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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 427

Records of the Window Shop, 1939-2004


Correspondence, financial records, minutes, etc., of the Window Shop (Cambridge, Mass.), established to offer employment to and raise money for refugees from Germany and Austria during World War II.


  • Creation: 1939-2004


Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. Most of the records are open to research, but some folders and individual documents removed from otherwise open folders, are closed to all researchers, except former Window Shop board members and their designated historian, for 75 years from the date of the most recent document in the respective folder.

To protect the privacy of employees and recipients of aid, each researcher wishing to use the Window Shop records must sign a special form.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by the Window Shop 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. Open records may be photocopied in accordance with the library's usual procedures. Closed records may not be photocopied.


13.21 linear feet ((8 cartons, 12+1/2 file boxes) plus 7 folio folders, 8 folio+ folders, 1 supersize folder, 8 photograph folders, 1 phonograph record, 11 audiotapes)

The records of the Window Shop were donated by various officers, each of whom kept her or his own files. Because there was extensive duplication of minutes and financial records, but no complete set, the processor combined the donors' board and committee minutes, financial statements and reports, and board correspondence to produce one chronological run of each record type. The scholarship files were not intermingled, however, because their provenance may have meaning. They overlap in some categories. Original folder headings were retained in most cases; additional notes added by the processor are in square brackets.

Additional material received between 1995 and 2004 (accession numbers 95-M154, 2004-M37) were added to the collection in June 2017 and are housed in #38a. A few items were added to #38. All other files remain in the same order.

To protect the privacy of Window Shop employees and aid recipients, the processor screened documents for such personal information as salaries, pensions, evaluations, loans, and descriptions of problems. Copies of such documents with the sensitive information removed are in the collection. In the few cases in which entire documents were removed, there are notes to that effect. The original documents will be re-integrated when the restrictions expire. Case and scholarship files are closed in their entirety (see "Access" above). Names of scholarship recipients, scholarship amounts, and schools attended are open to research.

Series I, Organization and history (#1-38a, 1277at-1284at), contains the articles of incorporation; by-laws; papers re: the 10th and 20th anniversaries; histories and articles by members and others; information and notes on the Window Shop history compiled by Dorothy Dahl; histories on related topics; and information by and about board members and staff, including oral histories, tributes, obituaries, etc.

The various histories and articles in this series provide conflicting information about dates and events; the financial statements and board minutes in Series II are more reliable sources. Most of the oral histories were conducted in 1984-1985 by board members. Some have both transcripts and tapes, some only one or the other. Transcripts are generally correct, but not verbatim. Employees discuss coming to the United States, how they got involved with the Window Shop, their work, and their Window Shop experience: friendships, relations with customers, etc.

Series II, Administration (#39-267), includes minutes of the executive committee and board of directors; lists of board members and a few photographs; some committee reports and correspondence; board members correspondence; board subject correspondence; general correspondence; correspondence about the dissolution; board mailings (memos, reports, agendas, etc.); president's annual reports; Elizabeth Aub's appointment book/diary entries; financial records; filings for government agencies; financial correspondence; and public relations materials.

The minutes of the executive committee contain information about employees and applicants for assistance. Because of the private nature of the information, these minutes are closed to research until 75 years from the date of the most recent document in any folder. Minutes containing no personal information were left where originally filed with the board minutes (see #57, 59).

The board minutes and correspondence document the evolution of purpose and approach to the refugee situation, including philosophical disagreements about treatment of employees; financial and other difficulties of expansion; problems encountered by the restaurant business; and so on. Audits and filings for government agencies were removed from the minutes and filed with the financial records.

The records of the Personnel Practices and Scholarship Committees are in Series III; the few records of other committees (Budget, Finance, Investment, Nominating, and Termination) contain correspondence, minutes, reports, and notes.

The board's subject correspondence files retain their original contents and headings; they are arranged chronologically. These files document the cooperation between the Window Shop and the New England Christian Committee for Refugees, the Boston Provident Association, and various Cambridge organizations; work for displaced persons legislation, the United States Committee for Refugees and the Massachusetts Governor's Commission on Refugees; Hungarian refugees; and Eleanor Roosevelt's visit and tour in 1950. Records of the Maxwell Fund (1943-1949), which aided English and Scottish children in the United States, and several folders of Massachusetts Displaced Persons Commission correspondence, were removed and cataloged separately.

