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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 2393

South End House (Boston, Mass.) records


Records of South End House, a settlement house in Boston (Mass.) begun by social reformer Robert Archey Woods.


  • 1890-1950

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.

This collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.


2.5 linear feet (3 boxes)

These records were retained by Eleanor Woods, Robert Archey Woods's wife, after his death. Types of material present include correspondence, essays, financial records, scrapbooks, photographs, and print.

The records primarily document activities of the House and Association but also include records of the South Bay Sorosis and incidental records for related Boston organizations. There is little personal material for Robert Archey Woods, but many of his writings on the settlement movement and broader social conditions are present in draft and final form. Most unsigned material is presumed to be have been written by him.

Biographical / Historical

Robert Archey Woods, born in Pittsburgh (Pa.) in 1865, attended Amherst College in Amherst (Mass.) and Andover Theological Seminary in Andover (Mass.). Influenced at Andover by Professor William Jewett Tucker's "social economics", in 1890 Woods spent six months at Toynbee Hall in the East End of London, a settlement project begun in 1884 to bring the privileged and the poor to live together for mutual benefit and education. Woods returned to the U.S. in 1891, chosen by Professor Tucker to head Boston's first settlement house (fifth in the country) under the auspices of Tucker's newly-formed South End House Association.

Tucker described the settlement house movement as "...religious, but the method...educational rather than evangelistic," focusing on the neighborhood as the cornerstone of social well-being and promoting "prevention, not cure." The South End House Association undertook reform of health, sanitation, education, and working conditions through investigations, published reports, legislative reform, and direct involvement of staff in the lives of residents.

In the winter of 1892, Woods and others opened Andover House (renamed South End House in 1895) at 6 Rollins Street in the South End (Boston, Mass.),in Eleanor Woods's words "...the most considerable working-class district of Boston, within easy reach of the poorest locality in the heart of the city...". Multiple men's and women's residences were established over time.

Woods served as president of the South End Social Union and its successor, the Boston Social Union, an alliance of settlement houses offering a multitude of neighborhood activities, including gardening, entertainments, sports, festivals, and exhibits. Among these projects were: the South End House Industry,begun in 1923 to provide employment for women of the "lodging-house district" making and selling rugs; the South End Music School, established in 1910; "caddy camps", notably atBretton Woods (N.H.), allowing boys to earn money caddying at golf clubs; and summer country convalescence programs for city children, notably at Winning Farm in Lexington (Mass.). It also maintained a legislation committee.

Woods was instrumental in the development of professional social work and its employment of the social survey to document urban conditions. He lectured and published widely, serving in leadership positions nationally. In Boston he served on the Excise Board and Licensing Board.

Woods married Eleanor Howard Bush in Cambridge in 1902; he died in February 1925.


Arranged in six series:

  1. I. Correspondence
  2. II. Compositions by Robert Archey Woods and others
  3. III. South End House and South End House Association records
  4. ___A. Financial
  5. ___B. Activities
  6. ___C. Scrapbooks
  7. IV. South Bay Sorosis records
  8. V. Robert Archey Woods obituaries and memorials
  9. VI. Printed material

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

51M-337. Eleanor H. Woods, South End House, 20 Union Park, Boston 18, Massachusetts; received: 1952 April.

66M-194. United South End Settlements, 20 Union Park, Boston, Massachusetts 02118; received: 1966 March 31.

2010M-78 (80a). Gift of the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute; received: 2011 March 3.

Related Materials

Related collections are held by:

  1. Harvard University Archives: Harvard University. President's Office. Records of the President of Harvard University, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, 1909-1933 (UAI 5.160)
  2. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, MN: Social Welfare History Archives
  3. Simmons College Archives, Boston, MA: South End House Association records
  4. Northeastern University Libraries, Boston, MA: United South End Settlements records
  5. Frances Loeb Library, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Special Collections: Arthur A. and Sidney N. Shurcliff papers.

Separated Materials

Most printed material removed and cataloged separately; consult HOLLIS.

General note

This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

Processing Information

Processed by: Melanie Wisner

South End House (Boston, Mass.). South End House (Boston, Mass.) records, 1890-1950: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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