Guide to the Collection

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Representative digitized documents from this collection:

Restrictions on Access

Use of the originals is restricted. This collection is available as color digital facsimiles (see links below). Black and white microfilm is also available for use in the library.

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the records of the Woman's Education Association of Boston, Mass., an organization founded in 1871 to promote the industrial, intellectual, aesthetic, moral, and physical education of women.

Historical Sketch

The Woman's Education Association (WEA) of Boston, Massachusetts, was first gathered by Melusina Fay Peirce and Charlotte Frances Buck Brooks as the Committee on the Better Education of Women on 22 Dec. 1871. This initial meeting was held to determine the amount of support there would be in the wider community for a group of women to promote better education for women, both in primary and secondary schools and in the field of higher education. After several organizational meetings, the group changed its name to the Woman's Education Association, and they held a public meeting on 16 Jan. 1872, with local speakers on the current state of women's education and ways to improve it. This meeting was successful in garnering new members for the association and establishing it as a force in improving education for women both locally and nationally. The earliest members of the association, in addition to the two founders, were Mary Tileston Hemenway, Fanny Cabot Paine, and Anna Cabot Lodge. Anna Cabot Lowell joined soon after. From 1872 to 1929, the WEA had a part in the formation of Simmons College, Radcliffe College, the Chemical Laboratory for Women at MIT, and the Annisquam Seaside Laboratory (later the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole). The group also created the Household Aid Company (a domestic worker organization) in Boston; awarded fellowships for female scholars in higher education from around the country; created "travelling libraries" for small, under-funded local libraries across the state; pushed for reform and innovation in the local schools and on the Boston School Board; advocated for the importance of nursery school and kindergarten; and worked on other issues related to the needs and improvement of education for women and for all children.

Collection Description

This collection consists of the records of the Woman's Education Association of Boston, Massachusetts, a group organized by women in Boston and Cambridge who were interested in the higher and broader education of women and who worked to improve education both in the local public schools and through the support of higher (college) education for women, as well as through many other activities. Members included Melusina Fay Peirce, Charlotte F. Buck Brooks, Mary Tileston Hemenway, Fanny Cabot Paine, Anna Cabot Lodge, Anna Cabot Lowell, Kate Gannett Wells, Susan Minns, Ellen Frothingham, Anna H. Clarke, Sarah Cabot, Annie Fields, Mary Quincy, Anna C. L. Q. Waterston, Ellen Swallow Richards, Sarah Parkman Shaw Russell, and Alice G. Chandler. Particular areas of interest for the association were Simmons College, Radcliffe College, the Annisquam Seaside Laboratory directed by Alpheus Hyatt (later Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory), the Chemical Laboratory for Women at MIT, aiding and improving libraries across the state, improving science education, the Household Aid Company in Boston, "industrial education" (home economics) in the public schools, and many other areas related to education for women.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by the Woman's Education Association through Miss Elizabeth Putnam, June 1929.

Restrictions on Access

Use of the originals is restricted. This collection is available as color digital facsimiles (see links below). Black and white microfilm is also available for use in the library.

Other Formats

The collection is also available as color digital facsimiles and on microfilm, P-810, 12 reels.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Founding and historical documents, 1872-1921digital content

This series contains materials not directly associated with the other series in the collection and applies more generally to the organization as a whole. This includes materials on the history of the WEA and the 1877 charter, lectures sponsored by the association, its involvement in the founding of the Chemical Laboratory for Women at MIT and the Annisquam Seaside Laboratory (the forerunner of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole), the possibilities for the formation and degree programs of Simmons College, and the 50th anniversary meeting in 1921.

The Chemical Laboratory for Women at MIT, originally the brainchild of Ellen Swallow Richards (MIT's first female graduate and faculty member), was opened in Oct. 1876 at the request of the Woman's Education Association to the governors of MIT and with money raised by them. Professor John M. Ordway was in charge. The laboratory was fitted out at the south end of the gymnasium and later moved to a new building on Boylston Street. The lab closed in 1883 when MIT began accepting women into the regular course program.

The Annisquam Seaside Laboratory was begun as a partnership between the Woman's Education Association and the Boston Society of Natural History. Alpheus Hyatt (1838-1902), the curator of the society, served as the director of the laboratory, which opened in 1882 as a site for summer marine biology studies for both women and men. In 1888, the Annisquam Laboratory was (by vote) absorbed into what is now the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, and another monetary donation from the WEA helped continue the work there.

The binder of materials marking the 50th anniversary of the WEA in 1921 contains mainly items related to the history of the organization. These materials were not arranged in the binder but merely held together by it, so they have been placed roughly in the order of the outline of the 50th anniversary program (in folder 12 of this box). The anniversary celebrated the many achievements of the association over time, and the papers in the binder cover such topics as the history of the WEA, the founding of Radcliffe, the Chemical Laboratory, the Annisquam Laboratory, the Household Aid Company, fellowships, and the Library Committee's work.

