Volume XXXXI · 1989-1990
Records of Women's Organizations in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
--MARY M. HUTH
One of the strengths of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is its holdings of manuscript and printed material related to Susan B. Anthony and the woman suffrage movement. In the mid-1970s the Acquisition Committee of the Friends of the University of Rochester Libraries, chaired by Margaret H. Baum, took on the project of finding and acquiring the papers of local women's organizations to supplement the suffrage material. It was through their efforts that many of the collections listed below came to the Department.
The collections chronicle the growing involvement of women in the public sphere as they worked together to educate themselves and to solve community problems. The papers have been used by several researchers, most particularly Nancy A. Hewitt for her much acclaimed study, Women's Activism and Social Change: Rochester, New York, 1822-1872 published by Cornell University Press in 1984.
Listed below, in alphabetical order, are the organizations founded for or by women whose records are housed in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Each entry includes the number of five-inch document boxes and bound volumes in the collection, and the inclusive dates of the material.
American Association of University Women, New York State Division
Fourteen boxes. 1920 to present.
The Association of Collegiate Alumnae was founded in 1882 to consolidate women's college groups into a national organization. The New York State chapter of the Association began in 1902. In 1921 the Association of Collegiate Alumnae changed its name to the American Association of University Women. The New York Division of the AAUW serves as a liaison between the national association and the local branches throughout the state. The Division coordinates state-wide projects, promotes legislation, provides leadership training, and informs its membership of pertinent state and national events.
The archive contains minutes of the Executive Board meetings, agendas, reports, newsletters, and printed material.
Fortnightly Ignorance Club
One box. 1881-1891.
Founded in 1881 by prominent Rochester women led by Dr. Sarah A. Dolley and Jenny Marsh Parker, the club held meetings to discuss and act on "vital topics of the day" such as prison reform, woman suffrage, election of women to school boards, and the appointment of a police matron.
The papers consist of two manuscript volumes (covering the years 1881-1883, and 1886-1891) of secretary's minutes, club budgets, news clippings, and correspondence.
Three boxes. 1897-1979.
Founded in 1897 as the Monday Reading Club, the club changed its name in 1901 to Hakkoreoth, the Hebrew word meaning "The Readers." Members meet every two weeks to read passages from selected books. There is also a business meeting and a social period.
Papers consist of minutes of the meetings from 1897 to 1967, financial records, annual programs, and correspondence.
Hillside Children's Center
Nine boxes, ninety-seven volumes. 1837-1976.
On February 28, 1837, a group of Rochester women met in the home of Mrs. William Akinson to form The Rochester Female Association for the Relief of Orphans and Destitute Children, which was later incorporated as the Rochester Orphan Asylum. The Asylum opened the following month with a Board of Lady Managers and a male Board of Trustees. Following a tragic fire in 1901, the Asylum moved to a site on Cobbs Hill. In 1921 the Rochester Orphan Asylum changed its name to the Hillside Home for Children and, in 1940, to Hillside Children's Center. The Center now offers services to neglected, dependent, learning disabled, moderately retarded, and emotionally disturbed children.
The collection consists of volumes containing records of the children cared for by the Rochester Orphan Asylum and later the Hillside Children's Center, indenture records from 1840 to 1900, minutes of meetings of the Board of Managers and Board of Trustees, financial records, legal documents, architectural drawings for the Cobbs Hill facility, photographs, and other records.
The History Class
One box. 1890 to present.
The American History Class was founded October 8, 1890, by Alice Whittlesey McKown and Marguerite Montgomery. Members met biweekly to study topics in American history. In 1901 the Class broadened its interests to include other countries and cultures, and changed its name to The History Class.
Included in the collection are printed annual programs, histories of the Class, book lists, and a selection of papers presented by members.
National Council of Jewish Women, Rochester Division
Two boxes. 1935-1976.
The National Council of Jewish Women was founded in 1893; the Rochester Division in 1895. The NCJW has offered assistance to the poor and services to youth and aging through various programs. The Council is also interested in politics, taking a position on issues such as housing, urban renewal, nuclear weapons testing, and the Vietnam War in their newsletter, the Bulletin.
