1796-1945; bulk: 1860-1925

Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the papers of Judith Winsor Smith, a social reformer and pioneer in the women's suffrage movement, as well as personal papers of her daughter, Zilpha Drew Smith, and other Smith family members, 1796-1945.

Biographical Sketches

Judith Winsor (McLauthlin) Smith was born in Marshfield, Mass., on November 26, 1821. Her parents, Lewis McLauthlin and Polly (Hathaway) McLauthlin, were descendants of Mayflower passengers. In 1842, Judith married Silvanus Smith, a shipbuilder in East Boston. His parents, Zilpha (Drew) Smith and Jonathan Smith, were also Mayflower descendants. During the early years of their marriage, Judith and Silvanus lived in Duxbury, Mass., and later they moved to Jamaica Plain. Together they had six children: Sidney (b. 1846), Frances (1849-1916), Zilpha (1852-1926), Mary (1855-1908), Erasmus (b. 1858), and Jennie (b. 1865).

During her lifetime, Judith Winsor Smith was involved in numerous social and political organizations and causes. She was an abolitionist, a member of the Standing Committee of Theodore Parker's 28th Congregational Society, a founder and the first president of the Home Club of East Boston (the second women's club in Massachusetts), and an officer in state and national women's suffrage associations. Smith remained active in the suffrage movement until the nineteenth amendment was passed in 1920.

At least two of the Smith's children, Zilpha and Frances, were also involved with social causes. Zilpha Drew Smith, social worker and educator, was involved in many aspects of social welfare in Boston from 1872-1918. She served as the head registrar and general secretary of the Associated Charities, a city-wide network of charity organizations, from its founding in 1879 to 1903. She was also active in the National Conference of Charities and Correction. In 1888, Smith, along with Charles W. Birtwell, formed the Monday Evening Club, a discussion group for social workers. In 1904, Smith became the assistant director of the Boston School for Social Workers (later the Simmons College School of Social Work).

Frances Smith was also a social worker and devoted much of her life to charitable organizations. She was the district secretary of the North Station District of the Associated Charities of Boston, a member of the Co-operative Society of Visitors, and editor of the first Directory of Boston Charitable and Beneficent Organizations.

Jennie Smith married a man with the last name of Merrick, and it is likely that the papers were handed down through this part of the family.

Collection Description

The Judith Winsor Smith papers consist of 8 boxes and 4 volumes that span the years 1796-1945, with the bulk between 1860 and 1925. Materials in the collection include the personal papers of Smith, a social reformer and pioneer in the women's suffrage movement, as well as personal papers of her daughter Zilpha Drew Smith and other Smith family members.

The majority of the collection consists of Judith Winsor Smith's personal papers, including family correspondence, 1843-1921; diaries, 1860-1908; and miscellaneous writings, including notes on several speeches delivered between 1882 and 1921. The correspondence and diaries are primarily of a personal nature, although occasional letters and diary entries mention her involvement with the suffrage and anti-slavery movements. The collection also contains meeting minutes and other materials related to the Home Club of East Boston, an organization devoted to local social reform, 1879-1925. Smith founded the club and served as its first president, 1875-1885.

The collection also includes materials related to Judith Winsor Smith's daughter Zilpha Drew Smith, including personal correspondence, 1895-1925, and letters sent to her family while she was traveling in Europe in 1895. Zilpha's diary, kept in 1926, includes brief, scattered entries noting daily activities and social engagements.

Other Smith family papers include personal correspondence between various other members of the Smith family, including Judith's husband Silvanus Smith, 1836; Judith's mother-in-law Zilpha (Drew) Smith, 1811-1837; and Judith's mother Polly (Hathaway) McLauthlin, 1860. The collection also includes Zilpha (Drew) Smith's memoranda books, 1812-1820, noting household expenses and wages paid to household workers; a diary kept by an anonymous Smith family woman describing travels in Europe, 1889; and an account book kept by Judith Winsor Smith's father-in-law Jonathan Smith, 1848-1855.