Box 1Folder 1digitized
Charter and charter members, 1877
Box 1Folder 2digitized
Historical materials related to the WEA, 1873
Box 1Folder 3digitized
History of the Woman's Education Association, undated
Box 1Folder 4digitized
Letters related to the history of the Woman's Education Association, 1899 and undated
Box 1Folder 5digitized
Woman's Education Association and public school education, undated
Box 1Folder 6digitized
Early ideas for the formation of Simmons College, [1872]
Box 1Folder 7digitized
Lectures on botany, animal life, etc., 1879-1892 and undated
Box 1Folder 8digitized
Lectures on miscellaneous topics, 1881-1909
Box 1Folder 9digitized
Chemical laboratory for women at MIT, 1876-1883
Box 1Folder 10digitized
Annisquam Seaside Laboratory, 1882-1886
Box 1Folder 11digitized
Miscellaneous correspondence, 1873, 1890-1891

Fiftieth anniversary papers, 1921digital content

Box 1Folder 12digitized
Introduction and activities of the WEA
Box 1Folder 13digitized
Radcliffe beginnings
Box 1Folder 14digitized
Chemical laboratory for women at MIT
Box 1Folder 15digitized
Annisquam laboratory and science lectures
Box 1Folder 16digitized
Household Aid
Box 1Folder 17digitized
Box 1Folder 18digitized
Instructive District Nursing Association
Box 1Folder 19digitized
Library Committee
Box 1Folder 20digitized
Historical account of the WEA
Box 1Folder 21digitized
Former presidents

II. General meeting records, 1871-1929digital content

The WEA's meeting records consist of twelve volumes of meeting minutes. The first volume begins in 1871 with the Committee on the Better Education of Women, the early group of women gathered by Melusina Fay Peirce and Charlotte F. Buck Brooks, who came together in Dec. 1871 with the idea of forming an organization for improving the education of women. In early Jan. 1872, they voted to call themselves the Woman's Education Association, and the first meeting for public attendance was held on 16 Jan. 1872 at Wesleyan Hall on Bromfield Street in Boston. The group voted to disband at the recommendation of the Executive Committee in Nov. 1928, and the last meeting was held on 17 Jan. 1929.

Box 2Folder 1digitized
Box 2Folder 2digitized
Box 2Folder 3digitized
Box 2Folder 4digitized
Box 2Folder 5digitized
Box 2Folder 6digitized
Box 2Folder 7digitized
Box 3Folder 1digitized
Box 3Folder 2digitized
Box 3Folder 3digitized
Loose items, 1903-1908
Box 3Folder 4digitized
Box 3Folder 5digitized
Loose items, 1908-1912
Box 3Folder 6digitized
Box 3Folder 7digitized
Loose items, 1912-1916
Box 3Folder 8digitized
Box 3Folder 9digitized
Loose items, 1916-1929

III. Executive Committee records, 1873-1929digital content

This series contains twelve volumes of meeting minutes of the Executive Committee.

Box 4Folder 1digitized
Box 4Folder 2digitized
Box 4Folder 3digitized
Box 4Folder 4digitized
Box 4Folder 5digitized
Box 4Folder 6digitized
Loose items, 1893-1895
Box 4Folder 7digitized
Box 5Folder 1digitized
Box 5Folder 2digitized
Box 5Folder 3digitized
Box 5Folder 4digitized
Box 5Folder 5digitized
Box 5Folder 6digitized

IV. Miscellaneous committee records, 1872-1922digital content

Arranged alphabetically by committee name.

This series consists of meeting record volumes and loose papers created by various committees, including the Aesthetic Education Committee (museums and art appreciation), Domestic Economy Committee (mainly devoted to the Household Aid Company, which organized a local domestic help workforce), Fellowship Committee (scholarships for women in higher education), Industrial Education Committee (to institute and improve home economics teaching in the public schools), Moral and Physical Education Committee, Nursery School Committee, and Science Lessons Committee (to improve science education both in the schools and in the wider community through public lectures).

