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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 178: M-145

Records of the New England Women's Club, 1843-1971


Minutes, correspondence, reports, etc., of the New England Women's Club, one of the oldest women's clubs in the United States.


  • Creation: 1843-1971

Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. Originals are closed; use microfilm (M-145).

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. 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.


7.75 linear feet ((5 cartons, 2 file boxes, 2 folio boxes) plus 4 folio+ folders, 1 oversize folder, 1 folio photograph folder.)

The collection provides a detailed record of board, annual and social meetings, 1868-1963; biographical information on some of the leading members; lists of members and officers; programs, calendars, financial records (1891-1963), and reports of officers, committees and classes, for many of the years of the club's existence; a small amount of correspondence; some documentation of the difficulties encountered by the Dress Reform Committee (#73-75) and of the financial crisis of 1899 (25v); and papers on the relationship of the New England Women's Club to the Massachusetts Federation of Women's Clubs from the latter's founding in 1893 (#119).

Series I, History, 1843-1971, undated (#1v-21f), includes the bylaws and constitution; lists of officers, nominations, and ballots; yearbooks; Historian's records, other historical information; and photographs.

This series includes a historian's records scrapbook started by Julia A. Sprague, and was intended partly as an autograph collection and includes letters, poems or messages by Louisa May Alcott (copy of a poem for Club Tea, 1875); Julia R. Anagnos; William Henry Channing; Ednah Dow Cheney; James Freeman Clarke; Abby Morton Diaz; Kate Field (article re: New England Women's Club, 1869); Isabella Stewart Gardner; William Lloyd Garrison, William Lloyd Garrison, Jr. (poem to New England Women's Club, 1897); Lucy Goddard; Julia Ward Howe (Battle Hymn of the Republic and story of its writing, encomiums); Mary Holman Ladd; Mary A. Livermore; Abigail Williams May; Maria Mitchell; Lucretia Mott; Louise Chandler Moulton; Elizabeth Palmer Peabody; Lucia M. Peabody; Olive A. Perry; Wendell Phillips; George Ripley; Caroline M. Severance; Julia A. Sprague; Lucy Stone; Henry David Thoreau (fragments of poem, "The Winter's Walk," by Gavin Douglas, in handwriting of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1843); Kate Gannett Wells; John Greenleaf Whittier; Abba Goold Woolson; and Marie Elizabeth Zakrzewska.

A photograph album found in this series (#19) include images of Elizabeth Cary Agassiz, Louisa May Alcott, Alice Stone Blackwell, Henry Brown Blackwell, Ednah Dow Cheney, James Freeman Clarke, Lidian Jackson Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Follen, William Lloyd Garrison, William Lloyd Garrison, Jr., Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Julia Ward Howe, Samuel Gridley Howe, Harriot K. Hunt, Mary A. Livermore, Abigail Williams May, Maria Mitchell, Louise Chandler Moulton, Lucia M. Peabody, Julia A. Sprague, Lucy Stone, Booker T. Washington, Kate Gannett Wells, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Marie Elizabeth Zakrzewska.

Series II, Secretaries' records, 1868-1963, undated (#22-57), includes the recording secretary's minutes (Board of Directors, annual, and regular Monday afternoon meetings); annual reports; and reports of the corresponding secretary. The records of the recording secretary also contain membership, committee, and class information, as well as financial reports, such as treasurer's reports, auditor's reports, and Reserve Fund reports.

Board of Directors minutes also include regular and annual meetings minutes, and annual reports. All of the recording secretary's annual reports were written by Lucia M. Peabody. Additional material related to Lucia M. Peabody can be found in Series I, III, and IV.

Series III, Programs, 1868-1966, undated (#58-120), includes four sections: committee reports; class reports; projects, and material related to the New England Women's Club's relations with other women's organizations. Each section is arranged alphabetically.

The meetings arranged by the Discussion Committee (#70-72) covered a variety of topics, such as cycling for women, literature, foreign travel, manners, crime, politics, suffrage, immigration, public education, education for girls, and paid work for women. Some of the committee's annual reports give a cursory description of topics discussed, others are more detailed.

Folders titled "Projects" can include papers read to the club, programs for performances, meeting announcements, original charades, book and travel talks, and the Horticultural School for Women. Papers read to the club (#106-108) also cover a variety of topics and they include "Legal condition of women in Massachusetts" by Lucy Stone. Those by Julia Ward Howe include one about the Department of Woman's Work at the World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition (New Orleans, 1884-85); most of the rest are about the New England Women's Club and the women's club movement.

