1843-1949; bulk: 1860-1949

Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of the records of the Home for Aged Colored Women, a charitable organization founded in 1860 to provide services to aged and indigent African-American women in Boston. Records include financial records, donor lists, committee notes, descriptions of women helped, board meeting minutes, and printed annual reports.

Historical Sketch

The Home for Aged Colored Women was founded by Rev. James Freeman Clarke, his mother Rebecca Parker Clarke, and Rev. Leonard A. Grimes of the Twelfth Baptist Church in Boston. They first discussed the idea of a home for aged and indigent African-American women at a meeting in the vestry of Clarke's church in 1860. John A. Andrew, present at the meeting, motioned for a subscription to be taken at that time to provide for the immediate needs of women already known to Rev. Grimes and Mrs. Clarke, and to form a committee to determine the most appropriate means of providing for these women in the long term. The committee recommended that a home be formally established, and they issued a call for subscribers to fund the project. The subscribers first met on 18 January 1860 and elected a Board of Managers to secure a property, hire a matron, and oversee the Home's operations. The Board solicited applications for admission, and in April 1860 ten women moved into the Home at 65 Southac Street in Boston. Many of the original residents were formerly enslaved, and few had family members in Boston who could provide adequate care for them. While similar private institutions had already been created to support elderly white women in Boston, none would admit black women, regardless of their social standing. The following August, the Home moved to 27 Myrtle Street in Boston.

The Home for Aged Colored Women was incorporated on 4 March 1864, with a mission to provide respectable African-American women, aged 60 and older, with either a home offering supportive care in their later lives or monetary assistance to allow them to live independently or with family members in the city of Boston. Due to the evolving needs for the Home, particularly with regard to space, structural safety, and modern sanitation, the organization purchased and renovated a home at 22 Hancock Street, and in September 1900, the residents moved into their new accommodations.

The organization was guided by a group of elected officers and a Board of Managers, later called the Board of Directors. The first officers of the organization were Dr. LeBaron Russell, president; Nathaniel G. Chapin, treasurer; Anna Loring, secretary; and Dr. Calvin G. Page, physician. Additionally, a rotating set of "visitors" would oversee the operations of the Home and ensure residents were treated well and the facilities were kept in good repair. Finally, committees oversaw more specific administrative functions, such as admissions to the Home, the purchase and allocation of supplies, hiring personnel, and securing property. Funding came in the form of one-time donations, annual subscriptions, or planned giving through individual estates.

The Home's staff included a matron, a nurse, and several servants. Residents were called "inmates" and were expected to participate fully in house activities, including morning prayers and housework (as able). In addition to providing up to twenty women with a place to live, the Home also supported elderly black women outside of the Home by providing monthly funds to help them either live independently or to assist their families in providing for them.

By 1915 the Home had grown to house nineteen residents, with an additional fifty-eight women receiving outside aid, ranging from $2 to $12 per month. By the 1940s, the number of residents had declined sharply, and in 1944 the organization chose to close its doors, although the Board of Directors continued to use their funds to support elderly black women with outside aid. The annual report for the 1949 was the last published by the organization.


MacCarthy, Esther. "The Home for Aged Colored Women, 1861-1944." Historical Journal of Massachusetts 21 (Winter 1993): 55-73.

Collection Description

This collection contains the administrative and financial records of the Home for Aged Colored Women in Boston, Mass. Administrative records include published annual reports; meeting minutes and other records of the Board of Managers (later called the Board of Directors); monthly visitor reports describing the condition of the Home and its residents; lists of gifts and donations to the Home; and a brief nurse's log (1910-1912). Records from the committees of admissions and supplies focus heavily on descriptions of the applicants and eventual residents of the Home, including their personal histories, initial conditions, recommendations for admittance, supplies residents received while in the Home, and death dates. Correspondence is primarily related to financial matters, especially estate planning and the allocation of planned donations of money and property. Some correspondence discusses applicants to the Home.

Financial records include copies of donors' estate records, primarily from 1843 to 1876, daily account books tracking expenses for the Home from 1860 to 1940, and annual treasurer's reports from 1932 to 1937. The bulk of the records pertain to the years during which the Home was active (1860-1949), however some of the donor estate records date to 1843.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by the Home for Aged Colored Women, November 1962.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Administrative records, 1860-1949

A. Annual reports, 1860-1949

This subseries includes printed copies of the Home's Annual Report of the Board of Managers for the years 1860-1865, and "Annual Report of the Board of Directors" for the years 1866-1949. Reports were presented at the January meetings of the board of managers or directors. The 1860-1873 bound volume includes a printed version of the Act of Incorporation and By-Laws for the Home. Also included in this series is an 1864 manuscript copy of the Act of Incorporation.

i. Loose reports, 1860-1949

Arranged chronologically.

Box 1
Box 2Folders 1-6

ii. Bound volumes, 1861-1928

Arranged chronologically.

Box 2Vol. 1
Box 2Vol. 2
Box 2Vol. 3
Box 2Vol. 4

B. Board of Directors' records, 1860-1940

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains records of the Board of Managers (1860-1868) and subsequently the Board of Directors (1869-1940) for the Home. Records primarily consist of minutes of the annual meetings of the corporation, monthly meetings of the board, and quarterly reports. Included are roll call lists, committee and treasurer's reports, decisions on motions, lists of contributions, and personnel nominations and appointments. Records before 1919 were kept in several volumes with overlapping dates. Later records are not bound.

