippings, 1966–1977.
  7. ___ Subseries B. Photographs, 1926–1981.
  8. Series VI. Special Events Records, 1967.
  9. Series VII. Publications, 1970–1982.
  10. Series VIII. Memorabilia,circa 1960s–1970s.

Custodial History

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) owns the records described in this finding aid. The Harvard Medical Library entered into a contract in 2001 to act as the repository for some of BWH’s archival records. Before the transfer to the Harvard Medical Library, many of the records were in storage at various locations within the BWH. In 2005, additions to the collection were assembled and transferred from a BWH storage facility at 850 Boylston Street, Boston, MA by Anne Fladger, Director of the BWH Medical Library.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Boston Hospital for Women records were placed on deposit with the Harvard Medical Library in 2001 by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Some of the collection was transferred from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library to the Harvard Medical Library in 2005. Additional material was added as follows:

  1. Accession number 2008-040 was transferred from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library to the Harvard Medical Library in 2007.


  • Boston Lying-in Hospital. Annual Report, 1965. Boston: 1965.
  • Freymann, John G. “Pioneering for the Future.” Harvard Medical School Alumni Bulletin 41 (Spring, 1967): 37–39.
  • Cappers, Elmer Osgood. History of the Free Hospital for Women, 1875–1975. Boston: Boston Hospital for Women, 1975.

Processing Information

This collection was processed and this finding aid was written by Catherine Pate at the Center for the History of Medicine. It was published in 2008. A revised version was published in 2016.

The records, transferred in bulk from the BWH, were made up of records from all the individual hospitals that eventually merged to become the Affiliated Hospitals Center (AHC), which in turn became Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Processing staff made the decision to organize the records by their provenance, and processed and described each individual hospital’s records separately. Consequently, the original transfer yielded seven groups of records, one of which is the Boston Hospital for Women records.

The records for each hospital were organized into series and described based on practices used at the Harvard Medical School Archives. Processing for this collection also involved primary preservation, arrangement, and the creation of this detailed finding aid. Duplicate records and records that did not meet the archival collection goals of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Medical Library were discarded.

Boston Hospital for Women. Records, 1926–1983 (inclusive), 1966–1979 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine) Repository

The Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is one of the world's leading resources for the study of the history of health and medicine. Our mission is to enable the history of medicine and public health to inform healthcare, the health sciences, and the societies in which they are embedded.

10 Shattuck Street
Boston MA 02115
(617) 432-2170