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COLLECTION Identifier: B/L434: M-48

Records of the League of Women for Community Service, 1918-1938


Formal minutes, reports, and related material of the League of Women for Community Service, a social service, cultural, and civic organization.


  • Creation: 1918-1938

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Originals closed; use digital images or microfilm.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by the League of Women for Community Service, 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.


3 Volumes
1 folder

The Records of the League of Women for Community Service contain handwritten minutes and reports that range in date from 1918 to 1938. These records document the League's history, its policies, and wide range of activities, which were organized and maintained by its Board of Managers and various committees. Folders 1-3 describe charitable work, educational classes, vocational training, financial planning, fundraising events, etc. Folder 4 contains similar documents and may have been part of a later accession (see related material).

Organizational history

The League of Women for Community Service was formed by a group of African American women in 1918 to support African American soldiers and sailors during World War I. Many of its founders were active or former members of the women's club movement, including Maria Baldwin, principal of the formerly named Agassiz School in Cambridge and the League's first president. Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, a founding member of the Women's Era Club, also presided over early League meetings. Initially, the group met in each others homes. During the final year of the war, and briefly thereafter, they formed the Soldiers' Comfort Home to provide voluntary aid to soldiers at Fort Devens, and to the widows of men killed in service.

After the war, the League sought larger headquarters in order to expand its voluntary services. In 1919, with the assistance of their attorney, General William H. Lewis, League members purchased a stately mansion at 558 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston's South End. Built in 1860 by John Farwell, an abolitionist and wealthy shipping merchant, "558," as it became popularly known, once served as a station on the Underground Railroad. The League was formally incorporated under its present name in or about 1920. Funds to pay the mortgage were raised through membership dues, renting out space to other organizations, and various fund-raisers, which included musical performances, dramatic plays, and other events. The League also worked in tandem with other social service organizations to provide adult education classes and recreational outlets for young women and girls.

The League remains operational and continues to adapt its voluntary efforts to meet the changing needs of its neighboring community.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 793

The records of the League of Women for Community Service were donated to Schlesinger Library by the League of Women for Community Service.


Collection is available on microfilm (M-48, 1 reel, 35 mm.), from Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, through interlibrary loan.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see the Records of the League of Women for Community Service, 1922-1994 (B/L434a; T-259).

Processing Information

Updated and additional description added: June 2020

By: Emilyn L. Brown.

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

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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