1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

    R.I.H.S. home page

 American Homemaker League Records

 Charitable and educational organization of Providence, RI

 Records, 1912-1946

 Size: 1.5 ft.

 Catalog number: MSS 33

 Processed by: Maureen Taylor, Mary 1981

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            The Providence Housewives League, organized by a small group of women interested in investigating the quality of food and establishing fair market practices, held their first meeting September 27, 1912. Within a few months, the League voted to become a local branch of the National Housewives League. Membership was open to men and women. Committees were formed to control their activities. They published a monthly bulletin, which later became a magazine. During World War I the members formed a food conservation committee that was taken over by the Federal Food Administration. The League also managed a Dietetic Bureau which developed into the Cooperative Nutrition Bureau of RI.

            After the war the Providence Housewives League became interested in teaching useful skills that could be used in the home or workplace and in assisting underprivileged families by finding employment through the Federation of Household Occupations. They also provided clothing at a low price through the community Service Salvage Shop, a cooperative venture sponsored by the League, the Girls City Club and the Consumers League. The result of the alteration in activities was a change in affiliation from the National Housewives League to the American Homemakers, Inc. The Homemakers purpose was to train individuals for the business of homemaking and to promote the welfare of the home. The Providence branch operated the Salvage Shop, the Cake Shop which sold baked goods and the Home Information Center or RI Center through which classes could be attended for a small fee. The center was considered an educational facility so reports had to filed with the State Board of Education. The types of classes held depended on the needs of the public that used the center. The membership also invited lecturers to speak on various topics relating to the home and was involved in an Annual Better Homes week held in East Providence.

            During the period immediately preceding World War II the group attracted media attention because of the activities of two of its members. Ida S. Harrington assisted by Eleanor K. Dearborn gave weekly radio talks on household problems and recipes. Harrington also wrote a column for the Providence Evening Bulletin entitled "Helps for Homemakers." She was later appointed a member of Hoover's Presidents Commission of Home Information Centers while Dearborn joined the Red Cross in North Africa.

            The Homemakers continued to be active throughout World War II, but dissolved in 1946 when the Center received notice to vacate its headquarters due to the housing shortage. The corporation remained intact to handle all business matters generated by the continued operation of the Salvage Shop.

            The Providence Housewives League began as a volunteer organization that became successful enough to organize committees, elect an executive board and appoint a board of trustees. All committees and officials reported to the executive board. The American Homemakers, Inc. retained this organization structure. Through dues and activities the organization was able to avoid accumulating a deficit even during the depression. These funds were used to back events and hire qualified individuals to control the more specialized activities such as the RI Center.

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Scope and content:

            The collection is arranged according to the administrative divisions of the Providence Housewives League and the American Homemakers, Inc. and their committees. All of the chairmen submitted annual reports and, depending on the particular president's policy, monthly ones. The collection includes these reports, meeting minutes, treasurer's reports and publicity material. There are several scrapbooks of news clippings relating to activities. Also included are the evaluation sheets used by the League in their inspection of markets and factories. Ida S. Harrington is well represented in the organizational records. Her newspaper columns and radio program scripts are included. There is also some biographical material and Harrington and Eleanor K. Dearborn.

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This collection was a gift of Millie Longo in 1978.

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Processing note:

23 photographs removed to the Graphics Department.

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Series I: Providence Housewives League, 1912 - 1927


Series I, Subseries A: Meeting Minutes

Box 1, Folder 1           Minutes of the regular meetings                                             1924-1927

Box 1, Folder 2           Executive Board meetings                                                      1924-1926

Box 1, Folder 3           Executive Board meetings                                                      1926

Box 1, Folder 4           Minutes of Council meetings                                                 1924-1925

Volume 1                    Minutes of Council, General, and Executive                          1912-1914

                                    Board meetings

Volume 2                    Council, Board of Directors, and Executive Board                1914-1916


            Series I, Subseries B: Annual Reports

Box 1, Folder 5           Annual report of the Secretary                                               1912-1923

            Series I, Subseries C: Evaluation Forms

Box 1, Folder 6           Forms for candy factories                                                       1914-1916

Box 1, Folder 7           Forms for markets and groceries                                            c.1916-1917

            Series I, Subseries D: Publicity

Box 1, Folder 8           Publicity information                                                             n.d.