Additional material material related to Lucia M. Peabody can be found in Series I, II, and IV.

Series IV, Membership, 1868-1969, undated (#121-144), contains in the following order: membership lists, membership proposals and applications, each section arranged chronologically; and a section of documents by and about individual members. This last section is arranged alphabetically.

Membership lists can include addresses, and information about new members, life members, honorary members, and guests. Individual member folders can include biographical information, and correspondence. Membership information can also be found in Series III (#58, 87). Additional material related to Lucia M. Peabody can be found in Series I, II, and III.

Series V, FINANCIAL RECORDS, 1891-1968, undated (#145-177), includes treasurer's records, which include reports (multi-year, annual, and monthly); receipt and expenditure ledgers; checks and checkbooks; budgets; donations made by New England Women's Club; auditor's reports; and material related to the Reserve Fund. Reserve Fund records include reports, bank records, and correspondence. Reserve Fund report folders can also include investment inventories.

Financial records can also be found Series I (#4-8), throughout Series II, and in Series III (#81-84f+). Researchers following up on names or subjects listed in the added entries should be aware that much of the relevant documentation can be found in the board, annual, and regular meeting minutes and in committee reports.

Many file units listed as volumes in the 1973 inventory of these records have now been placed in folders for preservation purposes, and are numbered accordingly. This series is arranged chronologically by record type.


The New England Women's Club, one of the oldest women's clubs in the United States, had its beginnings in February 1868 at a meeting at the house of Dr. Harriot K. Hunt. The first public meeting, which officially initiated the life of the club, was held on May 30, 1868. Caroline M. Severance (the first president) and Julia Ward Howe explained the purposes of the club as providing a meeting-place for women outside their homes, giving them new knowledge and inspiration for their work at home and outside, and uniting their efforts in various social causes. Beginning that autumn, the club held weekly meetings from November to May, with speakers on subjects in literature, history, music or art, or on such topics of current interest as suffrage, needy children, industrial schools, homes for the poor, and cooperative kitchens. Speakers included both club members (Ednah Dow Cheney, Julia Ward Howe, Mary Peabody Mann, Elizabeth P. Peabody, et al.) and such prominent contemporaries as William Henry Channing, James Freeman Clarke, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, and Henry and William James. Men, including some of those named, were associate members, but the club was managed entirely by women, at a time when it was radical for women to meet outside the home or even to call their association a club.

Among the early projects of the club or its committees were a report on needlewomen in Boston; a Friendly Evenings Association, which provided a comfortable meeting-place for working women for about a year, when the project was taken over by the newly-established Women's Educational and Industrial Union; a Horticultural School for Women; the Dress Reform Rooms established and run by the Dress Reform Committee to make and sell "hygienic" garments for women; and work by the Education Committee that led to the election of four women to the Boston School Committee in 1874.

On the cultural side there were, in addition to the many lectures, "poetical picnics," with contributions by members; annual lunches to honor astronomer Maria Mitchell; celebrations of Margaret Fuller's birthday; dramatic performances; and regular classes in English literature, botany, physiology, and languages. The club's history of cultural and philanthropic activities has continued to the present.


The New England Women's Club records are divided into five series:

  1. I. History, 1843-1971, undated (#1v-21f)
  2. II. Secretaries' records, 1868-1963, undated (#22-57)
  3. III. Programs, 1868-1966, undated (#58-120)
  4. IV. Membership, 1868-1969, undated (#121-144)
  5. V. Financial records, 1891-1968, undated (#145-177)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 72-21

The records of the New England Women's Club were given to the Schlesinger Library by the club in 1972.


The papers in this collection presented a challenge to the processor and the microfilmer. Some of the material, particularly in the volumes, was difficult to film, due to such problems as faded ink, creased and brittle newsprint, staining caused by scotch tape, glue, and discolored newsprint, tight bindings that may cause gutter shadow, and, in scrapbooks, glued-in, multi-paged, folded, and overlapping items. It was impossible to film the last or back page of some items, because they were glued to the page.

All dates and other information added by the processor are in square brackets.

Unnumbered volume and notebook pages containing text, and some multi-paged letters, were numbered by the processor to aid the microfilmer, the proofreader, and researchers.

