The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Marblehead Female Humane Society
Marblehead Female Humane Society
2.5 linear feet (4 boxes, 2 volumes)
The Marblehead Female Humane
Society records contain the administrative, membership, financial, and beneficiary
records of the society from 1816 to 1992.
SERIES I. Administrative Records SERIES II. Membership Records SERIES III. Financial Records
A. Financial Records
SERIES IV. Beneficiary Records
A. Beneficiary Records
B. Harris Home
SERIES V. Miscellaneous Records
Scope and Content Note
The Marblehead Female Humane Society records contain the administrative, membership,
financial, and beneficiary records of the society from 1816 to 1992. The collection
is divided into five series.
Series I. Administrative Records includes the
constitution, annual meeting reports, subscriber lists, reports of committee
meetings, by-laws, by-law changes, and miscellaneous administrative records.
Series II. Membership Records includes membership
lists from 1869 through 1928. Members are listed alphabetically by year.
Series III. Financial Records includes treasurers'
account books, bank books, records of bequests, and miscellaneous financial records.
The bequests (1916-1986) are arranged alphabetically by the name of the person
leaving money to the society.
Series IV. Beneficiary Records includes lists of
beneficiaries. The earlier records (B2 F4, B3 F27) give the articles loaned
beneficiaries, but later records list only the names of the beneficiaries and
amounts given. Material concerning the Harris Home is grouped in this series,
including a history and description of the home, lists of residents, photographs,
legal permits and papers relating to the upkeep And renovation of the home, and a
scrapbook of photos and newspaper clippings about the home. The loose materials
removed from Volume 1 include newspaper clippings, photographs, information about
the society, several contemporary guides to Marblehead, and Mary E. Harris' wedding
booklet. The loose materials removed from Volume 2 refer primarily to the 1924
Marblehead Street Fair.
Series V. Miscellaneous Records includes two printed
items: A Memoir of the Reverend John Bartlett by
Willard Reed, and The Fourth Reader; Or, Exercises in Reading
and Speaking, owned by Ebenezer Harris, Mary Harris' husband.
The Marblehead Female Humane Society was organized on
November 19, 1816 at the suggestion and with the aid of the Reverend John Bartlett,
parson of the Second Congregational (later Unitarian) Church in Marblehead,
Massachusetts. Rev. Bartlett was concerned with social welfare and had a keen
interest in those suffering from mental illness; he did much to further the
betterment of these causes during his lifetime.
Marblehead had lost many of its husbands and fathers to the War of 1812. By
1815, seven hundred residents of Marblehead had been captured and were on prison
ships or in English prisons. During the year 1816, a great many storms caused
numerous shipwrecks and loss of life. Many needy residents, particularly widows, in
the town would be helped by the new society. The Marblehead Female Humane Society
was founded as a Christian charity to aid the oppressed people of Marblehead,
especially needy women in their own homes.
The founding government of the society consisted of a directress, a secretary, a
treasurer (the first was Mrs. John Bartlett), and a standing committee of twelve
members. The dues for members were ten cent per month. There were 125 women who were
founding members. Members were able to propose candidates who they believed would
benefit from the relief provided by the society. Donations of money, clothing, bed
linen, and groceries were collected, and th3en anonymously distributed to the needy
residents of the town. The society voted in its first year to purchase materials for
spinning and weaving work to be one by residents who were housebound. The idea was
that they would be able to create objects at home and then sell the articles,
allowing them to earn money.
The society incorporated in 1845. In 1846, it came to the aid of impoverished
families who were suffering as a result of a terrible storm off the Grand Banks,
which ruined Marblehead fishing for that year.
Upon its centennial, the society decided that it was time to direct its
charitable work toward a home where aged gentlewomen with no family might be cared
for. IN 1924, Mary E. Harris died and left her house to Everett Paine, who was the
president of the National Grand Bank. Mr. Paine was also the husband of the
secretary of the Marblehead Female Humane Society, and he gave the Harris home to
the society. The house was located at 10 Mugford Street in Marblehead. The Mary E.
Harris Home for Aged Women opened on January 14, 1925. The home was able to provide
a residence for four to six women, along with a resident matron. The early residents
paid four hundred dollars at their entrance to the home for life residency. The
society was to provide room, board, laundry service, replacement of clothing,
medical care, and burial expenses for each resident. An applicant t the home was to
be a woman of 65 years of older, and she was to have resided in Marblehead for ten
years prior to her application to the home. She was also to transfer her property to
the home. Rules were set up for the operation of the home, which was a successful
endeavor for 60 years.
By 1969 the society's funds were becoming leaner. With the advent of Social
Security payments, fewer were making applications for residency to the Harris Home.
By 1972 the Harris Home had become a boardinghouse. The residents were charged
monthly fees and were expected to carry their own health care insurance. The society
decided to close the Harris Home, which was done on September 30, 1984.
In 1987 there were 600 members of the Marblehead Female Humane Society. Dues
were still $1.20 per year. They bylaws of the 1980s state that the mission of the
society is "'to establish and support programs dedicated to the maintenance and care
of elderly persons, and to engage in activities having a general charitable and
benevolent purpose in Marblehead." The society in its post-Harris Home period has
assisted the Marblehead Visiting Nurse Agency to sponsor flu shots and
"'Well-Elderly" clinics, helped support the "'Meals on Wheels" program, and has also
arranged temporary housing, transportation for individuals, and home aid projects
for those requiring assistance.
This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons,
or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Bartlett, John, 1784-1849
Harris, Mary Elizabeth Newcomb, 1848-1922
Harris Home (Marblehead, Mass.)
Women in charitable work
Restrictions on Access
This collection is open for research use.
Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in
writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex
The bulk of this material was donated by Evelyn Willard, Directress of the Marblehead
Female Humane Society in 1989 (acc #89039). Annual reports for 1989, 1990, 1991, and
1992 were donated by Lois MacDonald in May 1993 (acc #93012). The original
constitution and list of subscribers (1816) was donated by Gail P. Hercher in April
1995 (acc #95010).
Collection processed by Daniel S. Curtis, March 1993. Updated by Tamara Gaydos,
Rules and Regulations of Marblehead Female Humane Society:
Organized, 1816. Incorporated, 1845. Marblehead: Society, 1916.
Gorman, Martha Bessom. A History of the Marblehead Female
Humane Society, Inc. Ed. Evelyn T. Willard. Marblehead, MA: Society,
The bulk of this material was donated by Evelyn Willard, Directress of the Marblehead Female Humane Society in 1989 (acc #89039). Annual reports for 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992 were donated by Lois MacDonald in May 1993 (acc #93012). The original constitution and list of subscribers (1816) was donated by Gail P. Hercher in April 1995 (acc #95010).