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COLLECTION Identifier: B-8

Records of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union, 1878-1955


History, printed material, annual reports, financial records, etc., of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union, a non-profit social and educational agency in Boston, Mass.


  • Creation: 1878-1955


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Women's Educational and Industrial Union 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.


4.59 linear feet (11 boxes)

The records of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union document the Union's operations from its founding in the late 1870s until the early 1930s. The records include histories (including one written in 1955 by S. Agnes Donham), annual reports, the union's constitution and bylaws, and newsletters. Also included are correspondence and printed material regarding the work and operation of the Domestic Reform League, the Handwork and Millinery Shops, the School of Housekeeping, other departments. The collection also includes publications and samples of Printing Department orders from 1894 to 1932 and Research Department reports and studies from 1908 to 1928, exploring problems of domestic service; the protection of immigrant women; industrial opportunities for women and girls; old age security and other issues. Material on the Appointment Bureau's activities from 1909 to 1933 includes histories of the bureau; documents related to its work with other bureaus of occupation in cities throughout the United States (#69-81); general reports and work of the Bureau on topics ranging from "child-helping societies" to "women over forty" (#82-105); and general reports and work regarding possible occupations for women and girls (#106-163).


The Women's Educational and Industrial Union (Boston, Massachusetts), a non-profit social and educational agency, was founded in 1877 by Dr. Harriet Clisby, and incorporated in 1880, "to increase fellowship among women and to promote the best practical methods for securing their educational, industrial and social advancement." In order to accomplish this mission, the organization was arranged in committees or departments which throughout its history provided education and job placement services for women, social services for those in need, social programs for members, and operated a number of retail shops. These departments continued to evolve as different needs arose. In its early years, the organization gave practical help and provided training programs to and for women, teaching them how to produce marketable goods and selling their products at the Union's Handwork Shop, one of its early retail shops. Among the social services offered were legal aid for women in need (especially domestic workers); lunches for schools in the city of Boston; and training and placement for women, the adult blind, and persons with disabilities.

An early Committee on Hygiene, which provided health education and free medical treatment to women, later became the Committee on Sanitary and Industrial Conditions (investigating conditions of work in shops and industry) and still later, the Research Department. The early Employment Bureau, which began by investigating fraudulent advertisements offering lucrative work to women at home and by providing job placement services to both professional women and domestic workers, split into the Emergency Employment Bureau (offering placement services for cooks, laundresses, housekeepers, etc., who could only accept day work), and the Appointment Bureau (offering career counseling and placement services in business and the professions). The Emergency Appointment Bureau was reorganized as Homemaker Services, which offered household services to the chronically ill and to those with medical emergencies, and the new Career Services continued in the same vein as the Appointment Bureau. The Union's retail shops, which in the early years consisted of a tea room, lunch room, food shop, and handwork shop, expanded over time to include a children's book shop, stationery shop, needlework shop, children's shop, printing shop, magazine shop, and gift shop, among others. Profits from the Union shops were used to maintain social service and other programs until they closed in 2004.

More recent programs offered by the Social Services Department included Companions Unlimited, a volunteer program to help the elderly and persons with all disabilities of all ages; Mini Mart, a member food co-op for the elderly and persons with disabilities offered as part of Companions Unlimited; Parent Aides, a mentoring service for young single mothers; Horizons Transitional Housing Program, a temporary housing program for women experiencing domestic violence or homelessness and their children; Family Day Care; and the department's nursing home guide, whose title has varied over the years. Other departments included Homemaker Services, Career Services, and Member Services, which offered a daytime lecture series, classes, tours and special events, and the After Five program, providing lectures on issues of current interest for young men and women. Rockport Lodge, a vacation home for low- to moderate-income women, and the Women's Rest Tour Association, now known as the Traveler's Information Exchange (a network collecting information about travel for women), were associated with the Union, as was the Industrial Credit Union, which was started by a group of Union women in 1910. The Union was supported by membership dues, donations and gifts, grants, and in part by its shops. In 2002, the Union changed its name to the Women's Union, and in 2004 sold its buildings, dedicating the income from their sales to future programs. In July 2006 the Union merged with Crittenton to become the Crittenton Women's Union, dedicated to transforming "the course of low-income women's lives so that they can attain economic independence and create better futures for themselves and their families."

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 52-47, 54-18, 56-103

The papers of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union were deposited in September 1952, January 1954 and May 1956. A gift from the Women's Educational and Industrial Union, they were obtained through the Appointment Bureau, the Research Bureau and Eleanor Allen.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library. See the Women's Educational and Industrial Union (Boston, Mass.) Additional records, 1877-1974 (M-89; B/W872ed), the Women's Educational and Industrial Union (Boston, Mass.) Additional records, 1877-1977 (81-M237--82-M11), the Additional records of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union (Boston, Mass.), 1877-2004 (MC 610), the Audiotape collection of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union (Boston, Mass.), 1986-2000 (T-362), the Videotape and motion picture collection of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union (Boston, Mass.), 1979-2001 (Vt-12; MP-61), and Crittenton Women's Union Records, 2005-2014 (MC 1039).


  1. Box 1: Folders 1-7
  2. Box 2: Folders 8-19
  3. Box 3: Folders 20-26
  4. Box 4: Folders 27-31
  5. Box 5: Folders 32-37
  6. Box 6: Folders 38-45, Volumes 2-3
  7. Box 7: Folders 46-59, Volume 1
  8. Box 8: Folders 60-68
  9. Box 9: Folders 69-87
  10. Box 10: Folders 88-114
  11. Box 11: Folders 115-163

Processing Information

In April 2024, Susan Earle revised this finding aid to bring it into alignment with Schlesinger Library’s current cataloging practices and with its inclusive and reparative language guidelines. As part of this work, she replaced the terms "handicapped," "needy women," and "domestics" with "persons with disabilities," "women in need," and "domestic workers," respectively. She also replaced the phrase "battered or homeless women" with "women experiencing domestic violence or homelessness."

Women's Educational and Industrial Union (Boston, Mass.). Records of the Women's Educational and Industrial Union, 1878-1955: 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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