Blank volume pages numbered by the printer were filmed only when opposite a page with text.

Loose items found between pages of notebooks or other volumes were filmed where found.

Some reports were handwritten on the reverse side of previously used paper. With a few exceptions only the ms. side was filmed.

Many multi-paged letters conclude at the top or sides of page one, or another page that is not the last. The page with the ending was not refilmed, so researchers must return to the pertinent page.

The film was proofread by the Schlesinger Library and corrections made where necessary.

Copies of this microfilm (M-145) may be borrowed on interlibrary loan from the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, 10 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.

  1. Folders 1-5: M-145, Reel 1
  2. Folders 6-8: M-145, Reel 2
  3. Folders f.b. 2 -12: M-145, Reel 3
  4. Folders 13-22: M-145, Reel 4
  5. Folders 23-26: M-145, Reel 5
  6. Folders 27-29: M-145, Reel 6
  7. Folders 30-32: M-145, Reel 7
  8. Folders 33-39: M-145, Reel 8
  9. Folders 40-44: M-145, Reel 9
  10. Folders 45-48: M-145, Reel 10
  11. Folders 49: M-145, Reel 11
  12. Folders 50-55: M-145, Reel 12
  13. Folders 56-73: M-145, Reel 13
  14. Folders 74-93: M-145, Reel 14
  15. Folders 94-114: M-145, Reel 15
  16. Folders 115-142: M-145, Reel 16
  17. Folders 143-159: M-145, Reel 17
  18. Folders 160-177: M-145, Reel 18


This index includes the names of selected writers and recipients. Information about persons and subjects is not indexed. Authors listed under additional catalog entries who were not correspondents are not included. See inventory to the collection.

Key: No symbol = Writer; * = Writer and recipient; ~ = Recipient; fb2 = Folio box 2

The numbers refer to the folders.

  1. Brown, Sara E. 74*, 117~
  2. Channing, William H. fb2
  3. Cheney, Ednah fb2*, 128*, 143~
  4. Child, David Lee fb2~
  5. Clarke, James Freeman fb2~
  6. Converse, Susan Taylor 74, 75*
  7. Crocker, Lucretia fb2
  8. Curtis, Alice T. 129
  9. Diaz, Abby M. fb2
  10. Doggett, Kate N. 117
  11. Emerson, Ellen T. fb2
  12. Gardner, Isabella S. fb2
  13. Garrison, William Lloyd fb2
  14. Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute 161
  15. Howe, Julia Ward fb2*, 119~
  16. Kendall, Phebe M. 74, 75*
  17. Ladd, Mary H. 119
  18. Lewis, Helen C. 75*
  19. Livermore, Mary A. fb2
  20. Macdaniel, F.L. 117~
  21. Marsh, Mabel 129~, 135*, 163*
  22. May, Abigail W. fb2
  23. Parsons, Anna Q.T. fb2
  24. Peabody, Elizabeth P. fb2*
  25. Peabody, Lucia M. fb2, 74~, 75*, 115, 128*, 160~
  26. Perry, Olive A. 139~, 143~, 160~
  27. Phillips, Wendell fb2
  28. Read, Anne L. 140~
  29. Richards, Laura 17
  30. Ripley, George fb2
  31. Severance, Caroline M. fb2, 75
  32. Shrewsberry, Henry L. 128
  33. Sprague, Julia A. fb2~, 139
  34. Stantial, Edna L. 132
  35. Stone, Lucy fb2
  36. Van Duzen, J.D. 75*
  37. Ward, Mary Alden fb2, 48, 140
  38. Wells, Kate G. fb2
  39. Whittier, John Greenleaf fb2*
  40. Wolcott, Henrietta S.T. 74~, 75*
  41. Woolson, Abba G. 74, 75*
  42. Zakrzewska, Marie E. fb2, 143

General note

Container List
  1. Carton 1: 1-17, 22
  2. Folio Box 2: scrapbook
  3. Folio Box 3: 19vf-20vf
  4. Carton 4: 23v-32v
  5. Carton 5: 33v-47v
  6. Carton 6: 48v-73
  7. Carton 7: 74-83, 85-120
  8. Carton 8: 121v-143, 145, 147-148, 150, 152-165
  9. Box 9: 166-177

Processing Information

Reprocessed: April 1997

By: Bert Hartry

New England Women's Club. Records of the New England Women's Club, 1843-1971: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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