The board's general correspondence, arranged chronologically, contains most correspondence with government agencies, customers, vendors, and others outside the Window Shop. Some letters belonging in this category were found, and left, with board member correspondence (#91-105). The correspondence concerning the dissolution of the Window Shop and sale of its property is primarily with the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, and includes copies of agreements, mortgages, minutes, and other documents.

The Elizabeth Aub appointment book/diary entries contain references to individuals and their problems, and are closed for 75 years from their date of creation.

The extensive financial records include comparisons of costs/expenses over time, and financial statements (with profit/loss, average daily number of customers, assets, liabilities, budgets, audits, comparisons, cash receipts and disbursements), filed by date of year to which figures refer. The account book (#140) and the 1939 financial statements (#143) contain the earliest records of the Window Shop, and plans for the coffeehouse. Also included are treasurer's reports (some also filed with board minutes), kept separately for the Window Shop and the various assistance funds; check stubs, which are closed (see "Access," page 1) to protect the privacy of aid recipients; required filings for government agencies (Internal Revenue Service, and various Massachusetts agencies), which include lists of officers, assets, disbursements, etc.; financial correspondence, filed by original subject headings, re: private loans to the Window Shop, mortgage and banking arrangements, property assessments, etc.; and general financial correspondence.

The processor discarded financial statements from brokers and securities firms (summary copies are in the yearly financial reports); bank statements and canceled checks (except where there were no check stubs); and receipts and invoices for services and supplies.

Public relations materials include advertising correspondence with newspapers, magazines and radio stations; printed material (advertisements, leaflets, booklet of Christmas items, postcards, placemats, menu, stationery); die cuts, including rocking horse insignia designed by Cyorgy Kepes; engraving plate with mats; and photographic negatives of various Window Shop items, and the logo. The publicity scrapbook contained many items re-taped indiscriminately onto pages: dates and other captions no longer matched the attached items. The processor dismantled the scrapbook, removed the tape, and placed the items in #248-249. Included are a few manuscript recipes and notes.

Series III, Program (#268-1275), contains notes on the history of the New England Christian Committee for Refugees guest houses in Cambridge and Medford, and guest book (1940-1942); guest log and report for Friendship House (1942); recipe booklet for the Cambridge Boathouse Teas; correspondence, reports, city licenses, and photographs of gift shop and restaurant operations; extensive personnel and pension records; legal documents, correspondence, and architectural plans for buildings and alterations; and records of the assistance funds.

Personnel files contain applications for employment, information about salaries, bonuses and pensions, and other related documents that identify individual employees; they are closed for 75 years from the date of the most recent document in each folder. Folders on personnel practices, arranged chronologically, are open to research. They contain advice to employees, wage rates, minutes and reports of the Personnel Practices Committee, correspondence about the pension plan, and related topics. Correspondence with individual employees about their pensions was transferred to their respective files (see #400-492).

More than half this archive documents the collection and dispersal of the assistance funds. There are history and reports (#324); fund appeals; records of contributors; a statistical compilation by the Window Shop of scholarship recipients; and extensive records of the Scholarship Committee.

The Scholarship Committee records contain reports (#359), lists of members, awards, minutes, records of applicants and recipients (photocopies of index cards with summaries of contacts with applicants, and supporting material, arranged alphabetically for unsuccessful applicants), case files, and correspondence with applicants, recipients, and other organizations. The minutes discuss individual applicants by name, and are closed for 75 years from the date of the most recent document in each folder. With the exception of application blanks, form letters, and an exhaustive list of "People Helped" (photocopied, with names removed, see #377f+), the applicant/recipient files are similarly closed.

The case files are arranged alphabetically within each of the following chronological categories, as determined by the latest document in each folder: 1) "Window Shop Employees Helped" (1948-1975, scattered; #400-492), 2) 1939-1959 (#493-690), 3) 1960-1969 (#691-893), 4) 1970-1979 (#894-994), and 5) 1980-1987 (#995-1240). The processor created a complete case/scholarship file folder list (#399) for each category. Each list is closed for 75 years from the most recent date. Not all grantees have files, and not all files are of grantees. The category "Window Shop Employees Helped" was established by Window Shop members; no attempt has been made to determine whether additional employee folders are filed in other categories. Files may contain information about educational and/or other forms of assistance. The 1939-1959 section contains many social service case files, in addition to requests for tuition assistance, but there are few records for the 1940s.