Biographical and genealogical materials include a photocopy of an undated Smith family history book. The book includes information about Silvanus and Judith Smith and their children, as well as copies of Smith family photographs and letters. Other biographical materials include newspaper clippings related to Judith's suffrage activities, 1900-1927, and memorials and obituaries written after her death in 1921. Also included are memorials and news clippings commemorating the life of Judith's daughters, Zilpha Drew Smith and Frances Smith. Genealogical materials include notes on Merrick family genealogy and Judith and Silvanus's family tree, 1924.

Most of the photographs of Judith Winsor Smith and members of the Smith family have been removed from the collection and are stored separately in the Massachusetts Historical Society Photo Archives, Photo. Coll. 161.

Acquisition Information

The Judith Winsor Smith papers were donated to the Massachusetts Historical Society by Jane Bartels, March 1987.

Additional correspondence between Judith Winsor Smith and Silvanus Smith, 18 Feb. 1844-1853 (located in Series I.A.), acquired by purchase, June 2010.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Judith Winsor Smith papers, 1840-1925

A. Correspondence, 1843-1922

This subseries contains correspondence to and from Judith Winsor Smith, including letters to Silvanus, 1843-1844, while he was serving in the military; letters to and from other family members, including her daughters Frances and Jennie, her granddaughter Miriam Merrick, her nieces Nelly Bradford Stebbins and Kate Wilder, and her mother Polly (Hathaway) McLauthlin. Other correspondents include reformers Henry B. Blackwell, Alice Stone Blackwell, and Lucy Stone. These letters are primarily of a personal nature, but they do contain some references to Smith's participation in the suffrage movement.

Box 1

B. Diaries, 1860-1908

This subseries contains Smith's pocket diaries for the years 1860-1862; 1865-1868; 1870-1882; 1884-1887; 1889-1891; 1893-1894; and a single volume that contains entries for the years 1904-1908. The brief entries primarily note her daily activities, news of her children's activities, and her personal accounts. Occasional entries note Smith's involvement with the suffrage and anti-slavery movements, as well as her attendance at Home Club functions. This subseries also contains extracts from Smith's diaries that relate to suffrage, 1868-1871 (kept in an unknown hand).

Box 2
Pocket diaries for the years 1860, 1861, 1862, 1865, 1866, 1867, 1868, 1870, and 1871
Box 3
Pocket diaries for the years 1872, 1873, 1874, 1875, 1876, and 1877
Box 4
Pocket diaries for the years 1878, 1879, 1880, 1881, and 1882
Box 5
Pocket diaries for the years 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, 1889, and 1890
Box 6
Pocket diaries for the years 1891, 1893, 1894, and one volume for 1904-1908
Box 7Folder 1
Extracts from diaries, 1868-1871

C. Miscellaneous writings, 1840-1921

This subseries includes notes for several of Smith's speeches. Topics include women's suffrage, women's legal and property rights, women and patriotism, and marriage. Only a few of the speeches include dates and locations, including a speech delivered before the East Boston Trade Association in 1883 on the subject of public works; and a speech about the activities of the Home Club delivered at the New England Women's Suffrage festival in 1886. This subseries also contains miscellaneous poetry written by Smith and a document she titled "Composition," written in 1840.

Box 7Folder 2
Composition, 1840
Box 7Folder 3-4
Notes on speeches, undated
Box 7Folder 5
Notes on speeches, 1882-1886
Box 7Folder 6
Notes on speeches, 1895-1914
Box 7Folder 7
Poems, 1880-1921

D. Home Club of East Boston, 1879-1925

This subseries includes materials related to the Home Club, which Smith helped to establish in 1875. Materials include two volumes of meeting minutes, kept from Feb. 1875-June 1879 and Sep. 1879-Jan. 1888; programs for social events, 1917-1919, and club hymns and songs. Financial information includes an undated list of revenues and expenses and a list of donations made by the Home Club to other organizations and institutions, 1876-1902. Also included are lists of officers, committees, and social event calendars for scattered years between 1879-1922.