The collection contains correspondence and minutes of Board meetings, financial records, reports, and copies of the Bulletin.
Two boxes, one volume. 1895-1976.
Northaven, Inc., a home for unwed mothers, was founded in 1895 as the Door of Hope Association by a group of concerned Rochester women. They rented a home on Troup Street and, with the cooperation of the Rochester City Hospital, provided physicians and nurses to assist and reform "unfortunate and erring" young women. Through the years the organization changed its name frequently to reflect its lessening emphasis on moral reform and increasing involvement in pregnancy counseling and adoption. Named Northaven in 1967, the organization closed its home in the 1970s and merged with Hillside Children's Center in 1976.
In the collection are seven volumes containing secretary's minutes of staff and board meetings and records of women during and after their stay in the home; also correspondence, annual reports, scrapbooks, and publicity material.
Planned Parenthood of Rochester and Monroe County
One box. 1932-1974.
The first meeting of the Executive Board of the Monroe County Birth Control League was held on November 28, 1932. They opened their first birth control clinic two years later in the basement of the First Unitarian Church's Gannett House in downtown Rochester. The organization has changed its name several times over the years, and is now called Planned Parenthood of Rochester and Monroe County.
The minutes of the Executive Board between 1932 and 1974, with some gaps, are part of the archive. Also present are reminiscences of early participants in the Rochester birth control movement, and a typescript of an 1982 interview with one of the founders of the organization, Margaret H. Baum.
Rochester Female Charitable Society
Four boxes. 1822-1967.
The Society was founded by several prominent Rochester women in 1822 to aid the sick poor and establish a charity school for those too poor to pay city school fees. Members collected goods and money from the community and distributed them to the poor. In the mid-nineteenth century they maintained a temporary hospital while working to establish the Rochester City Hospital, which was opened in 1863. The Society provided disaster relief after the Rochester flood of 1865 and a major fire in 1868. The Society continues its charitable work today.
Included in the archive are minutes of the Board of Directors, records of relief distribution, financial records, histories of the Society, and other printed material.
Rochester Home for the Friendless
Five boxes, fourteen volumes. 1849-1933.
The institution currently known as the Rochester Friendly Home was established in 1849 as the "Rochester Association for the Relief of Homeless and Friendless Females." The original aim of the women who founded the Home was to assist destitute females by providing them with temporary lodgings and securing them employment, usually as domestics. In 1855 the facility became the Rochester Home for the Friendless and within a few years began to admit aged women. Eventually the Home came to specialize in the care of the elderly, and in 1918 began to accept married couples and single men. That same year the Home's name was changed to the Rochester Friendly Home.
The collection contains minutes of the female Board of Managers and of the male Board of Trustees, records of the operation of the Home from 1849 to 1912, and material related to the construction of the Home's East Avenue facility in 1918.
Women's City Club
One box, one volume. 1929-1935.
Formed in 1911, the Women's City Club played a vital role in Rochester's campaign for a city manager charter, a central library, smoke abatement, pasteurized milk, and many other civic reforms. Its successive clubhouses provided headquarters for many women's groups and helped to urbanize the women of Rochester.
The papers are concerned primarily with the Club from the time of its disbandment in the fall of 1930 to the final disposition of its property in 1935. Included in the collection are business letters and financial records.
The Wednesday Club
Three boxes. 1890-1976.
A women's club devoted to literary and intellectual pursuits, The Wednesday Club was founded in 1890. At each meeting a member presents a paper of original research, with discussion following the reading.
The papers consist of secretary's minutes, copies of selected papers, correspondence, and photographs.
Young Women's Christian Association of Rochester and Monroe County
Four boxes, forty-five volumes. 1883-1975.
On June 21, 1883, the Women's Christian Association of Rochester was founded to provide respectable boarding homes for employed women. In 1906 the Women's Christian Association affiliated with the nationally organized Young Women's Christian Association.
Included in the papers are scrapbooks of newspaper clippings from 1883 to 1965, minutes of meetings of the Board of Directors, Executive Committee, annual reports, and photographs of YWCA activities.