Box 6Folder 1digitized
Aesthetic Education Committee, 1878-1881
Box 6Folder 2digitized
Civics and Foreign Students Committee, 1918-1919
Box 6Folder 3digitized
Domestic Economy Committee: Household Aid Company, 1903-1905
Box 6Folder 4digitized
Domestic Economy Committee: Household Aid Company, 1904-1906
Box 6Folder 5digitized
Domestic Economy Committee: Household Aid Company (printed material and circulars), 1896-1904 and undated
Box 6Folder 6digitized
Domestic Economy Committee, 1908
Box 6Folder 7digitized
Fellowship Committee (binder #1), 1892-1921
Box 6Folder 8digitized
Loose papers from Fellowship Committee (binder #1)
Box 6Folder 9digitized
Fellowship Committee (binder #2): Fellows, 1892-1921
Box 6Folder 10digitized
Fellowship Committee (binder #3): Records, 1917-1920
Box 6Folder 11digitized
Fellowship Committee: Fellowship letters, 1920-1921
Box 6Folder 12digitized
Industrial Education Committee, 1872-1885
Box 6Folder 13digitized
Intellectual Education Committee, 1882-1890
Box 6Folder 14digitized
Moral and Physical Education Committee, 1884
Box 6Folder 15digitized
Nursery School Committee, 1922
Box 6Folder 16digitized
Science Committee: Records, 1890-1904
Box 6Folder 17digitized
Loose papers from Science Committee: Records, 1890-1904
Box 6Folder 18digitized
Science Committee: Miscellaneous papers, 1892-1906

V. Library Committee records, 1894-1935digital content

This series contains eight volumes of meeting records, two volumes of treasurer's records, and other volumes of the Library Committee, which sponsored "traveling libraries" of books and pictorial materials to assist small local libraries of limited means across the state. In 1900, the committee began publishing a list of "new books recommended for purchase" for small libraries. The Library Committee also supplied books for clergymen and prisons and foreign language books for school work. In 1894, the Library Committee was instrumental in establishing the defunct West Church in Boston as a branch library of the Boston Public Library system. The Library Committee carried on some of its work after the dissolution of the WEA until 1935.

Box 7Folder 1digitized
Meeting records, 1894-1897
Box 7Folder 2digitized
West Church branch library, 1894
Box 7Folder 3digitized
Library Committee treasurer, 1894-1896
Box 7Folder 4digitized
Library Committee treasurer, 1896-1902
Box 7Folder 5digitized
Meeting records, 1897-1901
Box 7Folder 6digitized
Meeting records, 1901-1904
Box 7Folder 7digitized
Meeting records, 1904-1906
Box 7Folder 8digitized
Meeting records, 1906-1910
Box 7Folder 9digitized
Meeting records, 1910-1914
Box 8Folder 1digitized
Meeting records, 1914-1920
Box 8Folder 2digitized
Meeting records, 1920-1925
Box 8Folder 3digitized
Miscellaneous records, 1925-1935
Box 8Folder 4digitized
Circulating picture sets, 1898-1935

"Traveling libraries" early circulation records and correspondence, 1894-1898digital content

Box 9Folder 1digitized
Book 1, 1894
Box 9Folder 2digitized
Book 2, 1895-1896
Box 9Folder 3digitized
Book 3, 1896
Box 9Folder 4digitized
Book 4, 1896-1897
Box 9Folder 5digitized
Book 5, 1898

"Traveling libraries" samples of records, etc., 1906-1924digital content

Box 10Folder 1digitized
Nos. 1-72, 1906
Box 10Folder 2digitized
Nos. 73-144, 1907-1918
Box 10Folder 3digitized
Nos. 145-170, 1919-1924
Box 11Folder 1digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 1-8, 1900-1903 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 2digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 9-14, 1904-1906 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 3digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 15-18, 1907-1908 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 4digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 19-22, 1909-1910 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 5digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 23-26, 1911-1912 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 6digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 27-30, 1913-1914 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 7digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 31-34, 1915-1916 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 8digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 35-38, 1917-1918 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 9digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 39-42, 1919-1920 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 10digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 43-46, 1921-1922 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 11digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 47-50, 1923-1924 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 12digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 51-54, 1925-1926 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 13digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 55-58, 1927-1928 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 14digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 59-62, 1929-1930 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 15digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 63-64, 1931 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 16digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 65-66, 1932 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 17digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 67-68, 1933 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 18digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," Nos. 69-70, 1934 (printed pamphlets)
Box 11Folder 19digitized
"New books recommended for purchase," No. 71, 1935 (printed pamphlets)

VI. Annual reports of the WEA, 1873-1929digital content

This series consists of two boxes of printed annual reports of the WEA outlining the organization's activities, as well as additional printed material.

