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Social, Political, and Cultural Activities

Winthrop W. Aldrich Collection
Mss 781 1918-1974
Papers of a twentieth-century American banker and diplomat include records of his service on the boards of Barnard College, the New York Girl Scout Federation, and the Henry Street Visiting Nurse Association; correspondence relating to his ambassadorship in London in the 1950s; and some personal and family letters and papers.

A. Lincoln Filene Collection
Mss 776 1921-1925
The papers of Boston department store President and civic leader A. Lincoln Filene (1865-1957) include correspondence on women's vocational education, some materials on saleswomen at Filene's department store, and correspondence and pamphlets on women active in educational reform.

Eli Goldston Collection
Mss 351 1961-1974
The papers of a Boston, Massachusetts, executive include materials on family social policy; women artists, writers, editors, and office workers; and Elaine Goldston's activities in her husband's career.

Hallowell, Jones and Donald Collection
Mss 761 1871-1954
Includes investment records for women, household accounts, salary records for domestic laborers, and a list of contributors to the Calhoun Colored School in Calhoun, Alabama.

Hamilton Woolen Company Collection
Mss 446 1822-1936
The papers of a Massachusetts woolen manufacturer include women in payroll records, stockholder records, and strike memoranda.

Henry Lee Higginson Collection
Mss 783 1870-1919 H637
Includes letters from various women regarding their investments, as well as correspondence from various female musicians and reformers written during the early twentieth century.

Thomas W. Lamont Collection
Mss 783 1894-1948
The papers (from 1894 to 1948) of a renowned New York investment banker, philanthropist, and literary figure include correspondence with many women, mostly originating from his reputation as a financial advisor, his social and cultural activities, and from personal and family contacts.

Scovill Manufacturing Company Collection
Mss 590 1790-1956 S432
Records of a Connecticut manufacturer of brass objects include information about women factory workers, as well as records on organized labor and employee club activities involving women.

Gustavus Tuckerman, Jr. Collection
Mss:766 1847-1898 T896
Family letters received by a Boston merchant based in Italy, India, and China during the 1840s and 1850s.

Vertical file: religious
Mss 1404
Three letters written by women discussing their religious communities. One of the writers was a missionary on her way to her post in the Pacific.

Click for larger image
List of contributors to the Calhoun Colored School.

More than half of the contributors on this 1895 subscription list for the Calhoun Colored School in Calhoun, Alabama, are women. Kept in a ledger of Hallowell and Donald, Wool Merchants, it reads as a who’s who among the women of Boston’s prominent families. Liberal middle-and upper-class Boston women had been active in abolition from the inception of the movement early in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, often at major cost to their reputation. Though it was no longer especially risky for society matrons in 1890s Boston to support a school for the children and grandchildren of former slaves, one interesting feature of this list is that many women are listed under their own names, rather than their husbands’.

Nineteenth-century gender ideology was based on the idea that men and women are essentially different—different because nature made them so. Women, the prevailing notion held, were ideally suited to create a home and provide a moral haven. This provided an opportunity for some women to become active in movements to better society. Many women’s personal account books in Baker Library, including Jessie D. Hallowell’s, list contributions to charity and to movements for social reform. Though they initially limited themselves to charity, temperance reform and other forms of benevolence, soon a number of women publicly embraced abolitionism and women’s suffrage. Since these were essentially political movements, women’s public participation caused much discussion and resentment.

The debate on these "extremists" may have made it easier for other women to take a role in civic development. Participation in such political dialogue not only blurred the separation between private and public activity and paved the way for Progressive "national housekeeping," it also resulted in a redefinition of women’s civic activity. Women have been active in politically motivated benevolence ever since.

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