The third Home Club volume is a typescript copy of a record book (ca. 1893), which offers an historical sketch of the organization, 1875-1893, a copy of the organization's constitution, and photographs of its first four presidents: Judith Winsor Smith (taken by F. Conly, Boston, Mass.), Francis H. Turner (taken by Gray & Hazelton, Salem, Mass.), Ada H. Spauling (taken by Notman Photographic Co., Boston, Mass.), and Sara T. Leighton (taken by Notman Photographic Co., Boston, Mass.).

Box 7Folder 8
Event programs, 1917-1919
Box 7Folder 9
News clippings commemorating club anniversaries, 1915-1925
Box 7Folder 10
Financial information, undated
Box 7Folder 11
Officer and committee lists and social event calendars, 1879-1880; 1903-1904; 1904-1905; 1921-1922
Box 7Folder 12
Miscellaneous club correspondence and hymns, 1897
Vol. 1
Meeting minutes, Feb. 1875-June 1879
Vol. 2
Meeting minutes, Sep. 1879-Jan. 1888
Vol. 3
Record book, 1875-1893

II. Zilpha Drew Smith papers, 1894-1929

A. Correspondence, 1895-1925

This subseries includes correspondence to and from Smith, including letters written to her family during her travels in Europe in 1895. Other family members represented include her sister Frances, her niece Miriam Merrick, and her cousins Kate Wilde and Emma McLauthlin. Also included are several letters of condolence written to Smith after the deaths of her mother Judith in 1921 and her sister Frances in 1916.

Box 7Folder 13
General correspondence, 1895-Nov. 1921
Box 7Folder 14
General correspondence, Dec. 1921-1925
Box 7Folder 15
Travel correspondence, 1895

B. Diary, 1 Feb.-23 Sep. 1926

This subseries consists of Smith's diary, kept from 1 Feb.-23 Sep. 1926. The brief entries note daily activities and social engagements and a few personal accounts.

Box 7Folder 16

C. Writings, 1894-1929

This subseries includes two of Smith's published writings related to her career in social work: "Tramping on the Great Range," 1894; and "Not Alms but a Friend," a chapter from the 1929 book Then and Now a Friend in Need, published by the Family Welfare Society of Boston.

Box 7Folder 17

III. Smith family papers, 1796-1936

A. Correspondence, 1796-1936

This subseries consists of correspondence written to and from members of the Smith family (other than Judith and her daughter Zilpha). Included are letters between Silvanus Smith's parents, Zilpha (Drew) Smith and Jonathan Smith, 1811-1837; a letter from Silvanus Smith to his sister, 1836; and primarily undated letters from Polly (Hathaway) McLauthlin to her children and from her daughter Polly. Also included is a 1796 letter from Nathaniel Bosworth to Hannah Drew (Silvanus Smith's ancestor) concerning some thread and reading materials that Nathaniel has obtained for Hannah in Boston.

Box 7Folder 18
Undated correspondence
Box 7Folder 19
Box 7Folder 20
Box 7Folder 21

B. Diaries and memoranda books, 1812-1889

This subseries includes memoranda books kept by Judith Winsor Smith's mother-in-law Zilpha Drew, Apr.-Oct. 1815, Jan.-July 1816, and Jan.-Mar. 1820 (including some entries for [Dec. 1812-May 1813]). Entries primarily record household expenses, servants' wages, and notes about when and where her husband (Capt. Jonathan Smith) was sailing. The anonymous diary, kept from 10 May-1 July 1889 by an anonymous Smith family woman, records travels in Europe. It was probably kept by Frances or Zilpha Drew Smith.