Box 12Folder 1digitized
WEA annual reports, 1872-1873
Box 12Folder 2digitized
WEA annual reports, 1873-1874
Box 12Folder 3digitized
WEA annual reports, 1874-1875
Box 12Folder 4digitized
WEA annual reports, 1877-1878
Box 12Folder 5digitized
WEA annual reports, 1878-1879
Box 12Folder 6digitized
WEA annual reports, 1879-1880
Box 12Folder 7digitized
WEA annual reports, 1880-1881
Box 12Folder 8digitized
WEA annual reports, 1881-1882
Box 12Folder 9digitized
WEA annual reports, 1882-1883
Box 12Folder 10digitized
WEA annual reports, 1883-1884
Box 12Folder 11digitized
WEA annual reports, 1884-1885
Box 12Folder 12digitized
WEA annual reports, 1885-1886
Box 12Folder 13digitized
WEA annual reports, 1886-1887
Box 12Folder 14digitized
WEA annual reports, 1887-1888
Box 12Folder 15digitized
WEA annual reports, 1888-1889
Box 12Folder 16digitized
WEA annual reports, 1889-1890
Box 12Folder 17digitized
WEA annual reports, 1890-1891
Box 12Folder 18digitized
WEA annual reports, 1891-1892
Box 12Folder 19digitized
WEA annual reports, 1892-1893
Box 12Folder 20digitized
WEA annual reports, 1893-1894
Box 12Folder 21digitized
WEA annual reports, 1894-1895
Box 12Folder 22digitized
WEA annual reports, 1895-1896
Box 12Folder 23digitized
WEA annual reports, 1896-1897
Box 12Folder 24digitized
WEA annual reports, 1897-1898
Box 12Folder 25digitized
WEA annual reports, 1898-1899
Box 12Folder 26digitized
WEA annual reports, 1899-1900
Box 12Folder 27digitized
WEA annual reports, 1900-1901
Box 12Folder 28digitized
WEA annual reports, 1901-1902
Box 12Folder 29digitized
WEA annual reports, 1902-1903
Box 13Folder 1digitized
WEA annual reports, 1903-1904
Box 13Folder 2digitized
WEA annual reports, 1904-1905
Box 13Folder 3digitized
WEA annual reports, 1905-1906
Box 13Folder 4digitized
WEA annual reports, 1906-1907
Box 13Folder 5digitized
WEA annual reports, 1907-1908
Box 13Folder 6digitized
WEA annual reports, 1908-1909
Box 13Folder 7digitized
WEA annual reports, 1909-1910
Box 13Folder 8digitized
WEA annual reports, 1910-1911
Box 13Folder 9digitized
WEA annual reports, 1911-1912
Box 13Folder 10digitized
WEA annual reports, 1912-1913
Box 13Folder 11digitized
WEA annual reports, 1913-1914
Box 13Folder 12digitized
WEA annual reports, 1914-1915
Box 13Folder 13digitized
WEA annual reports, 1915-1916
Box 13Folder 14digitized
WEA annual reports, 1916-1917
Box 13Folder 15digitized
WEA annual reports, 1917-1918
Box 13Folder 16digitized
WEA annual reports, 1918-1919
Box 13Folder 17digitized
WEA annual reports, 1919-1920
Box 13Folder 18digitized
WEA annual reports, 1920-1921
Box 13Folder 19digitized
WEA annual reports, 1921-1922
Box 13Folder 20digitized
WEA annual reports, 1922-1923, annotated with constitution and by-laws
Box 13Folder 21digitized
WEA annual reports, 1923-1924
Box 13Folder 22digitized
WEA annual reports, 1924-1925
Box 13Folder 23digitized
WEA annual reports, 1927-1928
Box 13Folder 24digitized
WEA annual reports, 1928-1929
Box 13Folder 25digitized
Massachusetts Teachers Association constitution and by-laws, undated
Box 13Folder 26digitized
Boston Primary Teachers Association pamphlet, undated and 1907-1908

Preferred Citation

Woman's Education Association (Boston, Mass.) records, 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.


Brooks, Charlotte Frances Buck, 1828-1907.
Cabot, Sarah.
Chandler, Alice Greene, 1851-1935.
Clarke, Anna Huidekoper, 1814-1897.
Fields, Annie, 1834-1915.
Frothingham, Ellen, 1835-1902.
Hemenway, Mary, 1820-1894.
Hyatt, Alpheus, 1838-1902.
Lodge, Anna Cabot, 1821-1900.
Lowell, Anna C. (Anna Cabot), 1811-1874.
Minns, Susan.
Paine, Fanny Cabot, 1812-1878.
Peirce, Fay, 1836-
Quincy, Mary.
Richards, Ellen H. (Ellen Henrietta), 1842-1911.
Russell, Sarah Parkman Shaw, 1811-1888.
Waterston, Anna Cabot Lowell Quincy, 1812-1899.
Wells, Kate Gannett, 1838-1911.


Household Aid Company (Boston, Mass.).
Marine Biological Laboratory (Woods Hole, Mass.).
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chemical Laboratory for Women.
Radcliffe College.
Simmons College (Boston, Mass.).


Boston (Mass.)--Societies, etc.
Chemistry--Study and teaching.
Education--Societies, etc.
Home economics--Study and teaching.
Science--Study and teaching.
Social reformers--Massachusetts--Boston.
Women--Societies and clubs.