            Series I, Subseries E: Committees

Box 1, Folder 9           Pamphlet and report of the Bureau of Household                 1926-1927


Box 1, Folder 10         Bylaws for Community Service Salvage Shop                       n.d

Box 1, Folder 11         Miscellaneous material on Community Service                     1922-ca. 1924

                                    Salvage Shop

Box 1, Folder 12         Miscellaneous material on the Dietetic Committee                1920-1925

                                    [Missing as of September, 2007]

Series II: American Homemakers, Inc., Providence Branch, 1927-1946

            Series II, Subseries A: Records

                        Subseries A, Subgroup 1: Reports

Box 1, Folder 13         Annual reports of organization                                               1927-1943

Box 1, Folder 14         Annual reports of Executive Director                                     1927-ca. 1946

Box 1, Folder 15         Annual reports of the Recording Secretary                            c.1931-1940

Box 1, Folder 16         Monthly reports of the Executive Director                             1928-1939

Box 1, Folder 17         Treasurer's reports                                                                  1927-1946

                        Subseries A, Subgroup 2: Meeting minutes

Box 1, Folder 18         Regular meetings                                                                    1927

Box 1, Folder 19         Executive Board meetings                                                      1927-1939

Box 1, Folder 20 Committee meetings and appointments                       1938-1946

Box 1, Folder 21         Ways and Means Committee                                                  1932

                        Subseries A, Subgroup 3: Membership

Box 1, Folder 22         Membership list and committee report                                   1946

Box 1, Folder 23         Necrology list                                                                         1932-1933

Volume 1                    Membership dues                                                                   1945-1947

                        Subseries A, Subgroup 4: Correspondence

Box 1, Folder 24         Correspondence                                                                      1927

                        Subseries A, Subgroup 5: Closing of the Chapter

Box 1, Folder 25         Material relating to the closing of the chapter                        1946

            Series II, Subseries B: Publicity

                        Subseries B, Subgroup 1: Newspapers

Box 1, Folder 26         News clippings of activities and "Helps for Homemakers"   1927-1932

Box 1, Folder 27         News clippings of activities and Better Homes Week            1931-1932

Box 2, Folder 1           News clippings of activities and Better Homes Week            1933-1937

Box 2, Folder 2           News clippings of activities                                                   1927-1928

Box 2, Folder 3           News clippings of activities                                                   1937-1940

Box 2, Folder 4           News clippings of activities                                                   1940-1945


                        Subseries B, Subgroup 2: Radio

Box 2, Folder 5           Recipes and talks by Ida S. Harrington                                  c.1935-1936

Box 2, Folder 6           Radio talks - WPRO                                                               1935-1936

                        Subseries B, Subgroup 3: Miscellaneous

Box 2, Folder 7           Materials relating to activities                                                1927-1929

Box 2, Folder 8           Materials relating to Salvage Shop and Home Information    n.d.

                                    Center, also contains chronology of Providence

                                    Housewives League.

            Series II, Subseries C: Committees

                        Subseries C, Subgroup 1: Cake Shop

Box 2, Folder 9           Report of the Cake Shop Committee                                                 1928

Volume 2                    Ledger                                                            Sept. - March, unid. year

                        Subseries C, Subgroup 2: Community Service Salvage Shop

Box 2, Folder 10         Minutes, reports, correspondence                                           1927-1933

                        Subseries C, Subgroup 3: Home Information Center

Box 2, Folder 11         Bylaws including drafts                                                          1927-1942

Box 2, Folder 12         Pamphlet, publicity sheet and report                                      1927-1931

Box 2, Folder 13         Educational Committee and Committee to Raise Money       1927

Box 2, Folder 14         Classes offered and fees charged                                            1940-1945

            Series II, Subseries D: Miscellaneous

Box 2, Folder 15         Posture studies                                                                        1921-1929

Box 2, Folder 16         Articles by Ida S. Harrington                                                 1924-1933

Box 2, Folder 17         Biography of Ida S. Harrington                                              1934

Box 2, Folder 18         Petition and unidentified meeting notes                                  ?-1944

Volume 3                    Guest books for Exhibits                                                        1944-1945

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Providence Housewives Leagues

Housewives League (U.S.)

Harrington, Ida S.

Home economics extension work