Box 2Folder 7Vol. 5
Box 3Folder 1Vol. 6
Box 3Folder 2Vol. 7
Box 3Folder 3Vol. 8
Box 3Folder 4Vol. 9
Box 4
Box 5

C. Committee records, 1860-1904

Arranged chronologically and by record type.

This subseries contains the records of the Home's committees on admissions and supplies. The records of the committee on admissions date from 1860 to 1904 and include a list of specified rules for the residents of the Home as well as descriptions of all applicants to the Home detailing their personal history, current living situations, availability of family assistance, and recommendations for admission. Some deaths of applicants and residents are also noted. Records of the committee on supplies document purchased and donated supplies, as well as items that each individual resident received.

Box 6Folder 1
Admissions committee records, ca. 1860
Box 6Folder 2Vol. 10
Admissions committee records, 1860-1875
Box 6Folder 3Vol. 11
Admissions committee records, 1874-1887
Box 6Folder 4Vol. 12
Admissions committee records, 1876-1884
Box 6Folder 5Vol. 13
Admissions committee records, 1884-1904
Box 6Folder 6Vol. 14
Supply committee records, 1860-1871

D. Correspondence, 1867-1937

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains correspondence with Home administrators from 1867 to 1937, primarily related to donations and subscriptions. Correspondence from 1930 to 1937 deals primarily with the donation from resident Daisy Phillips of a house she owned in Abington, Mass. Prominent correspondents include William E. Pike, Judge James T. Kirby, and Charles G. Willard.

Box 6Folders 7-17

E. Gift lists, 1877-1929

Arranged chronologically.

Gift lists note material donations to the Home, such as clothing, food, and services for the years 1877 through 1886 and 1919 through 1929.

Box 6Folder 18Vol. 15
Box 6Folder 19Vol. 16
1919-July 1923
Box 6Folder 20Vol. 17
Aug. 1923-1929

F. Visitor records, 1883-1920

Arranged chronologically.

Visitor records include monthly reports for the years 1883 to 1920. Written by individuals or "visitors" appointed by the Board of Directors, the reports note the status of the Home and its residents; illnesses and deaths; special events; and repairs needed for the facilities.

Box 7Folder 1Vol. 18
Box 7Folder 2Vol. 19
Box 7Folder 3Vol. 20
Box 7Folder 4
Rules for visitors, n.d.

G. Nurse's log, 1910-1912

The log contains information recorded by the Home's nurse, including illnesses of the residents, prescribed medications and treatment plans, and periodic weight measurements.

Box 7Folder 5

II. Financial records, 1843-1940

A. Donations, 1843-1916

Arranged chronologically and by record type.

This subseries consists of the estate records of donors to the Home, most pertaining to the estate of Thomas Cordis of Longmeadow; a fundraising campaign appeal (24 Nov. 1916); and a list of donors to the Home and their corresponding donations, including designation of some donations to be given to the Joy Fund (1863). While most of the financial records pertain to the period in which the Home was open, some of the estate records are dated as early as 1843.

For additional donation records, see Correspondence Series II.D. and the daily account books of the Home in Series I.B.

Box 7Folders 6-10
Estate records, 1843-1912
Box 7Folder 11
Donor list, 1863
Box 1Folder 7
Fundraising appeal, Nov. 1916

B. Account books, 1860-1940

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains records of Home expenses, as well as donations and subscriptions from 1860 to 1908 and from 1920 to 1940. General account ledgers include records of collections and donations, payments of house expenses, receipts, balances, and investments. Accounts of expenses include daily lists of costs incurred at the Home. Also included are records of an account held with Wesson Clothing (1864-1897). Miscellaneous accounts and receipts (1864-1915) include receipts for services, a fire insurance policy, and an undated list of investments.

Box 8Folder 1Vol. 22
General account ledger, 1860-1908
Box 8Folder 2Vol. 23
Account of expenses, Jan. 1861-Aug. 1869
Box 8Folder 3Vol. 24
Wesson clothing account, 1864-1897
Box 8Folder 4Vol. 25
Account of expenses, Aug. 1869-Feb. 1873
Box 8Folder 5Vol. 26
Account of expenses, Apr. 1875-Dec. 1878
Box 9Folder 1Vol. 27
Account of expenses, June 1885-Dec. 1891
Box 9Folder 2Vol. 28
Account of expenses, Jan. 1892-Nov. 1900
Box 9Folder 3Vol. 29
Account of expenses, Dec. 1900-June 1908
Box 10Vol. 30
General account ledger, 1920-1940
Box 9Folder 4
Miscellaneous accounts and receipts, 1864-1915

C. Treasurer's reports, 1932-1937

Arranged chronologically.

This subseries contains annual financial reports from 1932 to 1937 prepared by the treasurer of the Home and examined by the accounting firm Scovell, Wellington & Co.

Additional financial reports can be found with the meeting minutes for the Board of Managers and Directors in Series II.B.

Box 9Folders 5-10

Preferred Citation

Home for Aged Colored Women 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.


Andrew, John A. (John Albion), 1818-1867.
Clarke, James Freeman, 1810-1888.
Clarke, Rebecca Parker.
Grimes, Leonard A. (Leonard Andrew), 1815-1873.


Account books, 1860-1940.
African American women--Charities.
African American women--Massachusetts--Boston.
Boston (Mass.)--Social conditions.
Old age homes--Massachusetts--Boston.
Older women--Massachusetts--Boston.

Materials Removed from the Collection

A photograph of the Home's 22 Hancock St. location has been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.