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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 919: T-540: DVD-135: Vt-305

Records of the Boston Women's Fund, 1966-2014


Reports, meeting minutes, incorporation papers, by-laws, correspondence, memos, grant applications, publications, financial records, photographs, video and audio recordings, press releases, and financial records of the Boston Women's Fund. Grant applications include pamphlets, brochures, flyers, and other publications from Boston-based grassroots community organizations for women.


  • Creation: 1966-2014
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1985-2008


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the records created by the Boston Women's Fund is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other records in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Records may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


18.97 linear feet ((45 + 1/2 file boxes) plus 1 folio+ folder, 1 supersize folder, 2 photograph folders, 29 audiotapes, 6 videotapes, 2 DVDs)
198.592 Megabytes (32 files)

The records of the Boston Women's Fund, a foundation providing grants and program support to grassroots organizations run by or supporting women in the Boston area, include by-laws, incorporation papers, and histories; administration files (board and committee reports, meeting minutes, memos, notes, lists of board members, correspondence between board members); development and financial records; grant applications and guidelines; pamphlets, programs, flyers, brochures, mailings for mass-distribution, press releases, clippings, annual reports, and event informational materials; audiovisual material, and electronic records. Also included is the Boston Women's Fund web site, which is being captured periodically as part of Schlesinger Library's web archiving program. The collection documents Boston Women's Fund programs, events, and operations. The 1980s and 1990s are particularly well documented through meeting minutes, reports, allocation decisions, and event promotional materials.

Where possible, original folder titles created by the Boston Women's Fund have been maintained; titles or additions devised by the archivist appear in brackets.

Series I, ADMINISTRATION, 1981-2012, undated (#1.1-8.27, E.1-E.3), includes committee meeting minutes, reports on grantees, business correspondence between Boston Women's Fund staff, by-laws, grant guidelines, funding information, strategic plans, policies, and mission statements. This series is arranged alphabetically and chronologically thereunder.

Series II, GRANT APPLICATIONS, 1966-1999, undated (#8.28-23.19, E.4), includes grant applications; brochures, publications, pamphlets, and flyers from grantee organizations; correspondence between grant applicants and Boston Women's Fund staff; and grant project updates. The Fund's grant application files document the existence, projects, and challenges of many small grassroots women-led organizations in the greater Boston area during the 1980s and 1990s which applied for funding from the Boston Women's Fund. These records are valuable to researchers interested in community organizing and Boston-based community organizations for women, many of which no longer exist. Organizations address issues such as welfare reform, health care, child care, domestic violence, reproductive rights, homelessness, immigrant rights, sexual harassment, homophobia, teen empowerment, and racism. Organizations are based in Boston and surrounding neighborhoods including Blackstone, Cambridge, Chelsea, Dorchester, Hyde Park, Plainville, Roxbury, Somerville, and Framingham. Grant applications include arts and media groups (August Light Productions, Boston Women's Community Radio, Community Education Theatre Team, Dance Umbrella, etc.); organizations that serve African American, Asian American, Latinx, Native American, and immigrant communities in the greater Boston area (Amigas Latinas en Acción pro-Salud, Asian American Resource Workshop, Chinese Progressive Association Workers Center, Comité de Mujeres Puertorriqueñas, Chimera Anon, Massachusetts Women of Color Organization, etc.); housing and neighborhood organizations (Affordable Supportive Housing for Single Women with Children, Berkeley Resident Tenants, Egleston Square Neighborhood Association, etc.); and gay, lesbian, and bisexual organizations (All Kinds of Families Alliance, Gay Community News, Fenway Community Health Center, etc.) Grant applications include information such as organizational goals, work plans, demographic reach, project descriptions, organizational and membership structure, how the organization deals with oppression, budget, and sources of funding. Also included in the grant application files are pamphlets, brochures, publications, and event flyers. Organizational newsletters have been removed and cataloged separately. Grantee files that predate the 1984 founding of the Boston Women's Fund include proof of the organization's tax-exempt status or its founding documents. This series is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, PUBLIC RELATIONS AND EVENTS, 1984-2014, undated (#23.20-29.16, F+D.1, SD.1), contains informational and promotional materials related to publicizing the Boston Women's Fund and their events including clippings, annual reports, newsletters, press releases, web site planning files, event invitations, research, publications, and publication proofs. It also includes notes, drafts, and workplans for Our Public Spirit: A Report on the Giving of African American and Asian Pacific Islander Women in Greater Boston. This series is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, YOUNG SISTERS FOR JUSTICE, 1997-2009, undated (#29.17-32.5, E.5-E.16), contains materials related to Young Sisters for Justice, a paid internship program which integrates young women and teenagers into the Boston Women's Fund grant making decisions. The series includes meeting minutes and agendas, work plans, budgets, program applications, participant evaluations, pamphlets, flyers, publications, and transcripts from an oral history project on women activists completed by the Sisters. This series is arranged alphabetically and chronologically thereunder.

