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COLLECTION Identifier: HUD 3824

Records of the College Teas Association and Harvard Neighbors, 1894-1995.


The College Teas Association was instituted in 1894 by a group of faculty wives in order to promote "social intercourse among the ladies of the University."  In 1939, the association established the Newcomer's Club to provide help to newcomers to Harvard and Cambridge.  In 1972, the entire association was renamed Harvard Neighbors, and in 1988, membership was opened to men.  These records document an effort to establish a sense of community at Harvard, among wives of the University, and within the community at large.


  • 1894-1995.


Conditions on Use and Access

Access to unpublished archival records is restricted for 50 years from the date of creation of the record(s). See reference staff for details.  No restrictions on access apply to published records.


5 cubic feet (16 boxes)
These records document the establishment, organization, and activities of the College Teas Association and its evolution into Harvard Neighbors, as well as the establishment of the Newcomer's Club.  In so doing, these records also document the changing social roles and lives of women at Harvard University, their use of a formal social network, and the experiences of college professors wives in the United States throughout the 20th century.

Most of the records document the history of the College Teas Association from 1894 to 1972.  Records after 1972 consist of a few invitations, publications, and items from the centennial exhibition in 1994.

History of the College Teas Association and Harvard Neighbors

The College Teas Association (CTA) was established in 1894 during the presidency of Charles William Eliot.  Spurred by the University's expansion during the late 1800 s, a group of facultywives formed a committee to consider ways to promote "social intercourse among the ladies of the University."  The committee met at the home of Ellen Warner Davis to discuss potential social activities, the first of which was a College Luncheon in April, 1894 .  The committee soon began holding formal teas to welcome the wives of newly appointed members of the faculty.

For the first five years teas were hosted by Grace Eliot, President Eliot's wife, in Fay House at Radcliffe College College and later in Phillips Brooks House at Harvard College.  

Early teas were formal affairs.  Women wore hats and gloves and identified themselves by their husband's name and department.  Only the wives of professors or the mothers and sisters of bachelor professors were invited.  Invitations consisted of calling cards delivered to home addresses until the Depression years, when telephone invitations became the preferred method.  Hats were required apparel for everyone until 1926, when the Executive Committee dropped the requirement.  It was not until 1964, however, that a note appeared in the records stating that no Harvard hostess should wear a hat.

In 1939, the CTA, under the leadership of Grace Conant, wife of President James Bryant Conant, established the Newcomers' Club as a response to the influx of Europeanscholars and their families who were new to the Harvard and Cambridge community.  In 1967, when the University closed the Office of the Advisor to Harvard Wives, the Newcomer's Club established an outreach committee called the Harvard Neighbors, through which returning members were dispatched to introduce themselves to neighbors new to the community.

Three years later, in response to a diversifying membership that included wives of University officers as well as faculty, Sissela Bok established a committee to review the structure and role of the College Teas Association.  In 1972, the Association was placed under the administrative wing of Harvard's Governing Boards, a new organizational structure was established, and the CTA was renamed Harvard Neighbors.  Since then, Harvard Neighbors has opened an office at 17 Quincy Street, home of the Office of the Governing Boards, with a paid administrator on staff.  In 1988, the by-laws were revised to extend membership to men.  During Neil Rudenstine's presidency of Harvard, Angelica Rudenstine serves as co-chair of the organization with her husband.

Over the years, the College Teas Association and Harvard Neighbors have offered women and men the opportunity for diverse social activities.  Past committees have organized book discussions, art exhibitions, and classes ranging from cooking to foreign languages, in addition to teas and dinner dances.  In addition to sponsoring these activities, Harvard Neighbors now serves as a clearinghouse for volunteers to University and Cambridge community programs.

In 1994, the College Teas Association/Harvard Neighbors celebrated its 100th anniversary.  Festivities included a tea in honor of Ann Pusey, wife of former President Nathan Marsh Pusey, the publication of a cookbook, an exhibition of historical documents and photographs in Pusey Library, and a reception.

Series and Sub-series in the Collection

  1. Executive and Advisory Committees Records, 1894-1972. 5 containers
  2. ___ Executive and Advisory Committees General Records
  3. ___ Reports on Teas
  4. ___ Development of Harvard Neighbors
  5. Newcomer's Club Records, 1939-1972. 3 containers
  6. ___ C.T.A. Newcomer's Club General Records
  7. ___ C.T.A. Newcomer's Club Subordinate Groups
  8. Dinner Dances, 1953-1972. 1 container
  9. Membership Records, 1906-1964. 2 containers
  10. Invitations and Mailings, 1904-1995. 1 container
  11. Financial Records, 1904-1971. 2 containers
  12. ___ College Teas Association Financial Reports
  13. ___ College Teas Association Auditor's Reports
  14. ___ College Teas Association Financial Correspondence
  15. Visitor's Book, 1953-1957. 1 container
  16. Exhibit Items, 1994. 1 container
Arrangement The records are organized in eight series.  Organization within each series varies.

Acquisition Information

  1. Accession number: 14095, Harvard Law School Library, 1/10/2000
  2. Accession number: 13482, Julia Fox, 1/17/1997
  3. Accession number:13498, Julia Fox, 2/5/1997
  4. Cash Book, 1904-1928, Mrs. Paul H. Buck, 3/10/1947
  5. Financial Reports/Papers, 1930-1946, Mrs. Paul H. Buck, 3/10/1947
  6. Lists of Members, 1936-1950, Mrs. Paul H. Buck, 3/10/1947
  7. Membership Books, 1906-1945, Mrs. Paul H. Buck, 3/10/1947
  8. Instruction Book for Secretary, Mrs. J.B. Conant, 1/7/1953
  9. Minutes, 1894-1935, Mrs. J.B. Conant, 1/7/1953
  10. Visitor's Book, Mrs. J.B. Conant, 1/19/1953
  11. Correspondence, 1948-1950, Mrs. K.D. Metcalf, 12/1953
  12. Financial Reports/Papers, 1946-1949, Mrs. K.D. Metcalf , 12/1953
  13. Financial Records (Sup.), 1938-1939, R. Lovett, 7/1973

Allied Materials

See also publications by or about the the College Teas Association or Harvard Neighbors that are cataloged in Harvard's on-line integrated library system.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 November 14

Processing Information

Processed by Kara Lewis, March, 1998

Many of the records lacked order; chronological order was imposed on most series or sub-series.

Two series, records of the Executive and Advisory Committees and records of the Newcomer's Club, were particularly difficult to organize.  Records from these bodies had been given to the Archives, apparently, by two or more concurrent officers, thereby creating overlap.  The files were rearranged in a chronological sequence to avoid confusion.  Some folders, the contents of which cover broad date spans and may or may not duplicate the records with known dates, have been placed at the end of these chronological sequences and described as "miscellaneous dates".  Some duplicate memos and invitations were weeded from these series.
Link to catalog
Harvard University. College Teas Association. Records of the College Teas Association and Harvard Neighbors : an inventory
Harvard University Archives

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

Pusey Library
Harvard Yard
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461