Files of scholarship applicants may contain college transcripts, recommendations, citizenship information, financial documents, correspondence, and supporting documents. Correspondence with applicants and recipients (#1241-1245), and, in general, all records containing personal information and reports of action taken by the Window Shop are closed; those merely listing recipients, scholarship amount, and school attended are open. The letters "c" and/or "f" on loan lists signify, respectively, that the committee kept an index card, or a folder on the individual.

The correspondence with other organizations is arranged chronologically and includes information about other scholarship sources and foundations. Correspondents include Boston-area colleges and universities.


The Window Shop opened in a second floor room of 37 Church Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, on May 2, 1939, taking its name from the room's large window. Created by a small group of women wanting to help the many refugees fleeing Europe, the Window Shop began as a market where refugees could sell their products. It grew from a small consignment operation into a profitable dress and gift shop, which for a time helped support the many employees of its restaurant and bakery. Throughout its almost half-century of existence, the Window Shop experienced many difficulties and challenges, but, with the commitment, hard work and economic resources of supporters inside and outside the organization, was able to survive and fulfill its objective "to relieve and assist the poor and needy, including refugees from other countries."

Among the many board members instrumental in the early development and survival of the Window Shop were Elizabeth (Cope) Aub, Marion Bever, Walter Bieringer, Alice (DeNormandie) Cope, Frances Fremont-Smith, Bessie (Mrs. Howard Mumford) Jones, Margaret Earhart Smith, Elsa (Brändström) Ulich, Frank Vorenberg, and Sally (Mrs. Wolfe) Wolfinsohn.

The early refugees were well educated but had little practical experience. Many were professionals or scholars, unable to obtain work in their own areas of expertise without extensive retraining. The Window Shop created jobs and provided training for hundreds of individuals as salesclerks, dressmakers, bakers, cooks, dishwashers, waitresses, etc. The shop moved to 102 Mt. Auburn Street in November 1939, and opened a tea room and pastry shop (sometimes called the coffeehouse and bakeshop). Within a year, it began serving lunch. Generous donations from individuals, and from the New England Christian Committee for Refugees (NECCR), helped keep the organization afloat during its first year.

Incorporated in March 1941, the shop was described by board member Alice Cope in a letter to president Margaret Earhart Smith in May: " We organisation to aid refugees by giving them a central place through which to market their goods and by training them in various skills in order that they may go out into the community to support themselves....We believe that idealism can be combined with efficiency. We believe that this project for refugees is a perfect place through which to show the community at large that Jews and non-Jews can work harmoniously together. In order to carry out our purpose we maintain the Window Shop, divided into the Gift Shop where we sell clothing, china, gifts, etc. made by refugees; and the Food Shop where meals are served and where Viennese cakes, cookies, and breads are sold."

Proceeds were used to pay salaries of employees, most of whom were refugees. In 1942, the restaurant added dinner hours, serving only European dishes. During the early 1940s, the Window Shop became one of the first businesses in Cambridge to hire African Americans, many of whom had migrated from the South. Throughout its existence, there were philosophical differences among its supporters about the relationship of profits to charitable assistance, temporary aid versus permanent employment, and whether the Window Shop had outlived its usefulness. Elizabeth Aub (president, 1954-1964), for instance, believed that the primary purpose was to provide employment, not to maximize profits at employees' expense. Some employees eventually moved on to other jobs; some stayed at the Window Shop their entire working lives.

Jobs and hours were tailored to the individual's needs, not the shop's. The board, striving to be a progressive employer, was concerned with working conditions and wages and provided benefits not required by law. At times, as many as seventy people were working in some capacity for the Window Shop. The shop was fortunate to have dedicated board members, a loyal clientele, and two talented managers: Mary Mohrer, who oversaw the dress and gift shop, and Alice Perutz Broch, manager of the kitchen and bakery. The Window Shop also provided scholarships to children of employees, and emergency assistance funds.

To further aid the refugees' acculturation and adjustment to America, board member Frances Fremont-Smith organized Friendship House in January 1942. Part of each week the restaurant was converted into a club room where refugees could attend lectures, have refreshments, sing, use a lending library, and get information about concerts and other events. Envisioned as a place where refugees and Americans would socialize, Friendship House closed after a year, out of funds, unable to attract many Americans, and as the refugees' need for such a place decreased. The Window Shop also cooperated with the New England Christian Committee for Refugees, which operated refugee guest houses in Medford and Cambridge (see #268).

Lack of space was a recurring problem. The Window Shop moved for the last time in March 1947, to the Cock Horse Inn at 56 Brattle Street. The historic inn had been built in 1811 for Torrey Hancock, owner of the smithy next door made famous in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Village Blacksmith." At times, the restaurant served 8,000 customers a day in relatively small quarters.