Series V, WOMEN OF COLOR FUNDRAISING INSTITUTE, 1996-2006, undated (#32.6-46.11), contains information related to the Women of Color Fundraising Institute, a program created by the Boston Women's Fund in partnership with the Haymarket People's Fund that provides leadership training to women of color in grassroots, community-based nonprofit organizations. (The Institute became a separate nonprofit organization in 2003.) It includes by-laws, meeting minutes, financial documents, training curricula, participant applications, participant evaluations, newsletters, and research on grants and charity foundations. This series is arranged alphabetically.

Series VI, PHOTOGRAPHS AND AUDIOVISUAL, ca.1985-2010, undated (#PD.1-PD.2, E.17-E.33, T.540.1-T.540.29, DVD.135.1-DVD.135.2, Vt-305.1-Vt-305.6), includes physical and electronic photographs, audiocassettes, a VHS tape, and a DVD about events, programs, and meetings held by the Boston Women's Fund. Also includes interviews with women activists conducted by the Young Sisters for Justice and audio journals kept by the Sisters documenting their research interest, personal life, and goals. Audiovisual material is stored on audiocassette tapes, VHS, and DVD. This series is arranged by format and chronologically thereunder.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


The Boston Women's Fund was founded in 1984 by a group of women frustrated with the devaluation of women by mainstream charities and also with the feminist movement's focus on issues important to white middle class women: Jean M. Entine (former executive director of Women for Economic Justice), Rachel Burger (founder of Transition House), Cindy Chin (executive director of the Coalition of Battered Women's Service Groups), Marion Lill (feminist attorney), Brinton Lykes (professor of women's studies at Rhode Island College), Renae Scott Gray (Haymarket People's Fund), and Kip Tiernan (founder of Rosie's Place and the Poor People's United Fund). The purpose of the Boston Women's Fund was to help women by providing both grants and training in fundraising and organizational development to grassroots women's organizations working to improve women's lives. It was the first women's foundation in Massachusetts. In fall 1984 the first Boston Women's Fund grantees received a total of $8000 in funding. By fall 2007 the grantees for that cycle received a total of $100,000 in funding. Between 1984 and 2017 the Boston Women's Fund has given over six million dollars in grants to organizations and programs in the greater Boston community.

The Boston Women's Fund has always had a small paid administrative staff, whose work is assisted by volunteers. Volunteers are welcomed and encouraged to participate in all committees. In the early 1980s a Coordinating Committee was in charge of the vision and purpose of the Fund, incorporation, obtaining tax-exempt status, by-laws, and funding guidelines; this body was discontinued by 1989. An Advisory Board was composed of 29 members of diverse race and class from across the greater Boston area. The Board met several times a year to provide assistance with long-range planning and fundraising; this body was discontinued by 1989. The Allocation Committee is drawn from the diverse communities the Fund intends to serve (women of color, women with disabilities, lesbians, etc.) Members read grant proposals, conduct interviews with grant seekers, and visit organizations. The Development Committee ensures fundraising goals are met and makes recommendations to the Board of Directors about the strategic development plan. The Finance Committee oversees the financial well being of the organization, assists in preparing the annual budget, and assists in conducting the annual audit.

Throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s grants were made available to organizations in the greater Boston area that were controlled by women; demonstrated a commitment to working toward a society free from all forms of inequality; had a policy-making body and staff that reflected the constituency served in terms of race, class, and sexual preference; and were organized in a non-discriminatory manner. Priority was given to groups working on issues of race, gender, class and sexual preference; projects that focused on organizing for social change; and organizations with budgets under $60,000. The Fund was most likely to fund groups that worked with or were led by low-income women, disabled women, lesbians, women of color, older women, or girls. Between 1984 and 2016 the Boston Women's Fund gave grants to a wide variety of organizations working on issues such as welfare reform, health care, child care, domestic violence, reproductive rights, homelessness, immigrant rights, sexual harassment, homophobia, teen empowerment, and racism. Today the Fund continues to prioritize projects by women and girls that further racial, economic, and social justice.