Box 8Folder 1
Zilpha Smith memoranda book, Apr.-Oct. 1815
Box 8Folder 2
Zilpha Smith memoranda book, Jan.-July 1816
Box 8Folder 3
Zilpha Smith memoranda book, Jan.-Mar. 1820 (includes entries for [Dec. 1812-May 1813]
Vol. 4
Anonymous Smith family diary, 10 May-1 July 1889

C. Miscellaneous Smith family papers, 1848-1886

This subseries includes an account book kept by Jonathan Smith (Judith Winsor Smith's father-in-law), 1848-1855. The entries appear to list various ships' activities and their cargoes. Also included is a folder of Christmas carols that had been pasted over the pages of Jonathan Smith's account book (removed by MHS staff, March 2004) and "notes on astronomy, 1888," presumably taken by an anonymous Smith family member.

Box 8Folder 4
Jonathan Smith account book, 1848-1855
Box 8Folder 5
Christmas carols removed from Jonathan Smith account book, undated
Box 8Folder 6
Notes on astronomy, [1886]

IV. Smith family biographical / genealogical materials, 1883-1945

This series includes an undated photocopy of a typescript Smith family history book. (The MHS does not hold the original.) The book includes a biographical sketch of Silvanus and Judith Winsor Smith and their families and includes copies of photographs of Smith family members and dwellings, as well as copies of manuscript letters. Also included is a manuscript copy of Jonathan Smith's 1883 estate inventory and a printed memorial to Jonathan Smith describing his career as a sailor.

Materials related to Judith Winsor Smith include newspaper clippings detailing her involvement with the suffrage movement, 1900-1910; a record of the visitors and gifts she received on her 100th birthday in 1921; and memorials and obituaries written after her death in October 1921.

Materials related to Judith Winsor Smith's daughters consist of newspaper clippings and memorials published after Zilpha Drew Smith's death in 1926, including two memorials published in The Social Worker, a journal produced by the Simmons College School of Social Work (1931, 1945); and an undated biographical sketch describing Frances Smith's social work activities and a memorial published in the Charity Organization Bulletin after her death in 1916.

Genealogical materials include notes on Merrick family genealogy (Judith's daughter Jennie married into the Merrick family) and a family tree that traces Judith's and Silvanus's ancestries back to passengers of the Mayflower, 1924 (removed from the collection and stored in Mss. Large).

Box 8Folder 7-9
Photocopy of Smith family history book, undated
Box 8Folder 10
Manuscript copy of 1883 Jonathan Smith estate inventory and memorial to Jonathan Smith, undated
Box 8Folder 11
News clipping, Sidney Smith 91st birthday, 1908
Box 8Folder 12-16
Judith Winsor Smith news clippings, 1900-1927
Box 8Folder 17
Record of Judith Winsor Smith's 100th birthday, 1921
Box 8Folder 18
Judith Winsor Smith memorials and obituaries, 1921-1922
Box 8Folder 19
Zilpha Drew Smith news clippings, 1926
Box 8Folder 20
Zilpha Drew Smith memorial service program, 11 Dec. 1926
Box 8Folder 21
Zilpha Drew Smith published memorials, 1926-1945
Box 8Folder 22
Frances Smith biographical sketch, undated, and memorial, 1916
Box 8Folder 23
Notes on Merrick family genealogy, undated

V. Miscellaneous printed materials and ephemera, 1862-1922

Box 8Folder 24-25

Photographs Removed from the Collection

Photographs from this collection have been removed to the Judith Winsor Smith family photographs, ca. 1860-1921. Photo. Coll. 161.

Preferred Citation

Judith Winsor Smith papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.


McLauthlin, Polly Hathaway.
Merrick family--Genealogy.
Smith family--Genealogy.
Smith, Judith Winsor, 1821-1921--Photographs.
Smith, Silvanus, 1817-1901.
Smith, Zilpha Drew.
Smith, Zilpha Drew, 1852-1926.


Home Club of East Boston (Boston, Mass.).


Women's diaries.