The restaurant experienced declining income during the late 1960s, and though it tried reorganizing with a new manager (1970), and replacing the restaurant with a Viennese cafe (1971), by 1972 the board reluctantly decided to liquidate the business and sell the property to the Cambridge Center for Adult Education (CCAE). The Center continued to operate the bakery/cafe as The Blacksmith House, and retained some Window Shop employees.

Early on, financial assistance was provided to refugees and their families for education, retraining, housing, furnishings, medical care, etc. In 1943 the shop started an assistance fund with proceeds from the sale of donated linens by a Bavarian craftsman. These funds were eventually augmented with private donations. In 1948, the fund was renamed for Elsa Brändström Ulich, called the "Swedish Angel of Siberia" for her World War I work, and president of the Window Shop from 1942 until her death. The same year, the Window Shop began an annual appeal for donations to the fund.

By 1964, applicants for scholarship aid had increased, while those seeking emergency assistance funds had decreased. In addition to outright grants and interest-free loans, the Window Shop provided counseling and referral to other social agencies or scholarships. The scholarship fund was the only one in the Boston area for foreign students, Window Shop aid often preventing a student from dropping out.

Changing world conditions led to changes in the refugee population of Cambridge. The refugees and displaced persons from Europe following World War II were joined by refugees from Hungary (1956), Cuba (1962), Ethiopia, Iran, Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and elsewhere. Many sought supplementary scholarships. Most recipients were young college students, but many were older, with children or parents to support. They needed language skills, education to pass professional qualifying exams, or retraining. After closing the shop and restaurant in 1972, the board renamed the fund The Window Shop, Inc. Scholarship Fund (WSSF) and continued providing tuition grants and loans to "new Americans."

By 1987, the board decided that the Window Shop had outlived its usefulness, and that its work could be carried on by other institutions in the Boston area. The Window Shop dissolved, leaving its Fund name and some assets to Northeastern University for the benefit of refugee students. Some funds were to be distributed to former employees, some were earmarked for processing these records, and some for preparation of a history. The bulk of the assets went to The Boston Foundation for programs to assist refugees and foreign-born residents.

The following is a brief chronological summary.

  1. May 2, 1939: Window Shop opens in 2nd floor room of 37 Church Street (Cambridge, Massachusetts) to sell products made by refugees; Mary Mohrer first employee
  2. November 1939: moves to 102 Mt. Auburn Street; opens tea room and pastry shop
  3. January 8, 1940: opens restaurant to serve lunch
  4. March 13, 1941: incorporates as charitable organization, with Margaret Earhart Smith as first president (1941-1942)
  5. April 1941: appoints first executive committee
  6. May 1941: changes composition of executive committee
  7. Summer 1941: remodels 102 Mt. Auburn Street
  8. January 24, 1942: Friendship House opens in lunchroom during evenings
  9. January 1942: begins serving dinners
  10. March 9, 1942: establishes Committee on Personnel Practices
  11. Fall 1942: Elsa Brändström Ulich becomes president (1942-1948)
  12. 1942: Appoints Mary Mohrer manager of gift shop, and Alice Broch manager of kitchen
  13. 1943: Establishes scholarship fund with proceeds from sale of handblocked linens donated by Mrs. Arthur Koch
  14. 1943: Provides "accident and sickness" insurance for all employees
  15. Spring 1943: closes Friendship House
  16. March 1944: authorizes appointment of Assistance Committee and establishment of Assistance Fund to award grants for scholarship or other assistance
  17. 1946: Purchases and extensively remodels Cock Horse Inn, 56 Brattle Street
  18. March 1947: opens new quarters in Cock Horse
  19. 1948: Renames Assistance Fund after Elsa Brändström Ulich following her death
  20. 1948: Elects Alice Cope president (1948-1954)
  21. June 11, 1949: celebrates 10th anniversary with fashion show
  22. April 1950: purchases and renovates adjoining 5 Story Street property
  23. 1954: Elects Elizabeth Aub president (1954-1964)
  24. 1954: Implements employee pension plan
  25. 1955: Gains wine license
  26. 1956: Renovates and remodels 56 Brattle Street to expand kitchen
  27. 1959: Enlarges courtyard, covers portion of it
  28. 1960: Installs radar alarm system
  29. May 1964: elects Dorothy Dahl president (1964-1968)
  30. 1964: Alice Broch retires as manager of restaurant
  31. 1964-1967: Hires architects and studies feasibility of various expansion plans
  32. 1967: Establishes Margaret Earhart Smith Scholarship at Radcliffe College
  33. 1968: Elects Marion Bever president (1968-1972)
  34. October 1971: closes restaurant, reopens as Viennese cafe with limited menu
  35. 1972: Closes gift shop and cafe
  36. 1972: Sells property to Cambridge Center for Adult Education (CCAE)
  37. 1972: Elects Richard Kahan president (1972-1974)
  38. 1974: Elects Anne Harken president (1974-1979)
  39. August 1977: death of Elizabeth Aub
  40. August 1978: consents to demolition by Cambridge Center for Adult Education of former premises, other than Blacksmith House
  41. 1979: Again elects Dorothy Dahl president (1979-1987)
  42. April 1979: dissolves, leaving money to Northeastern University, Radcliffe College, and Boston Foundation