The Boston Women's Fund's budget came almost entirely from individual donations. In 1991 the Fund created the 2000 Club, a fundraising campaign that set out to find 2,000 donors who would pledge $100 a year for five years. The goal was to create an endowment of one million dollars by the year 2000. The Fund sought to break down stereotypes about who a donor can be and receive donations from people of all racial, economic, and community backgrounds. The fundraising goal was achieved in 1999.

The Boston Women's Fund organized a variety of events. From 1985 through at least 1992 the Fund hosted "Women Helping Women," a biannual workshop series that provided individual technical assistance to women's organizations needing assistance with program development, fundraising, fiscal management, outreach, and other topics. From 1986 through at least 1994 the Fund hosted "Women, Money, and Social Responsibility," an annual conference aimed at women with investment income. It included seminars and lectures on topics such as socially responsible financial planning, wealth and work, and investing. Featured speakers for this event include feminist Gloria Steinem (1989, 1994), feminist ethicist Carol Gilligan (1989), investor Joan Bavaria (1989), entrepreneur Sophia Collier (1992), and Massachusetts State Senator Dianne Wilkerson (1993). "Take A Stand" was the Fund's annual fundraiser and awards ceremony to honor women and girls dedicated to promoting a more just society. Honorees include political activist Angela Davis (1998), first chief of a major North American tribe Wilma Mankiller (1998), Gloria Steinem (1998), poet and activist June Jordan (2001), economist and author Julianne Malveaux (2006), political strategist Donna Brazile (2006), and musician and actress Queen Latifah (2010).

In 1998 the Boston Women's Fund created the Young Sisters for Justice program, a paid internship for young women between the ages of 15 and 21. Participants were girls of color from lower-income or working-class backgrounds who were recruited through youth and community organizations, public housing, and health centers. The Young Sisters served on the Allocation Committee and participated in the grant-making process. They also participated in leadership workshops and learned about social change, social movements, organizing, community education, and issues impacting young women's lives. As of 2017 the program is known as the Young Women Ambassadors.

Also in 1998 the Boston Women's Fund partnered with the Haymarket People's Fund (a Boston-based foundation that provides grants to grassroots social change organizations in New England) to create the Women of Color Fundraising Institute, a program for women of color who run or are on the boards of women's organizations to network and learn new skills in areas such as financial management, public speaking, computer usage, and philanthropy. The Institute encouraged participants to recognize the special qualities of their ethnic background and use them as an asset in creating social change. The Women of Color Fundraising Institute became its own nonprofit organization in 2003.

Between 2006 and 2009 the Boston Women's Fund collaborated with the Haymarket People's Fund, the Women of Color Fundraising Institute, and the Women's Theological Center to create Our Public Spirit: A Report on the Giving of African American and Asian Pacific Islander Women in Greater Boston. The published research project explored the giving patterns and traditions of African American and Asian and Pacific Islander women in order to increase their support for social change and social justice work.


The collection is arranged in six series:

  1. Series I. Administration, 1981-2012, undated (#1.1-8.27, E.1-E.3)
  2. Series II. Grant Applications, 1966-1999, undated (#8.28-23.19, E.4)
  3. Series III. Public Relations and Events, 1984-2014, undated (#23.20-29.16, F+D.1, SD.1)
  4. Series IV. Young Sisters for Justice, 1997-2009, undated (#29.17-32.5, E.5-E.16)
  5. Series V. Women of Color Fundraising Institute, 1996-2006, undated (#32.6-46.11)
  6. Series VI. Photographs and Audiovisual, ca.1985-2010, undated (#PD.1-PD.2, E.17-E.33, T.540.1-T.540.29, DVD.135.1-DVD.135.2, Vt-305.1-Vt-305.6)

Physical Location

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

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2017-M157, 2017-M217

The records of the Boston Women's Fund were given to the Schlesinger Library by Virginia Meany, acting on behalf of the Boston Women's Fund, in July 2017 and December 2017.


