1843-1949; bulk: 1860-1949

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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).

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.

Restrictions on Access

Use of the originals is restricted. This collection is available as color digital facsimiles (see links below).

Other Formats

This collection is available as color digital facsimiles.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Administrative records, 1860-1949digital content

A. Annual reports, 1860-1949digital content

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, 1860-1949digital content

Arranged chronologically.

Box 1Folder 1digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1860, 1861, 1863, 1864
Box 1Folder 2digitized
digitizedAct of Incorporation, 1864
Box 1Folder 3digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1865-1868
Box 1Folder 4digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1870, 1872
Box 1Folder 5digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1874-1876
Box 1Folder 6digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1877, 1878, 1880
Box 1Folder 7digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1881-1883
Box 1Folder 8digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1884-1886
Box 1Folder 9digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1887-1889
Box 1Folder 10digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1890-1892
Box 1Folder 11digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1893-1895
Box 1Folder 12digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1896-1899
Box 1Folder 13digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1900-1902
Box 1Folder 14digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1904, 1906, 1908
Box 1Folder 15digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1909
Box 1Folder 16digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1910-1912
Box 1Folder 17digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1913-1915
Box 1Folder 18digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1916-1917
Box 1Folder 19digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1919, 1921, 1922
Box 1Folder 20digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1923-1924
Box 1Folder 21digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1925-1926
Box 1Folder 22digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1927-1928
Box 2Folder 1digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1929-1930
Box 2Folder 2digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1932, 1933, 1937
Box 2Folder 3digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1939-1941
Box 2Folder 4digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1942-1943
Box 2Folder 5digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1944-1945
Box 2Folder 6digitized
digitizedLoose reports, 1946-1949

ii. Bound volumes, 1861-1928digital content

Arranged chronologically.

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

B. Board of Directors' records, 1860-1940digital content

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. 5digitized
Box 3Folder 1Vol. 6digitized
Box 3Folder 2Vol. 7digitized
Box 3Folder 3Vol. 8digitized
Box 3Folder 4Vol. 9digitized
Box 4Folder 1digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, 1919
Box 4Folder 2digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, 1920
Box 4Folder 3digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, 1921
Box 4Folder 4digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan. 1922
Box 4Folder 5digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Feb.-Sep. 1922
Box 4Folder 6digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Oct.-Dec. 1922
Box 4Folder 7digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan. 1923
Box 4Folder 8digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Feb.-Jun. 1923
Box 4Folder 9digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jul.-Dec. 1923
Box 4Folder 10digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan. 1924
Box 4Folder 11digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Feb.-Sep. 1924
Box 4Folder 12digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Oct.-Dec. 1924
Box 4Folder 13digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan. 1925
Box 4Folder 14digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Feb.-May 1925
Box 4Folder 15digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jun.-Dec. 1925
Box 4Folder 16digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan. 1926
Box 4Folder 17digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Feb.-Aug. 1926
Box 4Folder 18digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Oct.-Dec. 1926
Box 4Folder 19digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan. 1927 (1 of 2)
Box 4Folder 20digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan. 1927 (2 of 2)
Box 4Folder 21digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Feb.-Apr. 1927
Box 4Folder 22digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, May-Aug. 1927
Box 4Folder 23digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Oct.-Dec. 1927
Box 4Folder 24digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan. 1928
Box 4Folder 25digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Feb.-Jun. 1928
Box 4Folder 26digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jul.-Dec. 1927
Box 4Folder 27digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan. 1929
Box 4Folder 28digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Feb.-Apr. 1929
Box 4Folder 29digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, May-Nov. 1929
Box 4Folder 30digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Dec. 1929-Jan. 1930
Box 4Folder 31digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Feb.-Jun. 1930
Box 4Folder 32digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jul.-Dec. 1930
Box 5Folder 1digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan.-May 1931
Box 5Folder 2digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jun.-Dec. 1931
Box 5Folder 3digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan.-Apr. 1932
Box 5Folder 4digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, May-Dec. 1932
Box 5Folder 5digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan.-Apr. 1933
Box 5Folder 6digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, May-Oct. 1933
Box 5Folder 7digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Nov.-Dec. 1933
Box 5Folder 8digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan.-Mar. 1934
Box 5Folder 9digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Apr.-Oct. 1934
Box 5Folder 10digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Nov.-Dec. 1934
Box 5Folder 11digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan.-May 1935
Box 5Folder 12digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jun.-Dec. 1935
Box 5Folder 13digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan. 1936
Box 5Folder 14digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Feb.-Sep. 1936
Box 5Folder 15digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Oct.-Dec. 1936
Box 5Folder 16digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan.-Mar 1937
Box 5Folder 17digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Apr.-Sep. 1937
Box 5Folder 18digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Oct.-Dec. 1937
Box 5Folder 19digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan.-Apr. 1938
Box 5Folder 20digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, May-Oct. 1938
Box 5Folder 21digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Nov.-Dec. 1938
Box 5Folder 22digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, 1939
Box 5Folder 23digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, Jan.-Apr. 1940
Box 5Folder 24digitized
digitizedBoard of Directors, May-Dec. 1940

C. Committee records, 1860-1904digital content

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

D. Correspondence, 1867-1937digital content

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 6Folder 7digitized
digitizedCorrespondence, 1867-1872
Box 6Folder 8digitized
digitizedCorrespondence, Jan.-Apr. 1873
Box 6Folder 9digitized
digitizedCorrespondence, Jun.-Dec. 1873
Box 6Folder 10digitized
digitizedCorrespondence, 1874-Jul. 1875
Box 6Folder 11digitized
digitizedCorrespondence, Aug. 1875-1876
Box 6Folder 12digitized
digitizedCorrespondence, 1882-1885
Box 6Folder 13digitized
digitizedCorrespondence, 1887-1926
Box 6Folder 14digitized
digitizedCorrespondence, 1930-1934
Box 6Folder 15digitized
digitizedCorrespondence, Jun.-Sept. 1937
Box 6Folder 16digitized
digitizedCorrespondence, Oct. 1937
Box 6Folder 17digitized
digitizedCorrespondence, undated

E. Gift lists, 1877-1929digital content

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. 15digitized
Box 6Folder 19Vol. 16digitized
digitized1919-July 1923
Box 6Folder 20Vol. 17digitized
digitizedAug. 1923-1929

F. Visitor records, 1883-1920digital content

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

G. Nurse's log, 1910-1912digital content

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 5digitized

II. Financial records, 1843-1940digital content

A. Donations, 1843-1916digital content

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 7Folder 6digitized
digitizedEstate records, 1843-Jan. 1855
Box 7Folder 7digitized
digitizedEstate records, Apr. 1855-Apr. 1856
Box 7Folder 8digitized
digitizedEstate records, 1858-1859
Box 7Folder 9digitized
digitizedEstate records, 1861-1863
Box 7Folder 10digitized
digitizedEstate records, 1864-1876, 1912
Box 7Folder 11digitized
digitizedDonor list, 1863
Box 7Folder 12digitized
digitizedFundraising appeal, Nov. 1916

B. Account books, 1860-1940digital content

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

C. Treasurer's reports, 1932-1937digital content

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 9Folder 5digitized
digitizedTreasurer's reports, 1932
Box 9Folder 6digitized
digitizedTreasurer's reports, 1933
Box 9Folder 7digitized
digitizedTreasurer's reports, 1934
Box 9Folder 8digitized
digitizedTreasurer's reports, 1935
Box 9Folder 9digitized
digitizedTreasurer's reports, 1936
Box 9Folder 10digitized
digitizedTreasurer's reports, 1937

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.