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Organization and history
  2. Series II. Administration
  3. Series III. Program

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 77-M12, 77-M209, 80-M34, 81-M224, 82-M227, 85-M102, 87-M172, 93-M74, 94-M10, 94-M74, 94-M179, 95-M154, 2004-M37. Accession numbers 95-M154 and 2004-M37 were added in June 2017.

The records of The Window Shop were given to the Schlesinger Library by Elizabeth (Cope) Aub, Alice (DeNormandie) Cope, Dorothy Dahl, Ilse Fang, Eva Schiffer, and other Window Shop officers between 1977 and 1995; one folder was given by Anne Engelhart in 2004.

Related Materials

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Recipe collection of Olga Gruenberger Schiffer, 1935?-1983 (MC 1012).


Closed materials are boxed separately from open materials, though all materials are numbered in one sequence. The contents of the 12+1/2 open file boxes and 8 closed cartons are listed below.

  1. Box 1: 1-24
  2. Box 2: 25-27, 32, 34-38a, 55-74
  3. Box 3: 75-97
  4. Box 4: 98-118, 120-122
  5. Box 5: 123-141, 143-146, 148-152
  6. Box 6: 153-167
  7. Box 7: 168-182, 185-192
  8. Box 8: 193-194, 214-237
  9. Box 9: 238-255, 258, 268-269
  10. Box 10: 270-275, 284-297
  11. Box 11: 307-314, 316-322, 324-327, 329-349
  12. Box 12: 350-361, 375-376, 1249, 1253, 1256, 1262-1263, 1266-1275
  13. Box 13: 259m-265m
  14. Box 14: 39-53, 136-139, 195-213, 277-278, 281-282, 298, 300
  15. Box 15: 301, 303, 304, 328, 362-375, 379-432
  16. Box 16: 433-568
  17. Box 17: 569-740
  18. Box 18: 741-902
  19. Box 19: 903-1031
  20. Box 20: 1032-1168
  21. Box 21: 1169-1240, 1241-1248, 1250-1252, 1254-1255, 1257-1260, 1264, 1265; 8 unnumbered folders of closed items removed from open folders


The following selective index of letter writers contains names of well-known individuals who were not members of the Window Shop. Window Shop members and employees, and lesser known correspondents, were not indexed.

  1. Brown, Dorothy Kirchwey 339, 340
  2. Bunting, Mary Ingraham 96, 339
  3. Cabot, Thomas D. 342, 344
  4. Cannon, Bernice 94
  5. Emerson, William 122
  6. Fainsod, Elizabeth S. 331
  7. Fisher, Dorothy Canfield 332
  8. Hoover, John Edgar 91
  9. Kennedy, John F. 123
  10. Lyons, Louis M. 124
  11. MacLeish, Archibald 122
  12. Macomber, George 233
  13. Mongan, Agnes 93
  14. O'Neill, Tip 123
  15. Rabb, Irving W. 339
  16. Roosevelt, Eleanor 107
  17. Saltonstall, Leverett 123
  18. Sanborn, Agnes 331
  19. Schlesinger, Elizabeth 108
  20. Smith, Clement A. 96, 339, 343
  21. Taft, Arthur 36, 94
  22. Tillich, Paul 36

Processing Information

Processed: October 1994

By: Katherine Gray Kraft

Updated: June 2017

By: Anne Engelhart

Window Shop (Cambridge, Mass.). Records of the Window Shop, 1939-2004: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible in part by a gift from The Window Shop.

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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