The following items have been transferred to the Schlesinger Library books and printed materials collection:

  1. AAWO Discussion Paper. San Francisco, California: Alliance Against Women's Oppression.
  2. ACES National News. Toledo, Ohio: Association for Children for Enforcement of Support, Inc.
  3. Advocacy Center for Older Women (40+) Workers Newsletter. Newton, Massachusetts: Advocacy Center for Older Women (40+) Workers.
  4. ASIA News. Belmont, Massachusetts: Asian Sisters in Action (ASIA).
  5. Automated Times: Newsletter of the Mass. Coalition on New Office Technology. Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts: Office Technology Education Project.
  6. BARCC Newsletter. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.
  7. Bricks & Roses: A Newsletter by the Women's Institute for House and Economic Development, Inc. Boston, Massachusetts: Women's Institute for Housing and Economic Development.
  8. Comadres: Bulletin. Washington, D.C.: Comadres.
  9. Contact! Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts: New England Women Business Owners.
  10. Désiaspora. Cambridge, Massachusetts: South Asian Women for Action.
  11. Gay Community News. Boston, Massachusetts: Bromfield Street Educational Foundation.
  12. GeneWATCH: A Bulletin of the Committee for Responsible Genetics. Boston, Massachusetts: Committee for Responsible Genetics.
  13. Gray Panther Network; Age and Youth in Action. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Gray Panthers.
  14. Greater Boston Chapter News. Boston, Massachusetts: Older Women's League, Greater Boston Chapter.
  15. Harbor Me. East Boston, Massachusetts: Harbor Me, Inc.
  16. Harbor Me, Inc. community news. Chelsea, Massachusetts: Harbor Me, Inc.
  17. Home and Health Care Worker. Boston, Massachusetts: Service Employees International Union, Local 1475, AFL-CIO.
  18. Home-Hold Links. Winchester, Massachusetts: Home-Hold: Single Parent Resource, Inc.
  19. Inner Voices: A Newsletter by and for Women of Color. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Inner Voices.
  20. La Alternativa. Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts: Boston Committee for Puerto Rican Civil Rights.
  21. Mother For Justice News. New Haven, Connecticut: Mothers For Justice, Christian Community Action.
  22. Nursing Home News. Boston, Massachusetts: United Home and Health Care Workers.
  23. Our Voices: Boston Women's Fund News. Boston Women's Fund (Boston, Massachusetts).
  24. Panther Tracks. Boston, Massachusetts: Gray Panthers of Greater Boston.
  25. Parent Power. Boston, Massachusetts: Parents United for Child Care.
  26. Sisters Together Ending Poverty. Marlboro, Massachusetts: Sisters Together Ending Poverty.
  27. Speaking Out to Stop the Violence. Boston, Massachusetts: Battered Women Fighting Back!, Inc.
  28. Speaking Out to Stop the Violence: a seasonal newsletter. Boston, Massachusetts: Battered Women Fighting Back!, Inc.
  29. Spinnings. Boston, Massachusetts: Studio Red Top, Inc.
  30. Survival News. West Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts: [B.R. Mandell].
  31. Tradeswomen's News and Views. Boston, Massachusetts: Women in the Building Trades.
  32. Up and Out of Poverty Campaign: A Right to Thrive, Not Barely Survive. Up and Out of Poverty Campaign (Massachusetts), 1988.
  33. Voices from Within: The People to People Newsletter. Framingham, Massachusetts: People to People.
  34. The WICI InterCom. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Boston Chapter of Women in Communications, Inc.
  35. Wicozanni wowapi. Lake Andes, South Dakota: Native American Community Board, Health Education Program.
  36. WILD news. Massachusetts: Women's Institute for Leadership Development.
  37. Women and the State Budget. Boston, Massachusetts: Women's State-wide Legislative Network.
  38. Women's Housing Initiative. Boston, Massachusetts: Women's Housing Initiative.
  39. Women's Lunch Place. Boston, Massachusetts: Women's Lunch Place.
  40. Women's Studies around Boston. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Women's Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Processing Information

Processed: October 2017

By: Jehan Sinclair, with assistance from Margaret Dalton.

Boston Women’s Fund (Boston, Mass.). Records of the Boston Women's Fund, 1966-2014 (inclusive), 1985-2008 (bulk): 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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